Monthly Archives: July 2011

Batavia Hotel

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Batavia Hotel is Tulisan’s fourth limited edition of 2011 and Melissa Sunjaya’s third illustration of the year. She created this artwork with a theatrical scene and opera like color tones, inspired by the new and reformed Jakartans. The line will be launched on Thursday, July 28th, 2011 at Jl. Tirtayasa IV No. 33, Jakarta 12160 from 11 am – 8 pm. Be the first to secure the ones you want before it runs out. You can also contact our team at to reserve your selection for this Thursday.

Tulisan also features four new products in this edition, including: Monograph Journal, Olio Clutch, iPad Pouch, and Cellphone Pouch. Batavia Hotel was depicted to its narrative background story by Rassi Narika and beautifully translated to Indonesian by Myra Bianda.


If one ever take a walk down south from Stadhuis – the old statehouse now known as Fatahillah – and follow the canal to make a turn on the corner of the street, he would recall a mansion where this story took place. It had been a governor’s residence in the old days and its touch of renaissance breathed life into the building. The pillars in front of the building kept its elegance, despite the narrow alley it was located. The alley was dense, you could find another building a few step across the road, but that did not matter for the guests. Guests came, lured by Hotel Batavia’s reputation. The proprietor bought the building from the governor’s son who struggled to pay his debt. I had heard many old stories of the hotel, when the mansion was quiet and reserved only for the governor’s friends and family. These days, people talked of the hotel as a place where happiness was found. Passers by claimed to have stayed in the hotel and guests admitted to have found their source of happiness there. All these talks might only be an act to disguise what really happened inside the hotel.

To become a guest at the hotel, one would only need courage and one of the licensed carriages from the Port of Sunda Kelapa to escort him. At the grand entrance, a clown would address his utmost service for every visitor. He greeted and hopelessly built entertaining conversations to please the guests. Rumors had it that the clown was funny. I noticed, on our first encounter, his face was made up with drawn sullen lips that in no way resembled a smile.  The clown escorted the hotel’s regulars unto a velvet room where the gentlemen socialized with their gin and cigar; while the fair ladies who had been grooming all day long, amused the men through the night. As every other night, Harlequin was there. A casanova by reputation, he used to be a young man who passed by the hotel and wished to visit. He started to work as the bell boy and climbed his way up with his charm to finally be the main cast of the Hotel’s drama. His impeccable manner and natural wit helped him to get his position. His evenings were spent conversing with the mayor on the city’s new projects and cheering with a group of philanthropists. He kissed every lady with a gentle swift on her cheek, and some often asked for a little more than just a kiss. Harlequin was the only person who always came solo, yet he never left alone.

On the other hand, Colombine regularly entered with a circus of entourage. She was once a Nyonyah of the late general who ruled over the district of South Batavia. A woman of distinction who always got what she wanted. Her smooth-silk skin, deep eyes, and pointy nose resembled most women from her caliber.  They would have looked exactly the same had it not been Colombine’s bold smile that catered her seduction. With a lace gown that effortlessly wrapped her body, she entered and lit the room with a smile that killed every man’s at heart. She bursted with tales of the previous governors and gossips of the bourgeois from back then. It was captivating to watch her and to listen to her stories. Her youth, that came before the eyes, played trick to the mind. No one knew the truth of her age, face, or story. Yet, no one cared.

It was luck that brought me to witness their embrace that particular night. Colombine was very selective in accepting a dance invitation. There had always been a handful of gentlemen with high rank, waiting for their turn to own her at the dance floor. Yet, it was a common knowledge that at the presence of Harlequin, no man could even offer her a single drink. That night, spell bounded Harlequin kissed her slender hand and stunned everyone with their elegance. They waltzed away, shared intimate laughters, and kissed. The room was filled with their passion to each other. As he put his hand around her waist, I tried to hold my tears.

I had been standing here all along, entertaining those who could not find the confidence nor attention for themselves that night. For two hours long, I had been under the spot light doing these acrobatic scenes, but no one really cared if I fell or even flew. Those dames who wished to get Harlequin’s attention raised their voices with artificial laughters, calling to the Clown for another glass of wine. He would secretly received envelopes from their unoccupied pretty hands, while their other hands continued to caress the lords who invested in their luxury. Playing this conspiracy, the Clown placed the envelope into Harlequin’s pocket. It was not the first envelope of the night, but no one noticed because they were too enticed to look for happiness.

Up from the stool I was standing, I saw Harlequin’s other hand holding on the balloon I gave out to every visitor. Most guests ignored, some reluctantly took and eventually lost it. However, he always took one and kept it with him the whole night like he always did when we were growing up together in an orphanage just a few blocks away. He was my ground and he was my sky. He was a free spirit who chose his life, but the cast that Harlequin took was a mold sprung from a vulnerable society. The very role he took to salvage his life was also the one that gradually ate the human inside of him. As I reminisced on our childhood, the Clown approached and I could see a grin underneath the sullen lips. He was probably the only one with true happiness that night, with all the fortunes he made on doing these favors. The smile-drawn lips on my face served the same function with the one the Clown’s had – to cover our true feelings. Everyone continued to believe that I was smiling even with these falling tears. To avoid these painful thoughts, I concentrated on keeping my one foot balanced with the help of my umbrella.

In desperate need of happiness, one would refuse to think of the truth. Therefore, we often portray a reality of how we wish to be seen rather than what we are about.

……………in Indonesian……………..


Jika seseorang berjalan ke arah selatan Stadhuis – gedung balai kota tua yang kini dikenal sebagai Fatahillah – dan menyusuri kanal kemudian berbelok di ujung jalan, dia pasti melewati sebuah rumah besar dimana kisah ini terjadi. Rumah ini milik seorang gubernur di masa lampau dengan sentuhan berciri renaisans menghembuskan nyawa ke dalam arsitekturnya. Pilar-pilar yang berdiri di depan gedung ini membuatnya tetap anggun di tengah gang yang sempit. Dalam gang yang sepadat itu, bangunan lain hanya berjarak beberapa langkah di seberang jalan. Walaupun demikian situasi ini tidak menjadi masalah bagi para tamu. Mereka datang karena terbius oleh reputasi Hotel Batavia. Sang pemilik bangunan membeli rumah itu dari anak lelaki gubernur yang sedang terlilit hutang. Aku telah mendengar banyak kisah lama tentang Hotel Batavia, di saat rumah mewah ini begitu tenang dan hanya dikunjungi oleh teman dan sanak saudara sang gubernur. Kini, orang membicarakan hotel itu sebagai tempat ditemukannya kebahagiaan. Para pejalan kaki mengaku pernah menginap dan para tamu mengumbar kisah penemuan sumber kebahagiaan mereka di sana. Semua ini mungkin hanya sebuah sandiwara untuk menutupi kisah yang sesungguhnya terjadi di sana.

Untuk menjadi tamu di Hotel Batavia, seseorang memerlukan keberanian selain kereta kuda resmi dari Pelabuhan Sunda Kelapa untuk mengantar. Di pintu masuk, seorang badut siap memberikan pelayanan istimewa kepada setiap tamu. Dia akan menyapa dan berusaha keras menghibur para tamu lewat percakapan yang dia susun. Kabar angin mengatakan badut ini lucu. Tetapi saat saya pertama kali bertemu dengannya, ada gambar bibir yang muram terlukis di wajahnya – sedikit pun tidak menyerupai sebuah senyuman. Dia mengantar setiap tamu langganan hotel ke dalam sebuah ruangan berlapis beludru, tempat tuan-tuan bersosialisasi sambil meminum arak dan menghisap cerutu; sembari nyonya dan nona cantik yang telah berdandan seharian menghibur para pria sepanjang malam. Seperti malam lainnya, Harlequin ada di sana. Sebelum dikenal sebagai pemikat hati wanita, dia adalah seorang pejalan kaki yang lewat di depan hotel dan bermimpi untuk berkunjung. Dia mulai bekerja sebagai pembawa koper dan dengan pesonanya berhasil menapaki karir hingga akhirnya mengambil peran penting dalam drama hidup di Hotel Batavia. Sopan santun dan selera humornya yang tinggi membantunya mendapatkan posisi ini. Kini, waktu senjanya dihabiskan berdiskusi dengan Pak Walikota mengenai proyek terbaru kota ini atau melobi para dermawan. Dia mencium pipi setiap wanita dengan lembut, dan banyak di antara mereka yang meminta lebih dari sebuah ciuman. Harlequin adalah satu-satunya orang yang selalu datang tanpa pasangan, tetapi dia tidak pernah meninggalkan Hotel Batavia sendirian.

Di lain pihak, Colombine selalu datang dengan rombongan ‘sirkus’ pendampingnya. Dahulu, dia adalah seorang Nyonyah dari almarhum jenderal yang memerintah di daerah Selatan Batavia. Ia adalah seorang wanita ternama yang selalu mendapatkan apa pun keinginannya. Kulitnya yang selembut sutra, matanya yang indah, dan hidungnya yang mancung tidak jauh berbeda dengan wanita lain di kelasnya. Sesungguhnya rupa mereka nyaris sama persis, kalau saja Colombine tidak memiliki senyumnya yang menawan itu. Dengan baju brokat yang merangkul tubuhnya, dia masuk dan menyinari ruangan dengan senyum yang menaklukan hati setiap pria. Dia akan bercerita dengan penuh semangat tentang kisah sang mantan gubernur dan bergosip mengenai kaum borjuis yang hidup pada masa itu. Setiap orang akan terpukau saat memandang wajahnya dan mendengarkan ceritanya. Wajah belia yang dia miliki menipu pikiran orang yang melihatnya. Tidak ada yang tahu umur, wajah, dan kisah Colombine yang sebenarnya. Namun, tak seorang pun peduli.

Keberuntungan membawaku untuk menyaksikan cumbu mereka di malam itu. Colombine sangat pemilih saat ada yang mengajaknya berdansa. Selalu ada sekumpulan tuan dari kalangan bangsawan yang menunggu giliran untuk memilikinya di lantai dansa. Akan tetapi semua orang tahu, jika Harlequin ada di sana, tidak ada yang bisa menawarinya segelas minuman. Malam itu, Harlequin yang sedang terlena mencium tangan Colombine yang ramping dan membuat semua orang terpana dengan keanggunan mereka. Mereka berdansa waltz, tertawa mesra, dan berciuman. Saat Harlequin memeluk pinggulnya, aku berusaha menahan air mata.

Aku telah berdiri di sini dari tadi, untuk menghibur tamu yang tidak mendapatkan kepercayaan diri atau pun perhatian bagi diri mereka malam itu. Sudah dua jam saya melakukan pertunjukan akrobatik di bawah lampu sorot, namun rasanya tidak ada yang ambil pusing bila aku jatuh atau bahkan terbang. Para nyonya yang ingin mencari perhatian Harlequin melepaskan tawa yang dibuat-buat dan meminta tambahan anggur dari sang Badut. Diam-diam, sang Badut akan menerima amplop dari tangan mereka yang cantik sementara tangan mereka yang lain terus membelai tuan yang membiayai kemewahan yang mereka miliki. Di dalam konspirasi ini, sang Badut memainkan perannya dan memasukkan amplop ke dalam saku Harlequin. Ini bukan amplop pertama untuk Harlequin di malam itu, tetapi tidak ada yang sadar karena mereka terbuai untuk mencari kebahagiaan.

Dari atas kursi ini, aku melihat tangan Harlequin yang lain sedang memegang balon yang tadi kubagikan kepada setiap pengunjung. Biasanya mereka akan menolak balon yang kutawarkan, beberapa mengambil balon dengan enggan yang pada akhirnya, itu pun mereka lepaskan. Namun, Harlequin selalu mengambil satu balon dan membawanya sepanjang malam, sama seperti dulu saat kami dibesarkan di sebuah panti asuhan yang terletak beberapa blok dari hotel ini. Dia adalah tanah tempat aku berpijak, dia adalah langit yang kupandang. Dengan jiwanya yang bebas, dia memilih jalan hidup ini. Tetapi peran yang Harlequin mainkan saat ini, terbentuk oleh masyarakat yang rapuh. Peran yang dia pilih untuk menyelamatkan hidupnya menjadi peran yang sedikit demi sedikit menghabisi manusia di dalam dirinya. Saat aku sedang mengenang masa kecil kami, sang Badut mendekat dan aku bisa melihat senyumnya yang lebar di balik gambar bibir yang muram. Kemungkinan, dialah satu-satunya orang yang merasa bahagia malam ini karena semua nyonya tadi memberikan imbalan atas tugasnya. Senyum yang digambarkan di wajahku juga memiliki fungsi yang sama dengan gambar bibir sang Badut: untuk menutupi perasaan kami yang sebenarnya. Semua orang tetap percaya bahwa aku sedang tersenyum, bahkan saat air mata ini mengalir. Untuk melupakan pikiran yang menyakitkan ini, aku berkonsentrasi menjaga keseimbangan berdiri pada satu kaki dengan bantuan sebuah payung.

Seringkali kenyataan didasarkan atas apa yang seseorang ingin lihat, dan bukan tentang keberadaan dirinya. Saat seseorang putus asa mencari kebahagiaan, dirinya akan menolak untuk memikirkan segala yang nyata.

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The Dust of Time

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I love taking photographs of objects that have collected the dust of time. One of my favorite subjects are doors, especially old doors. These doors have become witnesses of weather changes, conversations, correspondences and emotions. In the old towns of Europe, some of these architectural anatomies have existed since the early centuries, capturing events and changes in people’s lives.

If one day, I would ever open my personal Face Book account, most likely these would be the kind of faces that I would broadcast. It has been difficult for me to sort out this collection, since they each carry a unique story. The following pictures are only 5% of my entire library. These were taken during my recent travel to the old towns of Vevey, St Saphorin, Cully, Gruyere, Antibes, Menton, Nice, and Monte Carlo.

Warmest wishes, Melissa

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