Thimphu, the city of ubiquitous phalluses of varying shapes and sizes and colour, is also the rising city of cum. Walk down Norzin Lam, the capital’s main thoroughfare, and you will get the idea of just how cum-filled this city is. To your left is cum, to your right, cum. In front of you is a bigger streak of cum. Take it or leave it, the city has got to be the greatest producer of cum.
‘Cum’ is a word that is meant to join two [or more] nouns to show the relationship between one or two things as in bedroom-cum-study. But used without the hyphens, it takes on a different meaning – the thick white fluid containing spermatozoa that is ejaculated by the male genital tract. That’s according to modern English dictionaries.
But it is not just Thimphu that is thoroughly cum-filled. Bumthang, Trashigang, Samtse, Chukha, Paro, Punakha, Wangdue…all the dzongkhags are filled with cum.
Michael Rastrup Smith, a journalist from Denmark is gazing at the sign boards of the shops in Thimphu. He takes the picture of a sign board that says “Restaurant Cum Bar” and smiles. He finds it funny.
“What does it mean, ‘cum’,” he asks the restaurateur. “I don’t know. Maybe it means ‘and’,” comes the reply. Smith laughs and says “the meanings of words do change. It is very funny. Cum is everywhere.” The restaurateur rolls his eyes, embarrassed.
Tourists land in Bhutan and the first thing they see on their visit from airport in Paro is Cum. It has become a joke among tourists.
KainSeng, a Singaporean visitor, was appalled by the number of ‘cums’ he saw along Bumthang-Thimphu highway.
“Cum is everywhere. No one seems to know what it is,” he said. “The moment I landed in Paro, my guide took me around the Paro town for a side visit. I noticed many shops with sign board ‘Bar cum Restaurant’ and ‘Food cum lodging.” It wasn’t until he arrived in Thimphu and saw a board that says ‘National Saloon Ladies Cum Gents” that he burst out laughing.
“I get asked by guests often what it means – cum, on the sign boards,” said TsheringDorji, a freelance tour guide. “I tell them it is culture. It is really embarrassing.”
In his speck and preen office in Thimphu, the regional director of trade, Dungtu, sits grinning. In front of him is an old version of English-Dzongkha Pocket Dictionary. According to it, “cum” is a conjunction that joins two nouns to show that a person or thing does two things or has two purposes at the same time.
“We have no objection,” he said. Shops can name themselves however they want. “[Even] if cum brings bad impression, we can’t do anything, except perhaps try to make the people understand the meaning of the word,” says Dungtu. “We will have to do something with this word.”
An observer said the government should do something about the use of the word on their sign board. “This is very embarrassing,” He said. “And we have this goal of bringing in more than 200,000 tourists every year.”
‘Whatever the meaning of the word, my business is going well. I don’t care,” said Dorji Phuentsho, a shopkeeper in Bajothang, Wangdue. A shopkeeper in Changzamtog said he never knew the meaning of the word ‘cum”. His shop’s sign board says ‘Pasang Tshongkhang Cum Bar.
“Thank you so very much for telling me the meaning of the word,” said Ap Dorji, a restaurant owner in Khuruthang, Punakha. “I never knew what it meant.”
Aum Damcho, a shopkeeper in Jungzhina in Thimphu had never looked at her signboard. “I was not at all aware of this word. Someone wrote for me. I must change it,” she said.
“This word should be removed from the signboards. It is embarrassing and hard to explain to the guests,” said Hawang, a freelance tour guide. He is sitting in a shop that says ‘Restaurant Cum Bar”.
“If the authorities tell us to change, we will. I think we should. The word also carries a different meaning,” said a shopkeeper.