One day I was taking a break from the lab and found myself walking to the prayer room on the ground floor. A cute elevator having huge paintings on its wall brought me down. In the well-planned prayer room I met some women wearing hijab from different nationalities. I could say some from the northern Africa and some from the middle east. As always, I needed to get fast at greeting them Assalamu’alaikum otherwise they would greet me first.
I was a bit concern at first when some if not all of them did not wear any other cloth except what they wore to perform Solat. But on that day I found myself a bit hesitant to even take two pieces of mukena from the cupboard in the corner. I was waiting for the ladies to either enter the ablution room or perform Solat so that I could take and wear the mukena. Yeah I know, I blame my neurosis for being anxious to think of the possibility of being looked at and judged as something… Well, there was no distinct reason to feel that way. But anyway, I was defending the mukena before I knew what made me do that.
Nothing came in my mind as an explanation why I did certain things here, especially things that were different from other people I met. It was not until I recalled a word, culture. I am a product of culture, and it made me become myself.
Well, today, yup, just today I went to a gamelan performance in the Uni. I was not planning to enjoy this since there was a movie I would love to see with friends from lab, yet I would not want to disrespect a good offer from someone as kind as her, ibu kos. Long story short, I was witnessing a cultural conservation by foreigners. Something so paradox it made me burst into tiny little tears.
And this hypoglycemic brain started remembering those old moments when I was so hard at defending some thing against some other thing (now it is getting more absurd :p). It was when I thought everything was dichotomous. Either black or white. If you are not black then you are white, and vice versa. Okay I must confess, it was when I loudly declared that I would like my wedding to be only a religious ceremony instead of the grand Javanese event.
Going back to the reality, these people sitting before the gamelan instruments played a very beautiful music which brought me to a fantasy where I walk down wearing a traditional wedding dress on my wedding day. I was denying the harsh debate I had with my parents on my wedding plan (regardless the fact that I have no one proposing me) that I would not allow any cultural ritual when imagining this.
I now don’t know where I stand, and start wondering whether it is possible to actually not have any stance. Just float in the air, without having to fall or pulled down by the gravity, or even more, pulled down to stand on one side over the other.
Well I hope I could convey what I had to say, that our culture is our apparel. We would not typically go out, let alone interact, with other people without having to put on clothes. However, even this might sound too extrapolating, just like the saying that a cloth does not make the man, neither does culture. I love the quote that “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul, and you have a body.” If you know what I mean, and if it is even related. :p