Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Goodbye, Sjahrir (3)

Bang Ciil was passionate in everything he did: whether talking about poverty or debating the merits of a decadently delicious Sop Kambing (for some time a staple on his birthdays). In fact, one of the little lessons that I learned from him while I was his TA was that there's nothing wrong about discussing poverty over a good meal in a fancy restaurant.

Yes, it is always critical that we possess the hard facts and go beyond the soulless data to learn about poverty. It is also always essential that we are aware of the political economy of policies, historical contexts and institutions. But at the end it should not matter whether you're discussing poverty and do the analysis inside a hot tin shack under a city overpass or while sitting on a plush sofa in a lobby of a luxurious hotel. Of course it should not. In fact you'd want to have a cool head and let your analytical thoughts and economic intuitions run their course and if that means you need climate-controlled office space, so what?

Yet at that time it sounded so politically incorrect, almost blasphemous - especially when you were a scrawny undergraduate TA who were now and then still infatuated with left rethorics - despite your "neoliberal" Salemba training. But that was Bang Ciil in nutshell the way I remember him: always passionate, often emotional, but never let his logic be clouded. And then there's that challenge-the-conventional-wisdom, provocative streak (most times also thought-provoking, but often simply provocative), perhaps a remnant of his student years. Bang Ciil was, in more ways than one, Cafe Salembaish. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that Cafe Salemba, in many ways, Bang Ciilish.

*Ujang was a scrawny undergraduate TA of Sjahrir for the FEUI course "Perekonomian Indonesia" in 1994/95. Ira and Aco were the other two TAs.


  1. i'm having difficulties of choosing which obituary to comment; each was memorable to me. i'm not sure if Ujang was my TA but i took bang Sjahrir's Perek Indo class; the ever massive, held in auditorium one. it's pretty hard to concentrate in big class like this and i skipped more (TA class) than i should. nevertheless his class and reading material is always interesting. my first Amartya Sen came from him.

    rest in peace, bang...

  2. only found out today that he passed away. my condolences.

    but i was not impressed by his intimidating style. why should i? he barked at me for asking an honest question. later, i learned that i, too, could blossom under guidance of nurturing professors.