The New East Indies

Written by Melissa Sunjaya
Illustrated by Melissa Sunjaya

Perhaps I am writing a utopian story in contrast to the hell most of us are facing. Yet I have personally experienced that, in times of chaos and insanity, imagining a paradise can accomplish more constructive wonders than criticizing our reality can. Allow me to share a story about a buoy that saved me from drowning. At times when this soul was on the verge of drowning, I deliberately immersed myself in colorful emotions and surreal thinking, such that I could maintain the courage to envision what was broken within my world and transform every one of my mistakes into my strength. Of course, I have no intention of dragging you into a rational discussion. Instead, without any drugs or traditional medicine, I am inviting you to join me on a subliminal and explosive ride, because I believe that an intimate connection between us humans and our planet is critical at this point. My concern lies in how many of my thoughts you can digest, for I often conceal evidence within my stories through ambiguous symbols in order to protect my own fragility. Without criticizing present conditions and without forcing my perspectives onto anyone, I try wholeheartedly to share a practical and honest frame of mind.

Finally, I found the courage to present my conceptual thoughts on ‘The New East Indies’, which I had been contemplating for a long time. These thoughts represent a way of seeing various aspects of social orders and cultural values, which I then compiled into a series of letters. In the beginning, the use of the word ‘East Indies’ was heavily challenged by several of my colleagues, since this word reminded them of the colonialist period which had been endured by my own people. Inherently, the term ‘East Indies’ originated from the geographical location of the Indonesian archipelago. Since the Middle Ages, this archipelago, situated east of the Indian Ocean, has been recognized by the Western World as a tropical haven, rich in various natural resources and decadent cultures. Today, this richness is still abundant in these islands. How far mankind has manifested freethinking towards making use of this richness is the core of several assessments which I will recount. The attribute of the word ‘New’ which I added here, illustrates a progressive viewpoint on the modern human capacity for cultivating his earth, celebrating his individuality, as well as appreciating his peers. A point of view which describes the obtainable potential if each individual within a certain generation anchors on empathy, intuition, and noble intention as he projects himself onto the vast world–a point of view which fortifies self-confidence.

All of these assessments are grouped into specific topics and are written in an intimate language, because in truth I wish to transform these papers into a series of time capsules for my future heirs. To me, embracing freedom and expression is a long journey, in spite of the fact that the imperialist era has long gone by. My objective is to share a few notes on a thought process which can still be developed toward reaching a better civilization, because it is through this winding process that I personally continue to gain inspiration on improving myself. Slices of these introspections were extracted from history and the lives of my ancestors, but I portray these through raw and simple descriptions. This is a legacy that I inherited, and it is time for me to pass on this gift to the next generation.


Jakarta 2016,

Melissa Sunjaya