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Amusing Creativity and Innovations in Names

I love Cinderella stories. So, as can be predicted, like most women my age, I own and have been watching Walt Disney’s Cinderella classic cartoon movies since I was five. By the way, I’m now 33. Yes, I’m a hopeless romantic. I can even sing the Fairy Godmother’s song, ‘Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo’, word by word. My other favourite song from the movie is ‘Sing Sweet Nightingale’ – the one Cinderella sang while she was on her knees, mopping the floor just before the evil cat Lucifer steps all over the clean floor with his muddy paws. I have tears in my eyes when that happens.

Obviously other people in this part of the world are also fond of the same song. Who knows, there may well be cults organised and dedicated to the song. The marketplaces in Indonesia are rampant with hijacked and self-produced VCDs and DVDs; shoppers can find almost any movie they want in either the black markets or shiny marble-floored movie shops in up-market malls. One day, I was cruising in a well-known VCD and DVD shop in a westerner-frequented mall in Jakarta and something caught my eye. In between the stacks of VCDs, there was a movie with a picture of Walt Disney’s Cinderella sitting on a swing on the cover. The title of the movie was ‘Swing Shit Cinderella’. Does that ring a bell? Has somebody so stupidly confused my beautiful ‘Sing Sweet Nightingale’ with something so grotesque? What a sick twisted creation.

Indonesians are so innovative and creative with names, whether it’s their own name or names for their business. So innovative (I’m being cynical here), that sometimes I think they’re a bit too blunt. There is one male tonic brand in this country that is called Erect – nothing could be blunter than that. Viagra sounds like an amateur by comparison.

And what about people’s names? I remember the story a friend of mine told me once about how befuddled he was with Sundanese names.

“Look, her complete name is Sri Wahyuni – so why on earth did she tell everybody that her nickname is Cici? Where does the word Cici come from?” Right, this one was a wee bit too creative. But we’ve got to give credit to her parents, at least they didn’t call their child Dewi or Bambang, like the other half of the Javanese population in Indonesia.

I love to drive on Sundays. The streets are always quiet (or should I say slightly less crowded). This is the only time when I can really see the city, compared to the usual traffic of busses and pollution-covered slums on weekdays. And apparently in my father’s gene pool resides the need to recite every word he sees on the street every time he takes a drive. I seem to have inherited this tendency. When I take a drive, I read the signs I see out loud – street signs, building signs, you name it.

One particular Sunday, after I finished up my cup of coffee and read the last word printed in the Sunday Post, I put on my boots, ready to have an adventure. I wanted to buy a fish for my marine aquarium. Have I ever told you about my marine aquarium? Well, another time perhaps I’ll do that as it’s another sickening story related to one human’s selfishness in order to achieve sanity.

Driving past Sudirman, I turned the car to the left into a narrow street between Sudirman and Rasuna Said. I’m not sure of the name of the street, but I always call it Moustache Street. One side of the street is fully occupied by food stalls. The names of these two dozen plus Batavian street-side food stalls are: Goat Kebab by Mr. Moustache, Curry Vegetables by Mr. Moustache, Curry Lamb prepared by Mr. Moustache, Vegetable Salad by Mr. Moustache and The Original Goat Balls Kebab by Mr. Moustache. How many Mr. Moustaches are there? Some Indonesians are innovative indeed.

I finally reached the live fish market near Menteng. I walked in a marine fish shop called ‘Natural’. I wanted to buy a natural marine fish, naturally. After I was done admiring Bruce the Shark and Blue Dori (watch: Finding Nemo, of course by Walt Disney), then I saw a bright purple coloured sand anemone in an aquarium. A purple anemone is quite rare so I wanted to buy it. The fish vendor who knew me from my last visit looked hesitant.

“Err, we actually injected a white anemone with purple food colour,” he said. I suggested that he change the name of his shop, and I walked away. Naturally sadists! What did his parents inject him with when he was a baby I wonder … a stupidity mix?

I drove my car back toward South Jakarta. Entering Kemang, the international residential and commercial area located in South Jakarta that has been my own beloved neighbourhood for the last six years, my smile widened. Kemang has become a domestic tourist attraction over the last couple of years. Not only because of its souvenir shops, but apparently also because of its residences. In fact, one day after Lebaran, I saw a group of what looked like villagers, wearing bright-neon-coloured outfits on the street and one of them shouted: “Look, look over there! It’s another bule! He’s even got a mini version with him!” Information for the newly arrived expatriates, bule is a derogative term for white-skinned westerners, yet nationally accepted and commonly used in Indonesia, even by some of the white-skinned expatriates themselves. You understand how innovative some Indonesians are? Bule means albino or lack of skin pigmentation, by the way. It’s common knowledge that some people need to feel superior by undermining others, especially minorities.

As an international village, Kemang’s shops and restaurants often use English to describe their services. Quite the opposite of Soeharto’s ruling a couple years ago, when he insisted all business entities use names in Bahasa Indonesia, the national language. Now, a lot of businessmen in Indonesia, backed by a limited knowledge of English, are competing to create clever English names for their business. I was driving past Kem Chicks when I saw the sign for a restaurant on my left. On the sign, there was a picture of a cute cuddly little girl with squinted eyes and beside the picture it’s written: Little Barbarians – Char Grilled! Holy cow – the squinted eyes of the cute little barbarian was due to the intolerable heat of the char grill I suppose.

There is a Chinese restaurant a few buildings past the torture restaurant. The Wangke restaurant sells piping ducks. Perhaps you have to be an Australian to understand the joke. Just imagine: “See you later mom, I’m going to Mr. Wangke to get the piping duck!” says the little pig.

Close to my house, I saw this vigorous man pushing his meatball soup cart. An orange sign emblazoned on the glass paned cart read: “Veined meatballs of Mr. Thomas”. The poor man was pushing the heavy cart, not to mention uphill on Bangka, the forever jammed street in South Jakarta, under the scorching sun. His veins were bulging all right. It had to have some effect on his balls. Somebody shut me up, please?

Back in my house, all relaxed, I thought: who says that amongst the sharp thorns, the big durian is not offensively entertaining?

First published in the Jakarta Post