I just read a profile on Dahlan Iskan, the founder and current CEO of Jawa Pos (a major Indonesian newspaper) on a book titled "Rahasia Sukses The Best CEO Indonesia" by Harmanto Edy Djatmiko.
There it was said that Iskan was unaware of his own birth date since he came from a poor village in Java. His birthday was written down in a cupboard which was sold off to help pay for his late mother's surgery a couple of decades back in his home.
Iskan, who is now famous and successful, then decided to "brand" his own birthday by designating the date 17 August 1951 as the day he was born, using its auspicious links in relation to the Independence Day of Indonesia.
The story of Iskan also reminds me of my childhood friend back in my old house in Pondok Pinang, South Jakarta.
She was around a year older than me, and her parents (who both originated from a rural family in Gombong, Central Java) made it no importance to keep track of their children's birthday.
Not knowing their own birthdays?
I wonder whether this is a truly rural Indonesian phenomenon or whether this also exist in other parts of the globe. One thing for sure, not knowing your own birthday means that you don't own a birth certificate, and this further means that your name is not recorded in your country's database.
Some governments in developing countries seem to view it unimportant to record the names and birth dates of its citizens in the poorest and remotest areas of the country.
Such a sad fact, really.
As a result, some large number of its population remains uncounted and their voices are unheard of.
No wonder cycle of poverty never stops in some parts of the globe (including Indonesia). If their voices are unheard of by the government, how is the government able to help them?
This also makes me wonder if the number of people living below the poverty line (less than EUR 1.50/day) in Indonesia is actually higher than the 47% according to the government's statistics.
There may be another 10% or 20% who are uncounted for... Who knows?
The government doesn't even keep any record on them.