Breakfast with Abu

Good Morning Sri Lanka!

Today in World Visions we bring you the story of Abu…

Miss Reporter looks prim

Nice suit, crisp accent with lipstick

I like her style.

I dash more butter on my appams

Hot and milky from Soma’s stall

Across the street.

She’s the best, her lunumiris,

My spicy morning affair! Yum!

Cut to Abu.

Abu lives in Somalia.

Seventeen, they tell me.

He hardly looks ten.

Zoom in.

Protruding bellies and flies. Dark eyes.

You know, the usual Somalian

Shot with a Pulitzer tint.

They give me the figures of malnutrition

UN quoted; no mistakes.

Harrowing tale.

Well researched, interesting.

Lucid images, disturbing.

Abu steps out of the screen.

Join me for breakfast?

Miss Reporter smiles. Cho-chweet!

He’s special you know, she says

I ask her how.

He’s suffering she says, can’t you see?

I can.

They’ve mastered the art of emotional blackmail,

I say!

Abu takes a rickety step towards the table.

Drags a chair. Sits down.

He waves away the food, doesn’t want to eat he says.

In silence we wait as I finish my last appam.

I notice the scabies, the foul smell.

True to life.

You know about Darfur? He asks.

Yes, yes I know about Darfur but

How do you know?

I watch the news too he smirks.

I peel a banana, fresh kolikuttu, my favourite.

Tsunami was bad huh?

Yeah, but the war is worse.


We talk local politics, for a while.

So what’ the plan?

Finish my thesis, find a job, get married;

I don’t know… Maybe.

My guru said I should stop

Worrying about things I cannot help.

He nods in vague approval

Life’s there to get on with, says wise, old man

Trapped in malnourished childhood.

I sip my tea, sweetened

With suffering of the world

While Abu shivers his legs under the table.

We watch the magpies on the garden lawns.

Flashes of black and white,

Chattering; unceasing:

A Nineteen-thirties flick on the screen.


Fevered imagination like

A whiff of sea in the air.

And Abu muttering as I pick

Lacy leftovers of appams for breakfast.


 October 2006




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