Life / 生活
The “Rainbow” art painted public flat constructed by the Housing Development Board (HDB), I believe there are not many left in this century, where all new overruns the old.
Besides complimenting the art piece, my little mind makes me wonder how the gigantic arc was painted on this big piece of concrete canvas? And how brilliant the designer was indeed. We hardly look up to see a beautiful rainbow, why not stay a bit longer before we turn to the next page of the History.
A semi-circular open protruding staircase, hardly come across them apart from some HDB flats belonging to the same era.
Recently visited Singapore’s last Kampong – The Surau Kampong. The Kampong is located in Buangkok, nearby the old Woodbridge Hospital which is now known as Institute of Mental Health.
“Kampong” in Malay literally means village. In olden days, Kampong is the main building form before the reinforcement of concrete technology is established.
The common scene in Kampongs during rainy seasons is fun and memorable. Villagers chasing after ducks and chickens, hastening to bring in clothes from their clothes lines to keep away from flood and rain, whilst barefooted kids and dogs hastily fleeing to find their own shelters. Sadly, this amusing scene is a memory of the past in Singapore with the exception for this little last Kampong.
Kampong houses are usually constructed with zinc roofs and timber walls with windows and doors. Floors are usually laid with cement screed and it feels chilling whenever you step on the floor day or night. Leaving each other’s door open is a common sight in a Kampong. That was the trust and camaraderie the villagers had for each other.
Wind charms, tree houses, birds, chicken, ducks, dogs, cats, fruit trees, flowers, make-shift fencing, stand alone post box, shabby toilets, raw and unpolished nature landscapes are the elements of Kampongs.
Smells of chicken poo floating in the air; gecko’s calling; mosquitoes whizzing in your ears; lizards clicking on the wall; cricket’s chirping with their dance; dogs bucking in the night; frogs singing with their orchestra are just part of the calling soul of a Kampong.
The Surau Kampong currently houses 28 families – 10 Malays and 18 Chinese. In time to come, it may not be able to protect its own boundary. As life is impermanent, more than ever in this fast changing Lion City. Before Singapore gobbles up its last village, let’s step in more often to this carefree and slower pace of life as compared to the urban contemporaries.
I met a Kachang Puteh man outside Peace Centre along the main street. “Kachang” in Malay means Bean and “Puteh” denotes color White, on the whole it means White Beans.
Kachang Puteh man was an immigrant who came from India during the 50s and 60s. They are popular among the kids, cinema or amusement park patrons.
Life is a start from scratch. They are self-reliance and sell beans for a living. Besides selling beans and nuts, tidbits like prawn crackers, sweet candies are what they can offer too.
The beans varieties were mostly roasted, though some were steamed (like the chicks beans). All beans in containers are neatly laid on the Kachang Puteh cart. The kachang are wrapped with thin paper folded in a cone-up shape. In those days, it cost $0.05cents per cone but now I have to pay $1.00 for a cone!
Personally, I have a penchant for the roasted variety which comes coated with a layer of sugar, though too much of it may cost the Tooth Fairy some works!
Kachang Puteh man usually lodged their carts outside cinemas or amusement parks. In those days, cinemas and amusement parks are standalone buildings and it is easy to push the cart around and start a business. Unlike now, cinemas are mostly “built-Ins” and run by building’s management. Renting a ‘peanut’ corner in a building will be costly and affects the Kachang Puteh Man’s income. Moreover, no outside foods are allowed in the cinemas other than those bought from the cinema’s vendors.
However, Kachang Puteh man are vanishing soon, we don’t see them around more than often, even in our country’s Little India these days. If you happened to see one, do stop by and patronize, as they may fad off soon. Now you see it, now you don’t…. In times to come, it does not only leave behind a taste of nostalgia but also the shadow behind our Mr Kachang Puteh man.
Hungry Ghost Festival is a traditional Chinese festival, which is also call a Mong Lang Festival or Ghost Month. The Chinese believe that during the Seventh Lunar Month, the Gates of Hell are opened and spirits are let out to roam the earth for 30 days foraging for food. Believers will arrange worship ceremony to pray and appease the spirits in return to get their blessings.
Another saying is derived from a Buddhist tale. Moggallana a disciple of Sakyamuni Buddha had supernatural powers and his mother during his lifetime did a lot of bad things. She became hungry ghosts after her death. Moggallana used his supernatural ability to offer food to his beloved mother, but whenever the food touches her mouth it turned into ashes. He was heartbroken and seek help from Sakyamuni Buddha. The Buddha told him to draw on the power of the monks, and on this very day of 15th of the Seventh Month to place five types of grains into a pot so as to appease his mother. Moggallana act in accordance to the Buddha’s instruction and his mother was finally rescued.
From then on, the form of worship passed from generation to generation, and it evolve into diversity. Getai (a live stage performance) is one of the ritual evolution of the festival and is popular both in Singapore and Malaysia. The performances and ceremonies are usually jointly organised by number of unions or/and small organisations. There will be a makeshift canopy of a small stage, looking for some well-known presenters and entertainers, with their boisterous singing and dancing, match with the world’s best music, the very civilians entertaining. The performance are meant to be for the spirits but also for people during the Seventh Month. Chairs lined up in the audience’s front rows are usually empty and reserved for the spirits. This form of entertainment has become a must have in the Seventh Month festivals.
The performance are meant to be for the spirits but also for people during the Seventh Month. Chairs lined up in the audience’s front rows are usually empty and reserved for the spirits.
Another observed ceremony is the auction where people dine at the auction dinner and bid for the highest priced items. The sucessful bidder will bring home the items where the Good Brothers (euphemism for spirits) will bless them with good tidings for the following year.
As the saying goes “When a man attains enlightenment, even his pets ascent to heaven”. Next to the performance stage, there are some itinerant hawkers selling ice creams, Ma-Ci (a soft rice snack with grounded peanuts) etc. This does not only reflects the local culture and folklore, it adds a contribution to the national economy.
Far more and far most, it is even more gratifying and commendable that the grassroots traditional culture is able to survive in the era of Science and Technology.
Wishing little An An stay Healthy and Happy forever !