Archive for October, 2011

“Hey, do you want to join me for some curries and muruku at Geetha’s house tomorrow?” my eldest sister asked me one evening when she got home from work.

My eldest sister used to work in a garment factory in Tasek Industrial Estate, some distance away from Ipoh town. Geetha worked with her in the same department. They were good friends.

“Of course, tomorrow is Deepavali, isn’t it?” I answered keenly.

“Yes, it is!”

So off we went to Geetha’s house the next morning, the three of us – eldest sister, third sister and I.

We took a town bus from Medan Kidd to Buntong where her friend stayed. She waited for us at the bus-stop and led us to her house a few meters away.

Geetha’s house looked neat and clean. Obviously it was given a layer of new paint and the curtains were new too. Her family had spruce up the place to welcome the festival. Melodious Hindu songs filled the living room to add more gaiety to the occasion.

On the coffee table were plates and plates of ‘muruku’ or snacks specially prepared by her mother and they looked very appetizing. We had these with some bottled soft drinks.

When we had enough tidbits and soft drinks, Geetha beckoned us to her room.

“Come to my room. Let me show you all how to put on a sari. It is an art to wrap a sari correctly” she said enticingly.

Geetha owned more than a dozen sari. They came from India and they were made from colorful silk. A piece of sari is not cheap; in fact it can be quite expensive as some of them are hand-woven, using the best quality silk threads. There are many patterns and designs – some have floral motifs while others have stripes. Her sari came in different hues – maroon, turquoise, sapphire blue, emerald-green and even sunflower yellow.

We stood and watch as Geetha and her mom dressed my eldest sister up in a sari. Their supple hands wrapped the layers and layers of shiny cloth around her slim body. They adorned her with a golden necklace, a pair of dangling earrings and filled up her wrists with colorful bangles to match. With a red dot at the middle of her forehead, my eldest sister looked like a Bollywood film star!

“Aiyo, what a Chinese girl doing in a sari?” Geetha’s grandmother asked and laughed as she came into the room to have a look at all the excitement going on.

We all broke into a gale of laughter seeing a Chinese girl wearing a sari. She looked strange in it but stunning nevertheless. Eldest sister not only tried one but dozens of sari that day at Geetha’s house and she really had fun doing just that. And we had a good time watching her getting into one sari after another.

Third sister and I got our turns too. While both my elder sisters were dressed in colorful sari, Geetha dressed me up in a small and tight red blouse matched with a golden long flare skirt. She used to wear this when she performed the classical Indian dance called Bharata Natyam in the temple. It was a beautiful costume for young Indian girls. To complete the look, Geetha’s mom put a pair of anklets on both my ankles. I simply loved the tinkling sounds the little bells made when I broke into a few dance steps which Geetha taught me on the spot. Oh, what fun we had that morning!

After the dressing session was over, we had curries for lunch. Geetha’s mom cooked vegetarian and mutton curries and they are superb. Curries never taste as good as those home cooked ones.

On the way home that evening, I felt my tummy acting very funny.

“Eldest sister, I think I got a stomach-ache!” I was holding my tummy tightly.

“Oh no, I also felt something funny with my stomach. How about you?” she turned to third sister.

“Me too, I could feel my stomach bloated. Maybe we had too much soft drinks or curries just now!” she was laughing and wincing at the same time.

“I think we have no choice but to hold onto our stomachs until we get home, the bus will not stop for us to relieve ourselves!” eldest sister told us in a chuckle.

True enough, we held onto our poor stomachs until we got home. After getting down from the bus at Hugh Low Street near some textile shops, we almost ran the rest of the way home. As soon as our feet reached the front door, we made a mad scramble to the toilets. While my two elder sisters quickly planted themselves into a toilet each (there were only two), poor me had to make-do by squatting over a small drain just outside the bathroom near the kitchen on the ground floor.

Boom, boom, boom….it took us less than five minutes to regurgitate everything from our throats and anuses! Oh, what a relief after that!

“Serve the three of you right, I bet you girls stuffed yourselves silly with soft drinks and curries. Soft drinks and curries don’t mix!” Mom hissed sarcastically.

Then she and Dad looked at each other before breaking into laughter, seeing how we limped about with weak legs after purging with such vengeance.

Minutes later, we lay down weakly on the bed while Mom applied ‘Kwan Loong Foong Yau’ vigorously on our tummies. This is a type of medicated oil that comes in handy during stomach pain. You can find one in every home.

We girls just giggled and giggled away.

“Are you going to tell your friend about this?” I asked eldest sister playfully.

“Of course no,” she answered. “Sorry for dragging you both into this,” she said remorsefully.

“It’s alright. We also enjoyed ourselves but this is definitely something I won’t be able to forget,” I tried to comfort her.

She nodded her head, gave me a smile and a warm sisterly hug.

“It was my fault. I should have stop you from taking too much soft drinks. Next time, don’t take so much soft drinks, okay?” she stroked my hair gently.


That was Deepavali day in 1978 when I was 14 and she was 26.

No, we did not go to Geetha’s house again after that. Eldest sister went to New Zealand months later to marry her fiancé and stayed there for some years.

But Deepavali continued to intrigue me with its core message – that good will surely triumph over evil, and brightness will illuminate darkness. It was a very beautiful and inspirational message and above all, universal.

We just saw that happened in Libya last week. I am sure the people there felt very liberated from evil and oppression. Can we say Deepavali came early to Libya this year?

And to the rest of my Hindu friends and readers, may Deepavali come your way too!

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