My Jakarta: Moammar Emka, ‘Jakarta Undercover’ Author

Sex sells. Just ask the author Moammar Emka, whose wildly successful “Jakarta Undercover” trilogy exposed the darker corners of the capital. Here, Emka talks about some of his wilder adventures, the lessons he learned from his foray into moviemaking and his latest book.

JK Rowling was rejected 12 times before someone agreed to publish ‘Harry Potter.’ How many publishers rejected ‘Jakarta Undercover’? 

Seven or eight I think, because at that time anything related to the sex industry was taboo. Every publisher that I presented the draft to wanted to revise 40 to 60 percent of it, until finally Galang Press in Yogyakarta, a small publisher at that time, was willing to take the risk. My first book deal, the original “Jakarta Undercover,” had a print run of 2,000. For me, having someone publish and distribute my book was satisfying enough, it didn’t matter how many copies were printed. But who would have guessed it would become a hit.

Now it’s a trilogy. What are the differences between books one, two and three? 

Each book is about different places and covers different people and walks of life. The stories told in “Jakarta Undercover I” are about high-society people and their exclusive parties, while in book two its more about sex entertainment and the working girls, and three is a combination of both. The “menu” in this industry is always changing; yesterday it was “ sashimi girls,” today it’s “ sashimi boys.”

But you can’t be ‘undercover’ anymore, people must know who you are. Don’t the people running or involved in this industry feel threatened by you? 

Yeah, at first. After being on TV and doing interviews, half of high society didn’t want me there anymore, however the other half invited me in. Some places liked the publicity and wanted me to promote their new place or group.

What’s the craziest thing you ever saw while researching the ‘Jakarta Undercover’ series? 

Let’s see, invite-only parties where everyone was having sex. There are also places in the city where you can get mandi kucing, where the girl licks you all over using red wine, milk, ice water, hot water or jelly. In Kota, there is a hotel with theme rooms and girls dress up as mermaids, doctors or schoolgirls, according to your preference. And there is a place in Glodok where you can have sex with a duck.

What’s your new book, ‘Cinta Itu Kamu,’ about? 

It’s not a novel; it’s a compilation of short stories, poems, quotes and thoughts in both Indonesian and English. There’s a CD that comes with it where I read passages aloud with soothing music playing in the background. There’s also a track where I sing. The book covers everything from a broken heart to falling in love, from nice words to whisper to your girlfriend as she’s falling asleep to pick-up lines.

It sounds very different from your previous projects. Why the switch? 

As an author, I can write about anything that I’m passionate about. This project is new for me, I like the challenge; I’m writing in a different style and singing. I think people have already read enough about sex and they might not want to hear more about it for now. Maybe in a couple of years from now, but definitely not now.

Everyone says Indonesia is such a tolerant nation. Would you agree with that? 

I believe that, but I don’t believe that it’s true for everyone. There are people who are open-minded, who see things not simply as black or white.

How so? 

I like to go to modern Muslim universities and speak at seminars or lectures. I graduated from a pesantren, a Muslim boarding school. I believe that you can have a good debate and discussion on any topic with anyone. I’ve had them in Makassar, Yogyakarta, Jakarta, all over. When I do talk shows on air, the computers crash and the phone lines jam with people calling in to say all kinds of things, from “your books are eye-opening” to “go to hell.” It doesn’t always go smoothly. I’ve been kicked off the stage many times, and once there were guys on motorcycles just circling the building and they all had knives. Sometimes I feel like I’m on trial.

You wrote the novel and scripted and produced the film ‘Tarzan ke Kota’ (‘Tarzan Goes to the City’). Have you ever seen that guy walking around Jakarta who looks exactly like Tarzan, loincloth and all? 

No, never, I was inspired by old Tarzan movies. But the whole film was a mess; I should have just made a horror movie [laughs].

You’ve got a girlfriend now. Is she the least bit intimidated by all your experiences?

No. I don’t go to those sex parties anymore. I met her at a seminar on transsexuals in Bandung, she was the MC. I’m 35, I’m slowing down, and I need to think about starting a family.

Emka was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original Interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Moammar Emka, ‘Jakarta Undercover’ Author

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

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My Jakarta: Rio, Dairy Farmer and Former Banker

Where’s the beef? Got milk? In Jakarta, about the closest you can get to an actual cow is probably the meat section at Kem Chicks. Which makes Rio’s career switch all the more unusual. This former Jakarta banker quit his desk job to become a dairy farmer.

Recently, he took us to one of his farms, about two hours outside of Jakarta, and told us how he milks money from cows.

How far away is your farm from your home in Central Jakarta? 

I have two farms. One is in Ciawi, near Bogor, about an hour’s drive from Jakarta, and the other is in Lembang, about two hours away, close to Bandung. I go to Lembang every Monday and Thursday and I spend the other days in Ciawi.

How many employees do you have? 

There are around 30 workers on each farm. Most are local people and some live on the farm.

What products do you sell from your farms? 

We sell dairy products and vegetables. Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, yogurt, ice cream, tomatoes, broccoli, chilies, strawberries, blackberries and many other products.

You distribute it in Jakarta? 

Everywhere. Some of the restaurants, schools and gyms in Jakarta carry my yogurt and ice cream products, the milk is bought by a recreational park and the vegetables go to the high-end supermarkets in Jakarta. I also have a wholesale market in Lembang where you can buy directly.

Have you ever milked a cow? 

No, because we do that in the morning, when I’m usually still driving. Not everyone is able to milk a cow. You have to know the technique or you’re going to get a kick in the face. If someone milks a cow while feeling stressed, physiologically the cow senses it and won’t produce as much milk as it should. You have to be in a good mood to do it. I have a machine as well, but it produces less milk than traditional milking.

How much milk can each cow produce? 

Ideally, at least 10 liters. That’s how much it should produce just to break even. If you can get 15 liters, then five liters is your profit. Any cow producing below 10 liters will be sent to the slaughterhouse, usually after five to six years. Cows produce milk after they give birth; usually the third time is when production peaks.

What do they do all day? 

They eat, sleep and crap.

What do you do with all the waste? 

We reuse everything. The dung and the urine from the cows and goats is used as fertilizer, mixed with other materials and vitamins for the broccoli, tomatoes and everything else we grow on this farm.

Did you study agriculture? 

No, I studied finance in the States, and when I got back I worked at a bank. Then my parents wanted me to continue this family business, and now I’ve been doing it for eight years. In the beginning, I did a lot of reading, and I think I have a library full of books about cows and farming.

Can you raise cows in the city?

Yes, there’s a cow farm near Setiabudi. It’s a good business because the transportation fees are low when it comes to distributing the products. But I prefer to be outside Jakarta where the air is still fresh and there’s more space to do other things such as grow vegetables.

So it’s a good business? 

Any business is good as long as you have the market. Nowadays not many people go into farming. They’d rather invest in stocks or a restaurant. Farming is not easy and you don’t make that much profit. I do things properly by maintaining high standards, feeding the cows the best nutrients and investing in proper stalls and the right people to do the job. I have also invested in machines to make ice cream and yogurt, because every liter sells at three times the price of milk.

When you look at these cows, does it make you want to eat a hamburger? 

I eat beef, but I’m not crazy about it.

It’s not because you feel sorry for them? 

No, I don’t feel sorry. I feel bad seeing them chained. I would like to have a place where the cows could walk freely. Usually we let the calves walk around.

Do you have a favorite cow? 

No, because I don’t want to get attached as I know they’re heading for the slaughterhouse. I like to play with them and tease them. Once, I was too aggressive and the chain came off, so I ran as fast as I could [laughs].

Cows are cool. Could I keep one as a pet? 

Sure, why not, there is a bule near my farm in Lembang who owns a villa and keeps cows as pets.

Do you enjoy being on the farm more than working in the city behind a desk? 

Yes, of course, time is very precious to me. When I worked for someone else, I felt like I was trapped. Having my own business, I get control over my time, even if it means I have to work harder. I enjoy the fresh air of the countryside and walking in the fields. Working behind a desk, I felt no better than one of these cows: eat, sleep, produce milk, and when you’re no longer producing, you’re dead [laughs].

Rio was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Rio, Dairy Farmer and Former Banker

Picture by Iwan Putuhena