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Mudik essentially takes place in various Indonesian urban centers. However, it massively occurs in Greater Jakarta, the largest urban agglomeration in Indonesia. In 2019, around 33.4 million of Indonesians returned to their hometowns, and 14.9 million of them were the Jakartans who left Jakarta by various means of transportation. Due to the sudden and massive exodus, for some days, the train stations and airports became overwhelmingly crowded. Thousands of buses and millions of cars filled the main roads, especially the Trans-Java toll road and the North Java Coastal Road so that they were sometimes massively clogged.
The tradition to go hometown for celebrating a religious festival like mudik is essentially a global phenomenon. Such tradition also exists in many other cultures. The tradition is different only in the moment for conducting it. The same mudik tradition during the Eid al-Fitr is also observable in other countries with Muslim majorities, like Pakistan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Bangladesh. Mudik can also be compared to the similar annual homecoming traditions conducted in various parts of the world, such as Christmas in Europe, Thanksgiving in America, Chinese New Year in China, Songkran in Thailand, and Divali in India, during which family members are expected to come home.
The principal motivation of mudik is to show one’s love for his or her parents in the Eid al-Fitr festival. This is combined with other motives, such as attending a gathering with other extended family members who scattered in other cities or provinces or even overseas. “Celebrating Eid al-Fitr together with parents and extended family members gives you invaluable happiness which is irreplaceable with money”, one of my neighbors I interviewed said. “Since seven years ago, my brother who migrated to Denpasar and two sisters (one living in Surabaya and another living in Bandung) agreed to return to Solo (a city in Middle Java), where our parents live, to celebrate Eid al-Fitr together with our families. Can you imagine how my parents kept on smiling and their faces sparkled with happiness while being surrounded and interacting with their four children, four sons and daughters-in-law, and ten grandchildren on Eid al-Fitr day?” he added. Another neighbor said, “Well, I’m the only child of my parents. I didn’t mudik last year because my first son was born one week before Eid al-Fitr. I guess they might miss something while celebrating the Eid day. So, this year it’s a great opportunity for me to add my parents’ happiness by presenting them the first Eid al-Fitr with their grandchild.”
A colleague of mine who teaches Sociology at a university stated, the current mudik tradition covers religious, psychological, socio-cultural, and economic dimensions. People today return to their hometown during Eid al-Fitr for one or more of the following reasons. First, they want to show their devotion to their parents in a religious atmosphere. Second, they want to release their longing by having an extended family recreation and gatherings practically and efficiently. Third, they want to regain their old habits and taste the foods they cannot have outside of their hometown. Finally, mudik can also be used by some people as social and economic lobbying within the framework of strengthening and expanding social capital. The majority of people go hometown mainly for the first three reasons. By gathering and sharing with their parents, brothers, and sisters, and experiencing the habits and atmosphere they miss in the urban city, they try rediscover their origins, like doves that return to their nests after flying far away. Fulfilled with such invaluable goals, they are ready to travel long distances, stuck in traffic jams, and even face the risk of being fatigued.
But people must be willing not to mudik Eid al-Fitr this year because the Indonesian government had decided on April 21, 2020, to ban mudik to curb the spread of COVID-19. A survey conducted by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) at the end of March 2020, revealed that almost 44 percent of its respondents still planned to return to their hometowns although the government has called not to do so. Up to the time this article was written, COVID-19 had infected 8,882 people and caused 743 deaths. That’s why the ban was issued. By prohibiting people, especially from Greater Jakarta, the epicenter of the outbreak (in which 4.273 people have been infected and 407 died) to return to their hometowns, the growth of new coronavirus spread clusters in other regions can be avoided. Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal and Security, Mahfud MD, stated that the ban will be even applied nationwide.
The mudik ban greatly disappointed the two neighbors I interviewed. However, they could accept the decision for it was based on a good and correct reason. The first neighbor said, “It’s very hard to accept this. But I have phoned my parents, brother, and sisters. They also realize the tremendous disaster we can possibly cause, i.e. spreading COVID 19 to our parents and other people, if we insist on returning to Solo for Eid al-Fitr. So, we won’t mudik this year.” He ended by saying, “We will just have video call together right on the Eid al-Fitr day."
The other neighbor, with gloomily said, “This pandemic makes it impossible for me to bring my son to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with his grandparents this year. If only I had brought my family earlier (before the mudik ban was issued), ... I believe my parents would have had the happiest Eid al-Fitr.” Like the first neighbor, he decided to use technology to "compensate" their mudik moment. “I guess, my parents' longing to me, my wife, and my son, and my homesickness can be temporarily treated by interacting through video calls. It’s OK not to go hometown this year for our nation’s good.”
My colleague, the Sociology teacher said, "It’s very hard actually for people to accept the mudik ban. Their wish to return to their hometowns has peaked, like the doves that have been flying far away for a long time but is now unable to return to their nests. However, they can accept it for the good of the wider community. Thanks to technology which can be used to lessen people's homesickness. Let’s hope next year’s Eid al-Fitr will be conducive for people to go to their hometown."
Author: Parlindungan Pardede (email@example.com)