KamarLife in the Bridge
Jakarta, with 14 million inhabitants, is a magnet for Indonesians from all over the archipelago, especially the island of Java. A look at its crowded streets provokes a dream of more prosperous life and better future in the eyes of out-comers, even those who find their roof in very unusual places.
The Kuningan bridge, located in downtown Jakarta, is not an ordinary bridge whose only purpose is to connect people from the two sides of the channel – on this bridge life breaths not only on its surface, but also inside of it. In fact, it is a “concrete building” populated by a community of people living in small rooms made out of its inner construction. The walls and ceilings of these rooms, called “kamar” in Indonesian, are “borrowed” from the bridge construction, while the floor is made out of wood. The rooms could be reached only by climbing leathers – some of them very large since a number of rooms are well above the ground. Majority of workers are young, single men, living in separate rooms, but some of them live with their families in extremely limited space. The adaptive tenants introduced electricity to their homes from the bridge lights, and they fight the heat in the rooms with old fans. They also made a small mosque under the bridge and regularly attend its services. Small shops, called warung, are located under the bridge – selling groceries and meals like “nasi goreng” (fried rice), one of the most famous Indonesian national dishes.
These tenants work for the city government and their employer, a government subcontractor, “houses” them inside the bridge. They work as gardeners, wood cutters and street cleaners, and they work from early morning till late afternoon every day. These workers earn 70,000 rupiah a day ($6), and often work more than one shift, but even then they still struggle to save money to bring back home to their families.