One of the world’s most congested city looks eerily foreign to the eyes of many. Since the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) took effect in April, the absence of bumper-to-bumper traffic and commuters crowding the streets have become a prominent everyday sight in Jakarta.
These scenes, usually familiar around Lebaran holidays, have been ongoing for longer this year. With the looming pandemic as the culprit, a metropolis engulfed in emptiness carries a different spell.
Just two months ago, places like the lifestyle hub, M Bloc Space, or tourist quarters like Kota Tua, still teemed with goers. The latter, who’s always had its share of crowds, is cordoned off as a preventive measure. While M Bloc Space, whose crowds skyrocketed since its opening last October, looks almost lifeless.
Similarly, empty pushcarts can be seen parked along the stretch of Pasar Tanah Abang, while a string of taxis in front of Plaza Senayan appears to be unattended. With few cars and ojol drivers (e-hailing drivers) passing here and there, the always-packed Sudirman and Thamrin main roads also look eerily vacant. A sprawling metropolis at a standstill.
In parts of the city, however, some places are still bustling with a brigade of street food joints. At the Kebon Kacang street, nestled between Plaza Indonesia and Grand Indonesia, food hawkers are still very much operating their trade; at night, few commuters can be seen breaking their fast there while some might just turn in for a quick dinner. One or two pushcarts selling street snacks ‘set up camp’ in front of landmarks such as Lapangan Banteng, while a group of pick-up drivers can be spotted huddling while resting on their motorbikes.
On the surface, it seems like a lot of things have changed with people staying at home. Some sceneries, however, showed the opposite – a further testament that for some people, regulations don’t carry the same weight when one’s livelihood is at threat. And in the face of a pandemic, these two different realities have never looked clearer.
Photographs of today’s Jakarta may have visualised the more obvious impact of lockdown measures in response to COVID-19, but they could also raise questions about what the pandemic reveals about society.
Following safety protocol, these photos are all taken from inside a car.