Interview with Pak Sulaiman, a bajaj driver from Indramayu who has been working in Manggarai for 25 years.
Where do you live, pak?
I rent a place in manggarai, it’s shared with three friends. My family is back in Indramayu, and once a month I travel back to see them using public transport.
Since you started working have you always driven a bajaj?
After leaving elementary school around 1980-1981 I went to Jakarta to sell cigarettes, until 1984 when I learned to operate a becak (pedicab). In 1985 I joined the transmigration to Riau, in Sumatra, but came back again a year later in 1986 to work the becak again. In 1993 I started driving a bajaj until today, since the old red models were in use.
Can you tell us why you switched from a becak to a bajaj, pak?
Yes, because becak can no longer operate freely in Jakarta like they used to. In 1990 I took my becak back to Indramayu for three years, with the idea that if I can’t do anything more than drive a pedicab I wasn’t ready to get married. When I returned to Jakarta in 1993 I started using one of the old orange bajaj, got married, and continued like that until 2013 until I changed to the newer, blue bajaj model.
Why did you change to the new model?
Basically because the old orange models aren’t used if there are blue bajaj around. If customers see both in the same area then they will always stop the blue ones, which we resented, and eventually our boss bought them for us to use. Using the new models was great before the era of online transport. Since then, their use has reduced dramatically until today.
How much can you make doing this, pak?
These days it’s not easy; the income can be really unreliable and sometimes we might not make anything. Sometimes on a good day we might get IDR200.000*. Before the rise of online transport that would have been relatively small money.
So, how do you go about changing from the older model of bajaj to the new one?
My boss buys the new, blue bajaj, and gives it to me on credit. There’s only a month left until it’s paid off now. I have to repay IDR90.000 a day, for around a year and a half. In the past the daily payment would have been around IDR140.000. Thanks to god it will soon be mine.
What happened to your orange bajaj, pak?
It’s not in use any more.
Are there communities for bajaj drivers like for the online ojek drivers?
There are, but I’m not a member. I just work by myself because I don’t want to be restricted, but if you join sometimes you can be invited on holiday.
Oke bapak, thanks a lot.