Silence reigns within the complex of Global Prestasi School on a Friday morning, which is a rarity. Cars would be zooming up the pathway to the entrance of elementary school and the children would be shouting to their friends or simply loving the sound of their voices. A muffled announcement over the public-address system would ring throughout the school urging the students to come down to the main grounds and get ready for the usual 15-minute morning exercise. Adding to the din is the school’s maintenance crew that seemed to have forgotten the slumbering teachers in the bungalow; like the students, they love to hear themselves. It is worse on Saturday mornings when they play basketball. Am awake at the weekday hour of between 530 and 6 to their shouts of having had a basket go through the hoop or snarky comments at their opponents in Bahasa Indonesia, naturally, which I have learned to decipher via tone.

There is no escape from the noise by the somnolent teacher who burned the midnight oil correcting spelling and mangled thoughts. Even if the first class is at 8, she is roused out of bed by the cacophony of sounds ringing around her and even before her alarm has gone off.

Good Friday is, thankfully, quiet, except for the occasional motorbike passing by because the security on patrol isn’t keen to do his hourly inspection on foot. But the stillness is not because of religious reasons. Friday as a public holiday spells a long weekend of rest, of lounging around for the non – Christians. And so I am savoring the absence of senseless noise, chatter and shrieks that usually punctuate Friday morning. The sun is out and, crossing my fingers, the rain clouds take a different route today and skip Bekasi (the past two days have seen dark skies and sudden downpours). I can hear myself now and do not have to steel myself repeatedly against the racket that aggravate the stress piggybacking on me.

But the quietude of Good Friday is marred by sad news. Reports about the sexual assault on minors in Jakarta International School and the silence of the school – I have been told they haven’t issued any statement – makes us ponder on the iniquity of the ever-changing world. I learnt last night too that a friend’s friend is in ICU after having a stroke. Her burden must have been too much to bear. Then I woke up to read on Facebook of the passing of literary legend – and my favorite author – Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Mexico City at age 87.


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