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July 27, 2016

An Amazing Coincidence of History

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The Bomoh, a Malay witch doctor we finally met, continued on with his conversation. You see, in his world, life is not linear.


It is like a spider web emanating out in waves. He will talk about one thing, jump to the next then a third and finally back to the original conversation. It is useless to try to keep him on track. My wife was afraid of him in fear he would cast some kind of spell on us. After a while, I thought he would, too.


We spent about three hours with him as he spoke in Sarawak Malay, which is the local dialect. I was just beginning to pick it up and could recognize many words and I realize the conversation was hopping around like a rabbit being chased by a raccoon. I sat back and let my wife continue on with him, sometimes paying attention, but most times drifting off into my own little world – wondering when are we were going to eat.


The interminable conversation finally ended with my wife having pages of notes which we sort through when we returned via boat home.


After eating, I sat her down and she went through the conversation exactly how it occurred, only in English. I knew I would have to take over.


Who was the first Sultan of Sarawak, I asked. (Flip pages of notes)


It was Abdul Jalil.


And who was the second Sultan (flip pages of notes)


He didn't know.


Who was the third Sultan?


Oh, that was Sultan Tengah. I know, but what was his real name? (Flip pages of notes)


It was Sultan Abdullah Muhammed Hafis bin Sultan Abdul Jalil also known as the Rajah Tua or Sultan Tengah.


Really, I said. Does he have a shorter name?


Her eyes went up and said, Yes, Rajah Tengah.


Of course, I said. The whole conversation went on like that for about two hours with me trying to make some sort of sense out of it.


I finally put together an oral history of Kuching. I would check it on the Internet for any corroboration.


We have a problem. Sultan Abdul Jalil had the same name as the first three Sultans of Johor, a state across the sea about two hours flying distance. It was about the same time period, give or take a few hundred years. The other Sultans seem okay mainly because nothing came up when I Googled their names.


I told my wife we had a problem in that the names of the first three Sultans of Johor had the exact same name as the first Sultan of Sarawak. She said that was okay because the names were common.


The trouble was, when I Googled, they were the only names to come up. She said they had not been written down yet. It was then that I realized she was firmly in the Bomoh's camp of history.


I realized I was beat. There was no sense in trying to fight illogic with logic. We have another meeting with the Bomoh upcoming, and I will try to ask him about this amazing coincidence of history. Wish me luck!


...Life is good. . . . .


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