His jeans rolled above muscular calves, Sarjono slid into a jockey's crouch behind three passengers, pulled hard on the handlebars and grunted. The three-wheeled vehicle slowly rolled into action.
The Indonesian pedicab, called a becak , is the sole means of livelihood for Sarjono and thousands of other men from this city in central Java to Jakarta in the west. Hundreds of becaks crowd the narrow streets, inpeding motor traffic and illustrating Indonesia's slow progress toward modernization.
Sarjono and this strong-legged colleagues are among the victims of the governmenths failure to channel the country's 140 million people into the kinds of meaningful employment that could accelerate development. But Sarjono's becak takes him past people even worse off every day.
Sarjono pedals past steamy, dimly lit factories where dozens of women of all ages make Batik cloth; past reeking lots where people sift through mountains of garbage looking for usable items. Old women walk bent under the weight of coconut-filled baskets on their backs. Old men push carts loaded with cans from which they sell the kerosene that most Indonesians use for cooking, lighting and heating.
He rides past rows and rows of softdrink and cigarette peddlers, and other self-employed Indonesians who make barely enough to buy a day's meals.
According to a confidential World Bank report, the average Indonesian earns $370 a year. "Life expectancy at birth -- 48 years -- remains very low by internatinal standards," the report said. "About 600,000 infants less than one year old die annually; over 100 million people do not have access to safe drinking water; almost 30 million people aged 15 and over remain illiterate.Daily wages in many parts of Indonesia are less than $1."
Sarjono's lifestyle is typical. At age 29, he has driven a becak for the past four years. A junior high school dropout, he came to Jogjakarta, population 500,000, from the village of Wonosari, where his family farmed a small plot of land.
"I thought I could make more money here in the big city," he said.
Sarjono said he pedals about a dozen passengers more than 20 miles a day for average daily earnings of about $3.20. That is more than he could make on the farm, but his expenses are higher.
One-quarter of his earnings each day goes just to lease his becak . The balance helps keep himself, his wife, his 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son alive.
"It's just enough for us, no more," Sarjono said.
Each day, he spends 80 cents for just over three quarts of rice, 32 cents for about three quarters of a pound of fish, 16 cents for vegetables and 10 cents for kerosene. If anything is left over, Sarjono, can buy luxury items like milk, eggs, fruits and sweets or clothes for the children to wear to school.
There is rarely any money for entertainment. The children usually join their friends in front of a neighbor's television. Sarjono himself slams a Ping-Pong ball back and forth past squawking chickens at a communally constructed table in a friend's yard.
It is difficult, but Sarjono also tries to put a little money aside for the year's rent of $45, paid in advance.
This buys a dark, dirt-floored room on one side of a bamboo-walled hut owned by another family that occupies the main chamber. Two beds are pushed together at the back of the narrow room -- one for Sarjono and his wife, the other for his children. A small table with a half dozen pots, pans, plates and cups and a kerosene stone in front of the beds serve as a kitchen. An area near the room's only door has a dusty coffee table and three chairs for receiving guests. A few calendars and photographs hang on the walls.
For a toilet, Sarjono's family and neighbors all share a hole in the ground partitioned off from the surrounding shacks. Next to that is another enclosure with a tub of water and a scoop for bathing.
Whether he sleeps with his family or in his becak , Sarjono rises about 6 a.m. to begin looking for enough passengers to meet the day's expenses. Sometimes as many as four people squeeze into the buggy built for two up front. That means more money. But it also makes the journey through Jogjakarta's rutted, dirt roads and potholes more painful.
Up steep hills, Sarjono must dismount and push. When it rains, he attaches a roof to the buggy and fixes a peice of plastic across the front to keep passengers relatively dry.
A comprehensive World Bank study released last year labeled work like becak-driving "low quality employment."
"Indonesia's fundamental labor surplus problem," finding sustenance for its estimated 160 million people, "is not one of open unemployment so much as low returns to labor and the need for the poor to work extremely long hours, often in multiple occupations to earn a minimum living," the report concluded.
Many poor, young women who migrate to the big cities of Java from villages and outer islands wind up as prostitutes despite their upbringing in a country that is 95 percent Moslem.
Each night, hundreds of girls stand on corners in Jakarta along a beachside amusement and resort complex called Dreamland. They make as much as Sarjono earns in an entire day on his becake -$3.20 for a short session behind a bush or in a parked car, and $8 or more for a full night in a hotel room or home.
Hans Dieter-Evers, a German scholar who has taught at the University of Indonesia, studied a cross-section of nearly 2,000 prostitutes living under government supervision in the special Kramat Tunggak area in northern Jakarta. He found each girl averaged three customers a week and about $50 a month. But pimps, rent, medicine, dresses and cosmetics consumed about $46.
An alternative many girls consider undesirable is working with hundreds of other women rolling kretek clove cigarettes or dyeing and tracing batik fabrics. One 15-year-old girl, squinting at a peice of material in a Jagjakarta batik factory, said she earned 40 cents and two meals a day working eight hours, seven days a week.
In contrast, the cloth they produce is sold in exclusive, air-conditioned boutiques fronting the factory at prices ranging from $3 to $50 a yard.
More dramatic displays of the disparity between rich and poor exist in Jakarta. Behind gleaming, glass skyscrapers and hotels in the heart of the city sprawl the kampungs , densely packed collections of bamboo shacks and modern homes often bordering canals black with sewage. The poorest use the canals for bathing, washing, and defecating.