The ‘Bumba’

July 26, 2015

That Tuesday morning when Kumo Adomako woke up and saw a large white heron perching on the window sill of his apartment window in Telok Kurau. He realized deep in the marrow of his bones this Tuesday would be very different from all other Tuesdays that had once come and past in his twenty three years of life – the ‘Bumba’ the divine messenger from that other world the elders in his village in Africa only made gestures by pointing across their shoulder while rolling their eyes and never once speaking it’s name…not even so much as a whimper for fear that it would alter the happy ebb and flow of providence, had visited him and left an ominous omen. Kumo picked up the solitary feather and held it up against the light like some sacred amulet – he set it carefully to his right ear when he went out into the world that day.

As he walked all the way to Aljunied MRT station as he did everyday, that day Kumo walked ever so slowly and carefully always mindful never to break the spell.

He made sure his feet never once stepped across a broken line on the pavement. And when he reached the train platform he felt a sudden wave of relief as if he had just crossed a croc infested river. Soon the feeling settled and once again Komu was invaded by the vague sense of something missing in his life like a man standing before a strange arrangements of alphabets that he could not read. But this was feeling of acute estrangement was soon swept away by a stronger under current that intensified with every passing moment. The conviction that soon all would be revealed in good time by the ‘Bumba’.

Kumo did not need any further confirmation that this was the Tuesday of all his Tuesdays. He just knew. Everything about today was infused with a supernatural intensity bordering on the surreal. Nothing was the way it had been the day before. Not even the blob of green spit that had marked the first few pavements when he started his meditative walk that morning – or how he had stopped and peered at it like some bejeweled emerald. Even the mundane morning bright sky, empty and clear apart from one distant bluish puff of cumulus, which cast a drifting shadow over the neat blocks of housing estate seemed so virginal. As if he was looking at the world for the very first time and this filled him with giddiness.

Kumo did not have to wait long for the cryptic message of the ‘Bumba’ to reveal to him why this Tuesday would be different from all the rest of his other Tuesdays. When the station stopped at Tanah Merah and the door hissed open. A man like any other man in all the rolling vastness of the sea of humanity stepped in – he was wearing a loose fitting T shirt, bermuda’s and slippers carrying what appeared to be groceries. The man sat opposite Kumo. He was none other than the Shahidi, the Chinaman cocoa planter of Gabundi Estate.

Kumo shifted his eyes down and bit his lips in deference as he had always done before the Shahidi. Before he did so, he read the words of the man’s T shirt –

‘Different day, Same shit.’


Compass Rose, city hall, Singapore July 2004

Dotty: Stay. There is no need to go anywhere. Everything you need is right here in Singapore. Please don’t make it sound as if it’s a grand design! You should really record yourself and watch how ridiculous you sound. If you ask me. It’s really just something that you made up in your head…are you listening to me? Stay….stay in Singapore….you don’t need to go anywhere. There is no quest. No great age of exploration. Nothing to prove. We don’t live in the age of candles and sail boats! I am not wearing a bonnet and you aren’t Phileas Fog. The problem with you is you’ve managed to convince yourself there’s this grand narrative that no one can possibly understand except you….that you simply have to live out. That’s not how life really is. May well be like that in the movies….but it’s not really like that in real life. Are you listening to me? Or do you want me to thump you again! People can change their life narrative. They do it all the time. They read a self improvement book, they change. The met other people and it changes. They settle down and it all changes. Go to work and it changes as well. Things change all the time. But with you, it’s as if nothing can ever change that life narrative and now you want to pick and just go. Well go then. I don’t really care any more. Just go. It’s not as if we both didn’t know you are cursed with irresponsible genes or that this day wasn’t meant to happen….are you going to keep quiet? Because if you are I am going to bite you really hard and make a scene here! Say something.

Man: Dotty there are many things you don’t know about me….

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