Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cheng Meng Festival

I can't sleep but my brains are still a little groggy so I'm just sitting here in front of the laptop thinking about what to write.

Cheng Meng as it's called in Cantonese (thanks V!) or Chin Beng as my family refers to it is around the corner. My aunty has sounded me off to pick a date so the both of us can do our duties for Ah Kung by visiting him at the cemetery along the old road from Seremban to Port Dickson.

And for ONCE I just KNOW I'm not going to get lost in the cemetery! Finally this blog has payed off! OK I've been cheating a bit lately by re-posting stuff but I'm re-posting my Chin Beng post from last year as it's still one of the the most easiest post I ever wrote (just came out naturally, no re-checking, editing, etc.).

And hey re-posting is fun! Didn't we all have some manu militari joy a coupla months back? Haha!

Chin Beng
Chindiana Trails
Tuesday, 23rd March, 2007

Did I spell it right?Anyway, I've warmed up to going with my aunty on our yearly early morning trips to the cemetery on the trunk road to Port Dickson. I used to hate it when I was younger, as my father who also hated crowds would make us leave Seremban at 6 am and get there just before dawn.

It was awesome though. I'd see fires blazing in the graves around me and on the hill overlooking ours, fireworks going off and the overall festivities that would make the monkeys in the neighbouring forest agitated.

Now it's a different scenario altogether. The rest of the family has backed out of going. I now find my aunty and myself the only ones on my dad's side making this trip to pray for my grandfather. As the infantile one in the group I'm assigned the sweeping, cleaning and joss stick lighting duties. She still wont let me burn the cardboard chest full of Hell Notes as in her eyes I'll always be the careless little kid who liked to burn things around the house. Darn.

It always starts with the minute of panic when we forget the location of the grave site in the rows and rows that lay in front of us. I try so hard to remember the procedures but short of taking notes I'm definitely not going to remember next year. Even though now as i type it down I know its clean, light joss sticks, pray, lay out food, put yellow and white papers on grave, burn cash and goodies, wait for Gramps to eat, pack up, pray and leave. And also that the grave is 6 rows down from the shaded rest area and 2 deep. Just as i know next year i will still be wandering down row 9 and 3 deep as i do every year.

I like it now because as it's up to me I go on weekdays at least 5 days before the official days. I hate the crowds and the horrendous traffic on the actual Chin Beng weekend. Its quiet on weekdays and there will be maybe 3 families in sight. We go early so that when Ah Kung settles down to his breakfast of steamed chicken, roast pork, pink muffins, Chinese tea and fruits, dawn normally breaks over the hills and bathes the cemetery with a golden light. The skies are clear blue. The cemetery stretches out as far as i can see and is ringed by a rubber estate in the west and a hill that you can see the sea from in the north. When I close my eyes because the joss stick smoke is too strong I hear the birds sing as they fly about, the rooster in the nearby farm greets us from just beyond the trees and you hear one of the planes preparing to land at KLIA as a morning breeze mixes with the warm morning sun. The monkeys are long gone since the cemetery has eaten away at the forest as more of our clan folk shuffle off the mortal coil.

We pack up the stuff and Kuma pours the tea in front of Ah Kung's tomb stone. She prays to him and his two wives. The one he left in China and the one who's buried in Seremban. Today I eat my once-a-year brunch of 'siu yok' , steamed chicken, rice and hot brued coffee. If Mum or Aunty Kamala next door have tapau'ed breakfast then I have the additional hot roti canai and vege dhal waiting when i get back. Lovely.As I pick my way out of the graves I find myself remembering the location of the grave with confidence just like I've done for the past 10 years.I think to myself "Aiya no prob la, so easy. Don't know how I can ever forget..."



Wak This Way said...

Take a picture or two. In between all that smoke and fire, I betcha it will have some atmosphere in it. Go on, take one, and then leg it if you think people or the natives are annoyed.

As for grave site, maybe you can paint the site a bright fluoroscent yellow. You will defo not miss that, unless of course everyone else starts copying you.

LM said...

Quote - "She still wont let me burn the cardboard chest full of Hell Notes as in her eyes I'll always be the careless little kid who liked to burn things around the house."

Sigh... just like what u did to that poor old priest in the indian temple huh?

Chindiana said...

Wak! cannot la. My aunt doesn't like that idea. tried it before she stopped me. you know its that Asian/Chinese thing - you minght capture the essence/spirit of whoever that's floating about during that period. will ask her again nicely this year. see how la...

LM - that's the last time I share my dodgy past wit you!

Chindiana said...

WAK! Fluoracent yellow? damn suddenly i have this image of a whole cemetary with fluoaracent yellow, neon pink and orange gravestones - a special place for the fashion senses of the '80s!

LM - It was an accident! I was only about 7 or 8!

Wak This Way said...

That grave site would be some tourist attraction!

Chindiana said...

Hmm... will pitch that idea out to Tourism Malaysia! Get them to sponsor the paint and sort out the approvals!