Archive for November, 2012

We are either sons or daughters in the family.

There will come a time when our parents will grow old and become sick. They will required special care. After their deaths, their graves will have to be tended infinitely.

According to Confucian traditions, this is the duty of sons and their wives only. Very clear cut.

Daughters belonged to other families after marriage. Hence, they are not required to come back to care for the sick parents lest they incurred the wrath of their in-laws.

They are also not welcomed at their parent’s graves during Ching Beng or All Soul’s Day for fear of taking away their brother’s good fortune!

What if there is no sons in the family?

Or there is only one son but he did not get married and remained single all his life?

Or he is working in another country and could not come back because he have to earn a living there?

To put it simply, there is not enough males in the family to carry out such duties. In such cases, shouldn’t the daughters step in too?

This question arises last week when my elder brother, the only son in the family, told me that our paternal grandparents’ grave in Batu Gajah had caved in and requires a major repair. Being the only male in the family, the poor guy have to shoulder the responsibility of repairing it. Trust me, such job will require big bucks as Feng Shui is involved. And we also needs a Taoist priest to chant some prayers before work starts.

I thought it is fair for the daughters to help him out but I am not sure if my sisters or their husbands will agree.

What do you think? Is this the job of the son only or the daughter’s as well? Do you think it is okay to go against tradition?

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I did not even realize these photos existed until my brother handed them to me last week when I was back in Ipoh.

They have been sitting inside my second aunt’s store-room for ages, gathering dust. They were taken by her husband.

My siblings, cousins and I were on an outing to the Japanese Garden and Sam Poh Cave in Ipoh.

Aunt, uncle and cousins used to stay with my family at 188 Hugh Low Street too. They stayed upstairs and we, downstairs.

I am sure many of you out there had taken similar photos at these locations too. They were very popular back then.

Can you guess the year this photo was taken? And can you spot who is yours truly? 🙂

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Mom was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure in early 2000. The news came as a complete shock to my family. She was to spend the next eleven months at the Ipoh General Hospital. Weekdays were spent in the hospital undergoing peritoneal dialysis and blood transfusions; weekends at home resting. I was the one at her bedside most of the time, taking care of her, comforting her and praying with her.

Renal failure can be extremely devastating on the body. At the beginning, the built-up of toxins in her body rendered Mom very tired and without much appetite to eat. As a result, she became anemic, thin and frail. She was left with just bones and skin. I remember being very angry and frustrated to see her like this. “Why does it have to be my Mom, why does a kind soul like her have to suffer like this?” I kept asking myself.

But over the months, with proper medications, constant blood transfusions and most importantly, dialysis, she began to regain some appetite to eat again. By early November, she got back some strength, a pinkish glow on her cheeks and was able to sit in a wheel chair. She could even talk softly or smile lightly too. We were so happy for her and hopes of her leading a normal life began to fill our hearts once more.

That night was November 23rd 2000 around 10 p.m. when the lights went out at ward 8 which was the ladies ward. “No need to stay with me here tonight. Just go home and have a proper sleep. Bring me some dim sum tomorrow. I don’t want to eat the breakfast from the hospital anymore. They tasted so terrible,” Mom said to me mischievously. I nodded my head gladly, very happy that she was asking for food again.

Early the next morning, November 24th 2000, I got Mom’s breakfast from her favorite restaurant behind our house. I bought Hong Kong chee cheong fun with fresh shrimps, century-eggs and minced pork porridge and of course, her all-time favorite char siew dumplings. I thought Mom will be very thrilled to see the food I am bringing her but I was wrong.

When I got to her bed, she looked very sad and gloomy.

“Good morning, Mom, did you sleep well last night?” I asked while showing her the food I have brought her.

She shook her head and gave out a sad sigh. “No, I didn’t sleep at all, from the moment you left until now,” she replied softly with a worried look on her face.

“Why?” I was curious to know. “Is it too warm here or did the mosquitoes kept biting you?” I asked her again.

“No, it’s not that. I could not sleep because I saw the Grim Reaper standing at my bed-side last night. He was dressed up like a nam moh lou (Taoist priest) and kept calling out my name, I think he’s here to collect my soul, I think I’ll die very soon, you know I don’t want to die yet,” she answered sadly, trembling with tears by now.

“Oh no, it must have been the medications you have been taking all these while. They are making you hallucinating, don’t worry Mom, you’re getting better each day, and you won’t die, not yet!” I tried to comfort her gently although I felt so wretched to hear what Mom had said.

I refused to believe her. It made me very frightened. I was afraid to lose her and I don’t want to lose her.

“Ssshhh…….don’t talk anymore. Go on; eat the dim sum I’ve brought you while they’re still warm,” I tried to divert her.

Mom ate her breakfast in silence but her emotions showed through. She was sad, worried and frightened. Her tears mingled with her breakfast and it broke my heart to see her like that as I fed her. She could not finish them. She only ate the porridge and turned down the rest.

Hours later, I gave her a gentle massage to help calm her down. Then, I put the headphones to her ears and played her favorite songs while she closed her eyes. Exhausted, she finally drifted off to sleep.

That evening, Mom was discharged for the weekend. When we reached home, I placed her down on the sofa. Then, Dad and I had our dinner in the kitchen. While eating, I suddenly heard a strange sound coming from where Mom was. Putting down my bowl of rice, I ran out to find her struggling with her breathing. I screamed out for Dad.

Mom just had a heart attack. Her mouth was foaming and her eyes rolled up. Her face and hands quickly turned blue. Grasping her chest, she slowly opened her eyes to take one last look at us before closing them again. She did not answer when we called her name. We have lost her forever even as I was calling the ambulance. All it took was less than six to seven minutes and she was gone. The clock on the wall showed it was 8 p.m. When I finally put her lifeless body down on her bed, she looked so serene and peaceful. Beautiful even.

Only then I began to realize that what Mom had told me earlier that day at the hospital was true. She was not hallucinating after all. She did saw the Grim Reaper the night before. He had come to take her away and there’s nothing we can do to stop him. Her time had come. Birth and death is written in the Book of Life.

Mom died on the same day she and Dad were supposed to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. This coming November 24th will be the twelfth year since she left us but I still feel the pain and void her departure had created. But I knew she is in a better place now. May her soul rest in eternal peace.

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I am sure all of you have been to Port Dickson before. In 1998, the property development firm which I worked for launched a new luxury hotel there. It was our company’s latest star attraction at that time. Before opening it to the public, all the company’s employees were given a free stay in this newly built five-star hotel. Almost a hundred staff took up the offer, including myself. We were ferried there in a few luxury coaches for a weekend of food, fun and sun.

First we played at the beautiful white sandy beach. Later that evening we had a sumptuous buffet dinner followed by a musical extravaganza put up by the hotel’s resident entertainers. After some songs and dances, it was time for karaoke which I was not too keen on. By then it was almost 2 a.m and I was tired. I got up to go back to my room, leaving my colleagues to sing the night away.

As soon as I came out from the lift on the sixth floor, I walked towards my room which was at the furthest end from the lift. As I was walking, I saw an old woman and a small female child squatting outside one of the rooms next to mine. I was very surprised to see them. Who are they and what are they doing in this place at this ungodly hour? Deep down in me, I knew something is not in place and my heart almost missed a beat as I approached them.

The old woman was a petite Malay lady in a pale colored baju kurung with her greyish hair tied at the back into a loose bun. I could see her wrinkled face. It was badly beaten by the sun. Her blurry eyes were sunk so deep into the sockets that I could hardly see them anymore. The child beside her looked as if she was plunked to the spot by a hurricane. Both looked disheveled, lost and forlorn.

“Dulu rumah saya kat sini, tapi sekarang tak jumpa (this used to be my home but now I could not find it anymore),” the old lady grumbled in a low tone that seemed very hollow and distant while giving me a bitter look. In a blink of an eye, both vanished into the air, leaving the same spot empty.

With my hairs standing on ends and my heart beating wildly, I ran back to my room and got inside as quickly as I can. I switched on all the lights, quickly took a shower before jumping into bed. My room-mates were still downstairs singing. I did not tell any of them. I do not want to spoil their fun because we have another day ahead of us to enjoy ourselves there.

Not long after this, I found out from a senior colleague who was one of the engineers in this project that the same spot where this hotel now stood used to be a Malay cemetery. It was leveled to make way for the hotel where we spent that weekend.

Now you know why the old lady and the child were there that night?

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“So it’s not just the greedy who get scammed. Sometimes it’s also kind and helpful people, who are naive and uninformed” – Tom Parsons.

Tom, you reminded me of an incident that happened in 2006. My dad got sick and I went back with my kids to visit him in Ipoh. We took the express bus which stopped at the old mansion that belonged to the family of the famous actress from Ipoh (a Bond girl). We got down there and I made a call for a taxi to come fetch me and the kids to dad’s house.

While waiting for the taxi at the entrance of the bus station, an old lady (I guess she was in her 70s) approached me for some money. Her head was completely bound in white bandage and there was some blood stain on it. She even shoved me a laminated article about her plight cut from a Chinese newspaper. I could not read Chinese but I saw her picture there.

“I’m suffering from a brain tumor and I needed an operation as soon as possible. I am still short of several hundreds of dollars. Can you donate some please, to help this poor lady get an operation soon?” she asked me in a pitiful voice.

I took a look at her and indeed, she looked very pitiful. I gave her RM50.

“Can you give some more?” she asked again.

“Sorry, that’s all I have with me now,” I told her regretfully.

RM10 is all I have left in my purse after giving her the RM50 and I need them to pay the taxi driver. She left with a scornful look. When I looked around me, I saw people staring at me because I was the only one who gave her money. She left the premise soon after that.

When she was gone, a middle-aged Chinese lady who was selling ‘chee cheong fun’ at the entrance pointed at me and laughed. Shaking her head, she said amusingly, “You got conned just now. This old lady is a con woman. There is nothing wrong at all with her head now. That newspaper cutting was from many years back. She went for the operation free of charge at the government hospital long ago but she still used that bandage to cheat people of their money.”

“Why don’t you tell me just now when you saw me giving her the money?” I asked, angry that my kindness had been hijacked by an old lady.

“Of course nobody dare to say a word when she is around. She can get into a fit and beat people up. Even the bus operator and their staff are afraid of her and pretend that she did not exist,” answered the lady who sells ‘chee cheong fun’. “All the regulars here have been cheated too and now they are wiser,” she continued as she pointed to those sitting inside the bus station. They were still staring at me in silence. Some looked amused.

I left the place, angry and sad. It was indeed a lesson well learnt and which I could not forget.

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Do you believe in ghosts? Some do, many don’t. But if you have seen them like how my mom, my eldest sister Ophelia and I had, you will be less skeptical about the existence of ‘beings’ from another dimension.

Sometime ago, I have blogged about how my mom saw the ghost of a little Indian boy in her bedroom at 188 Hugh Low Street in 1955 right after my brother was born. He went on to become the guardian angel of the house. You can read it here. https://188hughlowstreet.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/the-little-indian-boy-who-refused-to-go-away/

Then, there was a night in 1972 when both Ophelia and I saw our paternal grandma came home from the hospital to ransack her wardrobe when unknown to us both, she had just passed away a few hours earlier and her body was still lying in the hospital’s mortuary. The post was here. https://188hughlowstreet.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/a-bowl-full-of-rye-2/

I have also blogged about how I met the ghost of an old man one morning in 1979 on my way to school along Jalan Hussein. As a result of that scary encounter, I became so sick that I have to be hospitalized for a few days. Go here for a quick read. https://188hughlowstreet.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/in-another-lifetime-part-1%E2%80%A6-a-ghostly-encounter-2/

Some people can actually see what others can’t. I am not sure if this ability is called the ‘third eye’ but the Chinese have a term for it – yin yang eyes. But one thing for sure, this ability will usually diminish as one grew older; usually but not always. Is it a blessing or a curse? To me, it’s more of a curse than a blessing because nothing good came out of these sightings, at least for my mom, Ophelia and I.

In 1979 Ophelia got married to her boyfriend who was also from Ipoh. They then went to stay in Wellington, New Zealand for a couple of years where her husband interned as a chartered accountant in a firm over there.

One early morning, David left for work leaving my sister alone at home. She was still sleeping as it was very cold and dark outside. It was winter. Suddenly, my sister was woken up by soft singing in her bedroom. The singing came from her bedside.

When she opened her eyes, she saw a young Caucasian woman sitting at her dressing table. She has long and wavy blonde hair that almost reaches her waist. She was wearing a white gown and was combing her hair tenderly, using my sister’s comb! As she combed her hair, she sang softly to herself. The room was dimly lit and the heater was on.

Trembling with fear, Ophelia quickly shut her eyes tightly and pretend to be asleep. She dared not make even a slight move. After what seemed like an eternity for her, the singing stopped and the room was silent again. When she opened her eyes this time, my sister saw the woman slowly disintegrated into a ball of white mist. She quickly jumped out from the bed and reached for her comb…..lodged within the spikes was some long and wavy blonde hair!

My sister quickly put on her winter coat before rushing for the door. She was so new to Wellington; she had just arrived there a few days before. The red brick town-house where she and David stayed was a very old place, almost a century old and was situated at a remote area off the city. Without anywhere else to go, Ophelia had no choice but to sit at the doorstep the whole day until her husband got home late that night. She was very cold, hungry and frightened. They moved out that same weekend to another place.

Spooky, right?

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Halloween might be over but I hope it is not too late to share a spooky tale or two.

It happened way back in the very late 1960s when I was about five or six.

One day, my paternal grandma announced that she is going to bring all her grandchildren including me to Gopeng to stay at a relative’s house for a day or two.

This relative was my grand-uncle. He was the elder brother of my paternal grandpa. Like my paternal grandpa, he was also a bean-curd maker but he had died several years before I was born which means I have never seen him before. We are going to his house as his eldest daughter is getting married that week-end.

Mom packed our clothes and Dad hailed a cab to take us to Gopeng. It was a noisy and rickety Mercedes that ran on diesel but large enough to squeeze all of us in. We bumped all the way from Ipoh to Gopeng on the old-trunk road. What a hassle to travel in those days!

Grand-uncle’s house was a typical village-dwelling. It was made from solid wooden planks. It was spacious and came with a big compound. When we reached there, my elder siblings wasted no time in running around to play hide and seek. Being sleepy and tired from the journey, I wanted to have a nap instead. Grandma gave me a cup of warm Milo before packing me off to sleep in grand-aunt’s room which was the biggest room in that house.

I don’t know for how long I have slept that evening. Out of a sudden, I opened my eyes and I saw the blur figure of an old man with a slight hunch standing before a wooden table next to the bed I slept in. From inside the mosquito net, I could see that he was slightly bald with very few silvery hair left on his head. He wore a pagoda brand type of white sleeveless singlet matched with knee-length blank pants. In one of his hands was a plastic bag with some coins inside. His other hand was holding some red colored paper packets. He put down the items he was holding and then started to put the coins into the red colored paper packets. After having finished his task, he turned around and gave me a swift glance before disappearing into a cloud of mist right before my eyes……

Did I scream out loud or was I afraid? No. I just watched him in silent curiosity because I was too young to know what a ghost is like and too young to have a fear for anything paranormal. All I did was to get up quickly and ran out of the room to look for grandma.

She was happily chatting away and playing mahjong in the living room with a few other female relatives who were also there for the same purpose. I ran to her side and whispered softly into her ears, “Grandma, I just saw an old man inside the room and then he disappeared just like that!”

Grandma paused and frowned at me, “There is no old man in this house. Go back to sleep, don’t disturb me again, you mischievous little devil! Or go out to play if you don’t want to sleep anymore. Little children should not tell lies or their tongues will catch fire!”

“But it’s true, I saw him just now!” I insisted and pointed to the portrait of an old man on the wall. It was a black and white portrait of my grand-uncle looking very stern in a set of cream-colored western suit. Looking back now, I think the portrait must have been taken in a photo studio somewhere in Gopeng. It was nicely framed and hung on the wall – something very typical in Chinese homes and associations in those days.

“Alright, what is he doing in the room when you saw him?” grand-aunt asked in an amused tone just to pacify me.

“He was putting some coins into a red colored paper packet,” I answered  innocently.

“Wow, look like your husband did not want to be left out in his daughter’s wedding!” joked my grandma before she shooed me away.

“You have said enough, now go out and play with your brother and sisters and do not disturb us anymore,” she dismissed me off after giving me a stern look.

Knowing it is useless to argue anymore with her, I ran out to join my siblings. They were playing in the field opposite the house.

That was my first encounter with the paranormal……… before a few more came along as I was growing up.

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