Daydreaming on a blanket while enjoying the warm summer breeze and the smell of green grass, munching on hearty snacks and having light-hearted conversations with good friends is perhaps the ideal “picnic” setting.
Pulling off such a relaxing feat in natural surroundings might be difficult in Jakarta. But despite the challenges, two friends have created the community Piknik Asik, which might be best translated as “funky picnic.”
Once a month on the weekends, Rahne Putri and Indira Bayurini round up Jakartans looking for new friends and an alternative to going to the mall.
“We were trying to find a way to bring people together without having to spend a lot of money,” she said. “We want to show them that one doesn’t always have to meet at the mall, a restaurant or cafe.”
Rahne and Indira first “met” on Twitter, and despite their different backgrounds — Indira is a freelance translator, housewife and mother of two, while Rahne is a career woman — the two quickly became friends after they agreed to meet in real life.
Rahne, the mastermind behind the popular Twitter account “Anjing Gombal,” which provides a collection of humorous pick up lines, is a “well-established” Twitter personality. It wasn’t difficult for her to spread the word among her followers and find willing legions of picnicers.
The two created a new Twitter account, and a couple of retweets later, Rahne and Indira were already busy planning their first picnic, which took place in January 2011 at Ragunan Zoo. They were a bit surprised when nearly 60 people showed up.
“Some of them were our friends, others were complete strangers to us,” Indira said.
They all had different backgrounds. Some were young professionals, other students or couples with small children. One woman brought along her parents.
Rahne said the first gathering was a simple affair as the newfound picnic community simply lounged together, swapped food, sang along with the guitar and played some games. Other picnic-goers took the opportunity to walk through the zoo.
“We didn’t have a program, and everything was very casual,” Indira said.
On other occasions, Piknik Asik has ventured out to Monas National Monument, Taman Situ Lembang and Taman Suropati, all located in Central Jakarta, as well as Taman Langsat in Kebayoran Baru, in the southern part of the city.
“We try to pick places that are not on people’s usual to-go list,” Rahne said. “So we meet up in parks and other places that are open to the public. Once we have been to all the parks, maybe we just start from the beginning.”
The simple concept has so far proven successful. The number of the community’s followers on Twitter has grown steadily (the account currently has 2,700 followers), and Piknik Asik has sprung chapters in other cities, such as Bandung, Yogyakarta, Semarang, Central Java, and Malang, East Java.
“Some followers kept asking us, when are you going to organize Piknik Asik in Bandung or Yogyakarta?” Indira said. “And we said, why don’t you go ahead and do one yourself? We are fine with that. It’s such an easy thing to do.”
Rahne and Indira see themselves only as initiators of Piknik Asik that have provided a picnic-based forum for Jakartans to gather. But the founding duo still tries to keep things interesting and varied. In December last year, they decided to try something new, which Rahne called “the MP3 experiment.”
“I recorded a 30-minute MP3 file,” Rahne said. “And then I spread the word through Twitter and Tumblr and asked everyone who wanted to join Piknik Asik’s next edition to download that file. But they were not allowed to listen to it; otherwise, they’d miss all the fun.”
On the day of the picnic, everybody gathered at 8:30 a.m. and was told to press play on their MP3 players and follow the instructions Rahne had recorded.
“I asked them to do different things while they were walking toward Monas,” Rahne explained. “For example, at one point, I asked them to jump, to give me their best dangdut dance moves, to pick up some trash from the streets or to freeze for one minute.”
“We weren’t sure how many people would show up,” she added. “We thought, if we get only 15 people to join, we’d be happy. In the end, there were around 90.”
Once they arrived at the park surrounding Monas, the participants were presented with a small gift.
Activities like that, Rahne said, were meant to get Jakartans to be more spontaneous and open to new things, as well as help them have fun in the city.
In February, Rahne and Indira organized a “Valentine Picnic,” because “rather than being alone on the day of love, why not hang out with some friends or even meet new people,” Indira said.
Piknik Asik also works together with other local communities.
There is, for instance, a sketching community which they have invited to join Piknik Asik. “The more the merrier,” as Indira put it.
Others use Piknik Asik to showcase some of their talents or introduce new products like cupcakes.
“We are very open to that,” Indira said. “One time, there was a makeup artist who joined us. He gave us a free lesson in how to use makeup the proper way.”
Once, Indra said, a yoga instructor came to the picnic, “so we suddenly were all doing yoga in the park. It really all depends on the people who show up.”
Rahne said that many of the picnickers had since become friends. “And since we are all busy with our daily jobs, it is nice to have a reason to meet them at least once a month.”
For more information about Piknik Asik, visit www.piknikasik.tumblr.com or follow @piknikasik on Twitter