The Narratives
of Indonesian


Patry Eka Prasetya / Sidoarjo – Jawa Timur

“Shaping the Self”

“Shaping the Self”

Written by Patry Eka Prasetya

Translated by Nadya Alifiani Faatihah


Human will look later

His mouth on the back because he speaks behind someone’s back 

One eye he has because he often uses 

one eye only to see others as useless 

Our hands will not feel light without a reward

Sincerity only exists as a lesson.

‘Self-evolution’ caught my attention the first time I heard it. The lyrics are intelligible, especially its content, that is relatable to people’s life in general. And for certain, I myself cannot be free from the satire in the song lyrics.

I remember an incident when I was in two positions at once, the black one and the white one, let’s assume it that way. The Black is not absolutely dark, nor is the White entirely holy. The Black told me to be aware of the White due to the White’s improper behaviour. It’s better if I just dodge without dealing with them at no event. On the other hand, the White underestimates the Black’s existence by often criticizing the Black’s performance and personality. I cannot avoid the two of them.

When I have taken a closer look at the two, there are things I can learn and take as a lesson learned in life. Until once both held events at the same time and I had to choose, sacrificing one of them. This disappointed the other one as if I were defending the enemy and leaving a friend.

There was a whisper in my heart, “Never mind Patry, a human has good and bad sides. We cannot spread kindness to everyone. Or even imposing that kindness on others, it will not work. Just try to understand people around you. By doing so to others, hopefully, they will understand your every move and speech.”

By trying to be neutral between two parties who have disagreements over an issue in the past, I had to be careful about where I put myself. Sometimes this makes me a difficult person to understand, seen as wishy-washy, even I am told I am a flake. The truth is that I do see positive things in both of them. Each has reasons to behave, has arguments for his/her stand. I thought about reconciling them. But who am I to do that? I hold back. Perhaps it would be best to leave them in the roles of each,  as the Black and as the White.

The Black and the White have become respected elders. I respect them. It is proper that I am courteous to them. Like what my mother used to tell me when I came to the school where she taught, “Kiss the teachers’ hands first!”¹

My mother is an art & culture teacher at a public junior high school. I was happy to receive such order from my mother without any burden. My mother and my father told me and my two younger siblings, “To older people, speak in polite Javanese. If you are not fluent, you can use Indonesian. Be polite, give salim every time you meet them, ask permission if you pass among them.”

As I got older such teachings started to be a little annoying, especially when I went to college and became an active student. Within the institutional circle, I learned about dance in a specific and broader way about the art itself. When I first met the lecturers, I sincerely kissed their hands and asked permission every time I passed them. The funny thing happened when I accidentally bumped into the lecturers who were hanging around, I kissed the hands of those 10 lecturers one by one. This tradition becomes tedious and bothering from time to time. Kissing hands is not a big deal, but it is a small habit repeated over and over again and becomes a matter for me personally.

(My) maturity was questionable. A lecturer once said, “You have grown up and become a student so no need to always kiss every lecturer’s hand, a greeting only is enough”. From then on I was relieved and I changed my habit by simply shaking hands and bowing slightly. Yes, customs and norms are also full of twists and turns.

In college, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work outside the institution, in a wider circle of dance. I experienced dance performances outside the city and met people with various personalities. There I learned to know other individuals who were total strangers me. How to discuss, exchange ideas and express opinions without offending any group or individual.

Once I joked with a friend who was older than me. The joke I made seemed too much. But that’s the way I am used to communicating with my Surabayan² jokes and accent. As the consequence, I was stunned for a while when suddenly all eyes in that small circle were on me. It was true that I was joking with their seniors. Maybe in a certain place, seniority still exists. Appreciating seniors by speaking more politely should not interfere with freedom as a human being and a student.

People say making friends is harder than making enemies whether for just getting to know, networking, making friends or more than that, for building brother-or sisterhood. It is my dance experience which has allowed the mindset of mine to continue to grow and develop so that I can try to understand this.

In a world with the constant growth of digital and virtual technology like we have today, relationships between people are changing. So is the meaning of friendship. I don’t like to repost Instagram stories, for example. When my close friends tag me, I almost never repost it. I also do not mind if they do the same when I tag them. Then what do you think how they respond given that in modern technology, interaction on social media has become a mandatory necessity?

Dance creates experiences that lead me to re-recognize myself which always makes me reflect and question my existence as a human being, as a child, or as an individual. It feels uncomfortable to hear about any differences that lead to disputes easily.

As time goes by and I have a more mature personality, I consider all of this as a journey of self-discovery. I once read a book called “Map of The Soul – Persona: Our Many Faces”, said that, “persona also includes behaviour, it works behind the role that shows who you are in the midst of other people. However, persona does not show who you are when you are alone. “

Apart from building a noticeable and visible personality, it is very important to recognize that we have a vision and take steps to deal with it in healthy ways. From a persona I learned to know myself and the environment in which I set my feet. How should I behave, act, move honestly or keep that honesty properly? It’s not easy, I am often stumbled in playing various roles or personas in life. But I realized that this is part of the self-contemplation process in our life as human beings.

Until now, it was the persona perspective that helped me control my feelings, thoughts, and behaviour. To balance between social expectations that must be done and the genuine personalities that must be raised. Choosing a persona means choosing a mask which is not all bad. Because we have to play a role in life that keeps intersecting with other people. The masks are a medium for the soul to socialize properly.

It’s not easy to put your ego aside to mingle with others. This is a clear conscience about me as a social person, which must be distinguished from another me as an individual.

¹ In Indonesian culture, it is common for children or youngsters to do ‘Salim’ which is kissing the back of the right hand of an elder. It is considered as a gesture of greeting (when they meet each other) and showing respect. Ed.

² The capital city of East Java province.

The Narratives
of Indonesian