Bollywood music on the equator in Pontianak

In 2017, I spent a month and half in Indonesia for work. I utilized the weekends to explore new regions in Indonesia, fly new airlines and add more airports to my list of airports visited. On my list for a while was visiting the equator. Twelve countries the world over are on the equator and there is only one city, Pontianak – which is located right on the equator. Pontianak is the head quarter of West Kalimantan province and is on the island of Borneo (largest island in Asia) in the delta of the Kapuas river – the longest river in Indonesia. (More about the Equator Monument – Link)

Uber and Grab mentioned on their website that they have service partners in Pontianak. As I came out of the airport, neither of the mobile app showed options and city did not have any public transport from the airport. That left me to the mercy of the pre-paid counter where I could communicate in broken Bahasa to get a taxi to the Equator Monument.

For workable two-way communication amidst language barriers, it has to be broken English from the other side, and broken local language (in this case Bahasa) from our side. But the taxi driver was averse to any kind of English and that meant that it was sign language to the rescue.

We soon crossed the old town area and went on the other bank of the river to reach the Equator monument. Somehow, the driver and I managed to agree that he will wait for me to come back and he will take me back to the airport. The weather was dreary, what can you expect at the equator other than equatorial weather, I said to myself and moved on to see the monument, open my phone and see the GPS co-ordinates, click pictures and settle in one of the many small shops dotting the open area around the monument.

As I walked closer to the stalls I could faintly hear some Hindi songs from the 90s. The songs became audible as I got closer and I was naturally attracted to the stall which was playing these songs. The broken English – broken Bahasa combination worked. As I asked for Coconut Water, I got talking about the songs. I asked her and her helper in the stall if they listen to these songs regularly. “Daily” she tried answering and adding that she likes these songs a lot. She also showed me her phone which was streaming the songs from youtube and with sparse crowd around she was keenly watching the moves as well in the video.


I was then handed over the phone and asked to select the latest and most popular Bollywood songs. I don’t like watching movies and generally don’t know much about songs. It was a challenging work and I missed TW (The Wife) who would have been more efficient with such stuff. I had to live up to the expectations and would have been very shameful to say that I don’t know the latest Bollywood songs! I simply searched for “Latest Bollywood songs 2017” and opened the first playlist. Thankfully I knew the first songs and its popularity since it kept playing on all radio channels back then. I am sure she could have done the same and I had not been of any help!

The coconut in tow, I made the payment and stepped aside to enjoy the coconut water. Very proud of what Bollywood has done for India and how the popularity helps build bridges. The lady and her helper, I am sure were also thinking about how they met an Indian, considering how remote Pontianak is.

After bonding with a driver of Afghan origin in America over Jagjit Singh Gazals, and the Raj Kapoor incident in Russia , this was the third incident where I could see how music connects people!

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