Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Bye Bye, Bayo (revisited)

Bayo in 2005 (photo by Antares)

I awoke on the morning of June 4th to terribly sad news. Bayo, the cutest kid in Pertak Village, was dead. He couldn't have been much older than six. On May 27th I had driven nine kids from the village to witness a surrealistic children's play by the Jumping JellyBeans called Terra Arata. Bayo was supposed to have been part of the group but he couldn't come because he wasn't feeling well. I was told he was suffering from a bad case of boils on his backside. As the other kids squeezed on board my trusty Toyota van, I waved at Bayo and he forlornly waved back. The next time I saw Bayo, about a week later, he was lying on his living room floor, wrapped mummy-like in a sarong, not entirely cold yet, but no longer breathing.

Bayo's father Empi burst into convulsive tears when it came time to wash the tiny body prior to burial. I can imagine the complex feelings that must have coursed through him, seeing his kid's body already turning blue, and the sinister seaweed-shaped bruise creeping over his left shoulder and moving toward his heart. A Temuan woman near me whispered: "Tengok! Dia kena barang hutan!" ("Look! Something from the jungle got him!") Later, after the funeral, Empi told me Bayo had been playing in the belukar (secondary forest) behind his Granny's house and he must have been attacked by the barang - a vague enough term for something inexplicable to modern minds, more in the nature of a curse.

Bayo's Granny, Awa, is a practising dukun or medicine woman. She may have been careless in the disposal of some magical effluent following a ritual healing. A few weeks earlier, one of my friends had taken Bayo to the hospital to treat his multiple sores - and the doctor had discovered a high level of staph in his blood. Bayo was admitted to the ward, but was hastily brought home later the same day when Empi created a scene, admonishing my friend for sticking his nose into other people's affairs. It was a no-win situation, for sure... but nobody had expected that the robust little boy would die from a few sores on his butt.

Empi and his wife Pita have had 13 children - and now, with Bayo gone, they only have 9 left. Little wonder Bayo and some of his siblings made a habit of hanging around my house, watching Disney videos and enjoying a regular bounty of chocolates, cookies, sweets, and sometimes even a full meal. A few years ago Empi was a very rich man, when he received close to RM100,000 compensation for ancestral orchards destroyed by the Selangor Dam project. Alas, he apparently squandered it all within the space of a year by throwing parties everywhere he went - and by changing motorbikes every couple of months. Empi's residual paternal pride was obviously affronted when my friend took it upon himself to admit Bayo to the Kuala Kubu Baru hospital.

If Bayo had been allowed to stay in the hospital for a week and administered some antibiotics, would he be among us still? Most probably, yes. But what's the use of further exacerbating his father's guilt? Bayo won't be coming around in the afternoon to lounge on our divan and watch Beauty and the Beast with my boy Ahau anymore. I'll miss high-fiving the little tyke as I drive by - and his impish grin and sassy salute whenever he receives a special treat.

Lata Suir was one of Bayo's favorite spots (photo by Colin Nicholas)

I have a plethora of many other thoughts and feelings to add to this blogpost - but not tonight, not tonight...

[First posted 6 June 2007, reposted 15 June 2020]