Jakarta sounded like a war zone last night. Barrages of missiles were exploding over the city, accompanied by the screams and squeals of women and children. The low rumble of the traffic and the beeping of horns carried on into the night as many tried to flee.
But thankfully, the missiles were only firecrackers. And people were fleeing for mudik, traditional at the end of Ramadan, to head back to their home towns for Eid… the end of the holy month and fasting. I'd be beeping my horn too if I hadn't eaten all day.
From my apartment, I could see the little explosions all around the city, both near and far away, dotting the smoggy horizon. On my taxi on the way home from work, a street child aimed a cracker right at our taxi and I flinched, fearful of an attack, but luckily he pointed it skyward at just the right moment.
Add (il)legal firecrackers to the list of things I will ban my children from touching one day.
The enormity of the city made the explosions seem a little feeble though. Most of the fireworks didn't even reach the height of my apartment on the ninth floor, and compared to the skyscrapers they were exploding in between, some of the sparks were merely quick flashes mixed in with all the lights that nobody ever seems to turn off anyway.
Prayers from the local mosques lingered neverendingly in the heavy, humid air, eerily echoing down the tiled corridors of my apartment block. They were still calling out in a soothing monotone as I drifted off to sleep, but I was occasionally jolted from my REM cycle by the sudden burst of a cracker or two.
In the morning, the city was deserted. It looked a bit like a war zone, with rubble everywhere, open sewers, unkerbed roads full of potholes. But the potholes weren't bomb craters and the rubble wasn't from buildings which fell victim to the blitz.
Jakarta always looks a bit like a war zone.