Sunday, November 8, 2009

To Leave or Not To Leave: Planning while Asking Life's Greatest Question

As a modern woman who grows up in a family of thick Islamic tradition, the science-vs-religion debate always dominates when I try to find answers for life’s greatest questions.

Some of the questions are best left unanswered, though. Life. Death. Coincidence. Soulmate. Aliens.

Not so when it relates to anything that needs immediate action. Before putting something into action, we make plans, considerations, and choices. Choices. That’s my life’s greatest question. I used to think only because I’m cautious that I keep asking. I make choices difficultly. But as time flies, I get used to it and learn to take any risk from any choice I made. Still I keep asking, is life choice or are we led to choose certain options?

If you don’t believe in God, you’ll vote life-is-choice. As a Moslem, I believe that as humans, our destiny has been written. That includes birth, blessing, death, and soulmate.

But it doesn’t mean that life-is-choice answer is only for atheist and agnostic. Even Moslems are told to pursue their dreams, work hard, make plans, and prepare alternative choices. We don’t know how far He interferes. Did He make a certain scenario to unite you and your soulmate? Or He'll just let you struggle to find the one He already choose for you?

Soulmate is not my greatest concern, though. What else can be more intriguing than death? As a twenty-something who just began to enjoy life, I begin to think about death more. Not to mention since the recent earthquake that struck my city last September. Yes, that out-of-date news. We Padang dwellers might have forgot how it feels and continue our lives. But since the geologists believe that last 7.9 SR quake is not “it” - the long predicted massive earthquake followed by tsunami to happen here - we are forced to keep preparing and making evacuation plan. Planning, although we believe when death comes, then death it is.

It appears to us that implementation of the plan is not easy. When the September quake hit, most people ran to higher ground out of fear of tsunami. But some stays. Some who are brave enough and say “God will save us, but if He decides this is our end, then this is it, we cannot run away”.

I believe that we cannot escape death. But what about the plan? The plan made possible by science, which we, human, discover to make life easier? Surely we cannot predict exactly when and where the quake will hit. Fine. But the data of past quakes concludes that it’s time for the earth to "wake up". So, shouldn't we, organization men, prepare, plan, and react in case of danger? And what about the fear itself? The adrenaline rush? Isn’t it created for being an alarm? So we can react in any way that can avoid ourselves from harm?

I thought I had a brilliant answer for that. That we had to react to danger not to avoid death, but to prepare ourselves in case we are alive. Let’s say, to keep us from losing a leg, an arm, or sight in case He hadn’t plan to take our lives yet. But again, isn’t handicap or injury part of destiny? A choice He made for us?

Anyway, running away to higher ground during big quake is not the only plan Padang people have. Now the quake had left the ruin on our land, but we have to move on. We clean the pieces, rebuild the remnant, repair the damage, and of course, make better plans. One of the big plans is to relocate the city's most populous coastal area to higher ground.

Here comes the problem; whether the coastal dwellers are willing to move higher ground. The science-vs-religion debate is just one factor that makes moving the city’s most populous coastal area to higher ground difficult. Some of my Jakartan friends who grow up in Padang, including those whose houses are within 1 kilometer off the coast, say it’s not easy to persuade their parents to move far away from the coast. The reason is clear; they are sure they'll be save if God wish it.

Other factors are money and comfort, especially for the middle-aged group. Most are settled like my parents. Buying a new house or a piece of land is not something "normal" settled people think of, save for investment, maybe. But moving on is like starting all over again, just as the young or the newlyweds buy a new house using their savings or by installment, not by selling an old house to buy a new one. In this relocation case, the settled people can’t hope much in selling their coastal home because of the falling prices due to the tsunami prediction.

If the administration takes risk in relocating the city, it will take years and a bunch of money. They will have to relocate and rebuild government offices and markets. They might have to consider supporting financially the dwellers who are willing to move higher ground but have little money.

The hesitant dwellers may have other reasons we don’t know, though. But while we keep asking whether we make the right choice, we have to keep moving. Even if relocation will not save people's lives, if thousands of us are gonna die in a tsunami, it will help avoiding another financial disaster like now. At least we do something for the next generation. It’s still better than doing nothing. Keep making plan and implement it, and let Him do the rest.


  1. Ada yang bilang Padang itu hopeless. Sulit berkembang karena hanya punya satu industri: semen. Itu pun tidak dikelola dengan baik. Sebahagian labanya masuk ke saku-saku pejabat daerah. Tapi sebenarnya Padang itu hopeless karena pemerintahnya tidak punya ide yang bagus soal pengembangan kota. Terminal Andalas jadi Plaza Andalas. Terminal Goan Hoat jd Sentral Pasar Raya. Akibatnya jalanan jadi malah macet. Dan polisi menilang dengan mudah di depan Matahari.

    Bulan-bulan pertama Fauzi Bahar jadi walikota disibukkan dengan keinginan merevitalisasi fungsi Terminal Regional Bingkuang.Dari awal gw memperkirakan usahanya bakal sia-sia. Karena jelas, feasibility studi TRB ditolak oleh tim verifikasi Kantor Gubernur kala itu, tp entah kenapa lolos ke pusat. Artinya, pembangunan TRB hanya akal-akal pejabat daerah untuk mendapat kucuran APBN yg sebahagiannya masuk saku.

    Bertahun2 lalu Bokap gw bilang, kalo Balaikota / Kantor Gubernur di-relokasi ke samping TRB, otomatis terminal berikut pasar akan hidup. Nyatanya, Balaikota membangun gedung baru disamping yang lama dan Kantor Gubernur direhab. Nah, gempa kali ini harus memberi pelajaran buat para pejabat daerah untuk pengembangan wilayah. Jangan wilayah yang sudah ramai ditambah ramai :)

  2. nice info. i have to admit that i know little about the city's development plan. relokasi kantor gubernur, bikin mall, otomatis terminal bisa hidup :)