Sunday, April 10, 2005

Early morning wake-up call. Collected in-laws from their place at 0630. First stop: Chong Pang for brekkie. Any later and there would have been long queues for the best food there -- the chui kueh and the yu tiao. Neither are plagued with the too-much-oil affliction and they're great eaten fresh and hot. Too bad I wasn't feeling hungry 'cos there's plenty other stalls that look promising.

But it wasn't breakfast that got me out of bed early. Today is the day of my in-laws' annual visit to the final resting places of their departed folks. Well, not just my in-laws but for many Chinese families here as well.

As I was previously short of personal transportation, June and I have always been excluded from this visitation. However, this year to celebrate my acquisition of wheels, I became designated driver for the day. Don't know if it was a good thing, but as my M2's still in the shop, it was my rental Soluna that made the trip with us.

Great-grandma's tomb is up on a hillside at the burial plot up on Sime Road. Never been there before in my life. The place is just a bit creepy but beautiful nonetheless. It's like the jungle and the dead have forged a truce with each other. It's a largely uncultivated landscape, full of trees and grass, and rays of sunlight streaming through the branches overhead. If you look upwards, it's stunningly pretty, but we tend to keep our eyes on the ground to avoid walking over peoples' graves.

My in-laws place joss-sticks on the ancestral tomb and burn paper offerings in front of it. The tomb seems quite well taken care of, considering the last visit was probably last year. The grounds keeper has been doing his job well. But the adjacent tombs are overgrown with weeds and it's obvious they've been abandoned by their surviving families for a long time. At these tombs my in-laws generously spare some joss as well, visiting them in proxy of people we don't even know.

The immediate next door neighbours belong to one family and they have their tombs guarded by a pair of statues of Indian militia. Apparently the patriarch of this clan was someone important in the CID when he was alive. It's sad that it's only the statues that keep the tombs company now. Not that it's sad for the deceased, because it doesn't matter any more, but for the living who have lost the memory of their past, of the people who were once close to them. Perhaps I'm over-romanticising, but a place like this brings such thoughts to the surface.

A peaceful place, quiet, contemplative. Dutiful people arriving to remember those long-gone, armed with gardening implements and burnt offerings of paper money, paper clothes for the after-life. Other tombs waiting for visitors who will never arrive. This world is, after all, for the living. May the dead rest in peace.

We also visited June's grandparents, whose ashes rest in the San Jiang Gong Columbrarium on Dempsey Road.

Hmm... when was the last time I visited my dearly departed?

No comments: