Sunday, September 27, 2009

She was truly beautiful!

She was a real beauty, a girl blessed by genes and the vagaries of fate to be born with exquisite striking features that made her one of the most beautiful teenagers, if not the most beautiful teenager in Penang during the days of my youth.

She was not just attractive or good looking or mere pretty, but truly truly beautiful.

We lived in the same village. I remember her residence as one of two blue (or was it green?) painted houses by a particular road, sited on dominating high grounds.

Each time my village mates and I passed by her house we would look up at the house in the hope of catching a glimpse of the local Aphrodite. She was a joy to behold, her exquisite features so pleasant to drink in, her youth so daintily sweet, and her smile wonderfully enchanting.

Even now, one can't help recalling Shelley's ode to Aphrodite when one thinks of her:

Her silky ringlets float above her breast,
Veiling its fairy loveliness, while her eye,
Is soft and deep as the blue heaven is high.
The beautiful is born, and sea and earth
May well revere the hour of that mysterious birth


Hmmm, maybe her beauty was what inspired me to take an interest in the muse?

For many of us unsophisticated village teenagers, she was just too perfect, more of Olympian status, for us to 'reach', especially in those days when parents were ultra strict with the movements of daughters, what more with an angelic 'immortal' like her.

No, we weren't those smooth party-going guys about town who had the airs, ways and stuff that teenage girls could be impressed with; we had no flashy powerful bikes or cars to impress her (if she could even be impressed); besides wakakaka we were too young to even have a driving licence for a motorbike, let alone own any car.

We were nothing more than greenhorns where girls were concerned - hardly a fitting match for Her Most Majestic Beauty.

While we village bumpkins were great at raiding the rambutan trees at the local Buddhist monastery or the orchard owned by the village Taoist temple ;-), we were hopelessly unknowledgeable about girls :(

The sad or fortunate truth (depending on your views) was our socially backward group had been absolutely clueless on how to go about knowing her.

Besides, the Chinese has a saying sai goo mai barng guoik or the rhinoceros shouldn’t dream of having the moon, i.e. any attempt to befriend her would be just an impossible dream, at least in our young perception.

In mitigation I need to point out that we were then only in the earliest stage of our teens ;-)

Were we in love with her? The honest answer had to be a surprisingly 'No', because we were still too young to have any firm idea of what love was.

But we certainly enjoyed looking at her, as wakakaka budding connoisseurs of artistic beauty (or beautiful art). And we did that with every little opportunity that presented itself to us, but always from a well defined distance.

Perhaps that ‘distanced admiration’ saved our very young tender, innocent and vulnerable hearts from a futile emotional trip.

However, there was one village boy who was rather good looking and reasonably well to do. He certainly knew what he had but (perhaps because of that) possessed an over inflated impression of himself. He was very conceited about his prowess with the fairer gender.

Naturally he tried to ‘hit’ on her, but alas for our local Don Juan, he didn’t get beyond first base. Why, we haven’t the faintest, but it could well be that our local Goddess was just like us, too young and innocent to know about boys. Or, perhaps she was constantly escorted by a very protective father and many fierce looking brothers.

Later, there were some scurrilous rumours about her, a very distressing scandal about her maidenly virtues. Her family moving to another house around that time added fuel to the rumours, suggesting salaciously that perhaps they were running away to hide her from the fallout of the alleged unpleasant experience. But Penang was then well-known for all sorts of nasty rumour-mongering, especially when/if it involved a beautiful girl.

Was the obnoxious sad tale about her bad 'experience' a case of badmouthing by some very sour grapes, boys who couldn’t score on her?

Well, her family had actually moved residence within the same village which ought to have immediately discounted the story of them attempting to shelter her because of the alleged scandal. In fact, they moved into the very heart of the village. But, as always with such a case, why let inconvenient facts stand in the way of juicy scandalous gossip about the most beautiful girl in the village.

Inevitably we all grew up ... perhaps just a wee too soon. I left Penang after school to begin my adult life. Years later, on leave back in my village, I asked curiously about our Aphrodite who seemed to have vanished from the local scene. A friend heard she married a Midas-rich Taiwanese businessman, and left with him when he returned to his island-state.

Blast! There I was with all my new found city-developed confidence and experience and even some money to fling around, and she had to marry and leave our village ;-). Well, I guess that's the story of my life - late as always!

As the years slipped by, and I met and became acquainted with some beautiful women, and ... gasp ... even miraculously managed to date a couple or more of the sweeties [kaytee gazing upwards and hands held palms up in grateful supplication to the Lord above ;-) ], I often wondered how they would have compared to that once-upon-a-time village beauty.

But that impressionable vision I possess of her, first gained through my young innocent eyes, has still not weakened through the years. Au contraire, the kind generosity of time may have even softened or removed any small imperfections in my memories, if at all any imperfection had ever existed. Yes, time has made that vision even far more enchanting and alluring.

Of course I have to confess, I harbour a secret fantasy, just an impossible crazy dream of wishing to be able travel back in time to meet her, but on the condition that I could do so as my 'today' self. Yessiree, no way would I want to relive a life around Aphrodite as the country hick that I was wakakaka [and perhaps still am :( ]

I wonder what would have been my odds then, if that were to be possible. Please ignore my science fiction silliness - 'tis just the 'male hunter' in me awoken, but alas, as usual, more than two decades too late.

I guess I just have to be satisfied with my memory of the village Aphrodite that I have retained over the years.

Whenever my kampung (village) friends and I meet for a beer or two, and would invariably stroll back in time to our very young days, and remember her as we would, we still agree that she was indeed a Queen in those very distant years, a very photogenic pristinely perfect Queen of our then very very young innocent hearts.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not - Ralph Waldo Emerson



Friday, September 18, 2009

The secret brook


There was a place at the lower reaches of Penang Hill - Bukit Bendera in Bahasa (Malay) - where a mountain stream of clean, cool and crystal clear water coursed its way through Hye Keat Estate in the village of Ayer Itam. Its water was refreshingly sweet - yes, many of us had drunk gratefully from it on many hot days.

Its whereabouts was so secluded that even when one caught a glimpse of this brook one wouldn’t even realise it was a wonderful and near magical mountain stream.

If one travelled up the hill by the funicular railway, one would cross over a large drain-like canal approximately halfway between Bottom Station and the station for the Chinese Temple of the Heavenly Jade Emperor.

That was the brook, channelled from its source - a cave going deep into the heart of the hill - via a man-made course until it reached the Hye Keat Estate River, one of the tributaries of the Ayer Itam River. Thus one would merely see from the rail coach a drain-like structure between two bricked and very steep embankments, but there would be no mistaking the pristine quality of the water that rushed down the uncovered aqueduct.

That’s the subtle demeanor of the brook’s presence, appearing as a large drain, a sluice-way or at best an open aqueduct. That kept its existence relatively unknown in those early years when Penang’s natural environment wasn’t yet raped and ravished by poor political management.

But from its passage under the railway, it was only a short distance before the brook reached the foot of the hill to cascade as a lovely waterfall into a shallow pool, as the beginning of the lowland river.

The pool was equally enchanting and a popular picnic location. But the waterfall and its formidable-looking jungle surroundings discouraged picnickers from venturing upstream of the picnic spot.



Thus the brook was in those days a secret that only the initiated and the truly curious would ever discover.

Returning to the brook before it crossed the railway, one noted that its water sprang forth from a cave, to flow down the steep incline of the hill over a series of stone-brick steps within the aqueduct, about two metres across from one walled embankment to the other.

Why the steps were in place, no one knew, though we were aware that they were built during British colonial days. Because of the steep slope of the hill, they were probably easier to construct as steps rather than as a typical canal or drain, and no doubt to better facilitate its maintenance.

If one were to lie down in the brook at the bottom of those steps and looked upwards the aqueduct with one’s eye level at as near the bottom step's level as possible, one would see a wondrous sight, that of the water tumbling in orderly yet bubbling fashion down the hundreds of steps. It was even more magical when sunlight reflected back from the water as twinkling dancing lights.

As the water giggled gently and flirtatiously down each step, its merry bubbling gave birth to invigorating sprays of cool mist. Sometimes, when we were lucky, we saw lovely mini rainbows arching themselves from the brook. Yes, there was gold at each end of those rainbows – the gold of caught sunbeams.

The murmuring music of the bubbling stream was a soothing bonus to our youthful ears – many were the times we snoozed off to its sweet lullaby.

The surroundings were the cool tropical forest of the hill, rich in all sorts of exotic flora, like the carnivorous pitcher plants, known affectionately by Penangites as monkey cups – many believed, and perhaps still do, that the delightful simians which inhabited the forests of the hills quenched their thirst from the vessels of the plants.

pitcher plant (nepenthes) or monkey cup

Two years after we discovered the brook, someone built a shrine to Lord Ganesha next to the entrance of the source-cave. The shrine consisted of a simple cement floor, with its overhead shelter provided by large hanging rocks. On the cement floor the divine icon sat sagely on a raised stone dais. It was obviously a very private endeavour as the only pilgrims were the few who erected the shrine.

Lord Ganesha


My mates and I often made full use of its two-by-two-metre wide cement floor to rest, at times sharing with Lord Ganesha the offerings of bananas and sweets. He didn’t seem to mind, seeing that he continued to smile at us.

Once I daringly tried from the votive offering, a beeda (paan, or sireh in Bahasa), a betel leaf wrap filled with areca nut shaving, lime paste and spices such as cloves, cardoman, etc.

beeda or paan or sireh

My mates thought I was fantastic, being able to tolerate the sharp acidic taste, though I suspect their admiration was more for my ability to squirt a jet of red-blood beeda juice accurately at a nominated target, usually a poor unsuspecting insect. But years later I found out that the areca nut had carcinogenic properties and indentified as a major cause of oral cancer, gulp!

A couple of us even stayed overnight there. Naturally we made full use of the candles and oil lamps in the shrine. Lord Ganesha was privy to many of our secret childhood conversations, where we confided to each other our ambitions, frustrations, happiness, likes and dislikes, etc. Naturally we trusted Lord Ganesha’s understanding for confidentiality. And I suspect too, He loved, and has blessed and looked after us all these years.

Yes, my friends and I would delight in sneaking away from home after school to refresh ourselves at this place, that the locals called lao chooi, which in Penang Hokkien means ‘flowing water’. But in our minds, and then with our limited command of the English language, we saw the very essence and spirit of that wondrous place as ‘running water’, our very secret brook.

Yes, it was our secret paradise, a hideout away from the presence of parents and adults where we could cool ourselves from the hot humid tropical heat, and to bathe in the mountain spring, soak in the silent aura of the magnificent forest all around us, yarn about all sorts of things, dream stuff that kids dreamed of, and maybe steal a puff or two of that forbidden adult item called a cigarette.

Sometimes we even did the unexpected, like - gasp - studying. The solitude and congenial atmosphere of the shrine supported my frantic boning up, usually on the eve of an exam. I did wonder what Lord Ganesha would have thought of me perusing the New Testament at His shrine - wakakaka.

‘Running water’ remained in our hearts all these years, and whenever our select group met, we would recollect and reminisce those innocent, simple and wonderful days. Hence I dedicate this post of personal memories, to my childhood friends with whom I once shared our private Shangrila.

Alas, ‘running water’ is but no more, as you would have noted from my use of the past tense in my writing above.

In my last visit to Ayer Itam several years ago, I saw to my utter shock that the aqueduct was as dry as the river which it fed. I heard something to the effect that the development of a new housing estate or an industry had diverted the water for its construction or commercial needs.

This might explain why Ayer Itam river, once so bountiful with fishes, turtles, eels, shrimps and even (I heard) river otters, is now a huge unsightly drain with isolated puddles of stagnant brackish water, good only for mosquito breeding.

Kid you not, I did shed a tear or two for our lost paradise. The environmental tragedy is all the more reason why ‘running water’ must live, at least in our memories, if not in nature.

‘Running water’ would also be an apt description of life’s journey – at its start, not unlike our youth, it rushed pell-mell forward, excited and eager with sweet innocence, but as it trekked its riverine way like we have done through the years, it accumulated debris just as we gathered experience, without the option of selecting only the pleasant and avoiding the nasty – sweet and sour would come together, as would yang and yin.

Each step or year takes us further from the original naivety towards the muddier banks of adult reality and responsibility.

But even as we move further and further from our youthful innocence, we yearn more and more for it, but like running water, there's no turning back. That’s the unfortunate reality and paradox of life.

Related:
Damn those dams

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dream No 1 - the God couldn't speak!


Dear olde Sigmund Freud said that dreams and the symbols ‘perceived’ in them by the dreamer would be mostly sexual in meaning – wow!

And this is the first of 3 dreams that I plan to post.

Remember my childhood adventure as a medium in an earlier posting
Encounter with a God?

I might just refresh your memory on who the God was that kaytee was supposed to ‘connect’ with - Tua Peh Kong, the God of Prosperity.

I had then written (extracts):

Tua Peh Kong was (still is) the immortal’s popular name but his formal title goes by the rather stern appellation of Hock Teik Guan Suoi.

Guan Suoi means ‘General’. But the god wasn’t martial looking at all like Kuan Kong (of the 3 Kingdoms' fame) ….. but rather resembles a Chinese Father Christmas, with long white beard, jolly countenance and a benign smile. I dare say, after the incomparable Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, Tua Peh Kong would be the next most popular deity in my village.

The first dream that I am penning involved the above immortal. It wasn’t a dream I had personally experienced – well, for the obvious reason that part of my brain dealing with dreams, may I call it my 'subconscious', has been fairly preoccupied with more delectable beings ever since I started noticing those sweet witches.

Anyway, let me start off this tale with my neighbour, a teacher in his late middle age who taught English in Chinese medium primary schools. At the time of this story, he was new in my village, having moved into it just a couple of months back. Much later I was to find out that he and family had difficulties settling down in a place, and been changing residence rather regularly. In fact in another two years they would once again move, to another but nearby area. But that’s another story.

Let’s get back on track, as the story is about the dream of their youngest son, a rather good looking bloke even at a tender age of ten. We became great mates after the ritual sizing up of each other as new neighbours. Let’s call him Hamlet for ease of reference.

Being Taoist, Hamlet’s father, on moving in, erected an altar in the living room of his house to the worship of the Chinese ‘Father Christmas’ or our very popular Tua Peh Kong. A portrait-icon of the God was purchased from ye olde village shoppe selling religious paraphernalia and then consecrated.

The consecration process is known in Penang Hokkien as tiam gnan. Basically it involves the ‘bringing to life’ of the God’s physical senses, like sight, hearing, smell, speech, and (also various vital parts of his body like arms, legs, etc for) touch.


The word tiam means either 'a point' or 'to mark a point', thus the consecration ceremony of tiam-ing symbolizes the spiritual ‘activation’ of the God’s bodily senses represented by those points.

Tiam gnan is vital because it’s no point (pun not intended) praying to an inanimate (‘wooden dead’) God. An icon is just that, a wooden (or metallic, porcelain, earthen, canvas, fabric, paper, etc) ‘dead/inanimate’ image if not consecrated and brought to ‘life’, divine as that may be.

Indeed, without tiam gnan, how in the world would the God or Goddess be able to hear one’s prayers and implorations, and to lend a helping hand, especially when the supplicant is in trouble, distress or beseeching for a hopeful windfall (the last being usually on the eve of a Race Day) - wakakaka!

Yes, Chinese Taoists tend to regard their Gods as some sort of benevolent grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles or aunties – close ‘family members’ that they could call upon (frequently too) for very personal help. And why should one fear or be terrified of God or the Gods?

It’s a reflection of the Chinese pragmatic approach and easy going attitude towards religion. One can still be religious without invoking threats of, or dreading the End of the World. There’s no Armageddon in Taoist belief.

To the Chinese, God is not a fearful retributive heavenly ‘internal revenue officer’ who would, at your death, audit the credits and debits of your life’s performance, like the Egyptian Goddess Ma’at weighing your heart (representing the collective worth of your life’s good deeds and bad deeds) against the weight of her single ostrich feather (see image below - the feather is worn on her head), to decide whether you go upstairs to 1st class and enjoy all the attendant benefits and perks, or downstairs to the kitchen to be bar-b-qued.

Egyptian goddess Ma'at


The Chinese God is more like a 24/7 Service Help Desk. Of course like the typical Help Desk you may often find that you might not get the desired help wakakaka!

The complexity and elaborateness of the tiam gnan ceremony vary, depending on the patron’s desires and the expenses he/she is prepared to outlay. Most would settle for a simple one, where a priest or monk ‘activates’ the icon attributes with vermillion ink and prayers – a mere 10 to 15 minutes job. But a rare number of fussy conservative-minded Taoists would replace the vermillion ink with the blood of a white pigeon and provide lavish offerings and God knows what else (pun also not intended).

So, as they would say in a Chinese story, “... one dark tropical night … while the innocent slept and kaytee and gang were out raiding the neighbourhood rambutan (or was it mango?) trees, lil’ Hamlet had a dream.”

In his dream (which he recounted to his family and me a day later) he saw the Chinese ‘Father Christmas’ with His renowned smile. But strangely Tua Peh Kong didn’t say a word. Instead He pointed to His mouth and gave the universal sign of not being able to speak.

While Tua Peh Kong continued to make the gesture of not being able to speak, suddenly (according to Hamlet) 4 large cards appeared in the air beside the immortal.

Hamlet saw a number on each of the first three cards (counting from left to right). But the last card was blank.

The immortal pointed slowly and deliberately to each of the three cards having a number. The numbers were* 6, 3, and 9 respectively.

* I can’t recall the real numbers after so many years but I’ve given notional figures above to just help tell the story smoothly.

When He, the smiling One, came to the last card (remember it was blank) He sort of pointed at it casually with a kind of tidak apa (couldn't care less) attitude and shrugged His shoulders, as if (according to Hamlet) He was suggesting “Who cares about this one”, or “What is it?”, or “What do you think?”, or “I don’t know”, etc.

Hamlet admitted (in his rendition of the dream) he wasn’t quite sure what the last card was supposed to indicate or represent, but decided to interpret it as the first possibility, that Tua Peh Kong must have been stating “Who cares about this one!”

Hamlet recalled the dream ended with Tua Peh Kong repeating his signalling of not being able to speak.

As would have it ;-) the following day was a Race Day, and sneaky lil’ Hamlet, at his glorious age of just ten, without telling anyone including his loving mum about his strange dream, went to the local village bookie with his total savings of RM5 and punted on the 3-D number of 639. He lied to the bookie that he was instructed to do so by his mum.

That evening when the 4-D results were announced ..... guess what? ;-)

Do you remember what I had also written in
Encounter with a God?

Here are the relevant paragraphs (extracts):

… I was given a thorough briefing by the medium master who obviously possessed an impressive range of experience in dealing with tricky gods. For example, he said that sometimes a guileful god would enter the medium’s body but would not talk to the waiting audience - instead the Wily One would conduct a conversation ‘internally’ with the medium; in other words, while ‘externally’ the audience saw only a silent medium, 'internally' the god could be giving private instructions to the medium on, say, the 929 chapters of the Old Testament, unbeknownst to the bystanders. […]

Another favourite trick of a mischievous god would be ... […]

... my admiration for the Crafty Ones began to grow as the medium master related all he knew, which was probably only a mere fraction of what the gods could and would do if they feel like frustrating or teasing the punters.

You got the idea?

Well, that evening the top winning set of numbers for the draw was 6390.

;-) Good olde Tua Peh Kong, wakakaka, as humorously tricky as he looks.

Apart from berating poor lil’ Hamlet for not telling dad and mum about his dream (of course by then, with the advantage of hindsight, everyone in his family was absolutely brilliant in interpreting what the blank card had meant), his family inspected the Tua Peh Kong portrait-icon in the living room and discovered to their amazement that there was no vermillion ink marking on His mouth. The priest had missed that spot in his tiam gnan, for unknown reason.

A new portrait-icon was swiftly ordered and consecrated, this time very carefully, but alas, no one in that family was ‘visited’ by the Grand Olde Man again.

In my first post on this blogsite
Senjakala I quoted a Shakespearean line in Hamlet (Act I, Scene V), which states:

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."





Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Broken Hearted at Six Years Old

When my cousin left for studies overseas, he gave his dog to me. Well, technically it was a bitch. She was a beautiful black & light-coloured German Shepherd cross – in those days in Penang, German Shepherds were known as Alsatians.

A wonderful and very affectionate doggy, she trailed my movements everywhere. We decided from the very start that we loved each other.

Each weekday when I was about to leave for school, I had trouble restraining her from following me. I truly love her - note the ‘present tense’! - yes, even her memory till today.

Once I was home from school we were constantly together, until I had to leave for school again the following morning. I fed, bathed, combed, walked, tickled, talked and played with her. When I wasn’t doing any of that, say during studies or at meals, she would lie at my feet, waiting patiently for me to finish.

My father disliked her for the reason she was a bitch. Bitches would go into seasonal heat. That’s just nature, but for my father (and most Chinese in those days), it was an embarrassment when the neighbourhood canine Romeos congregated in passionate hope outside our fenced garden. There was no such thought as de-sexing a bitch in those days. My old man decided to give her away.

As fate conspired against me, there was a farmer, a friend of one of my cousins, who wanted a dog. My cousin had extolled her (my dog’s) wonderful qualities. So it was all decided, except for one vital item – I wasn’t consulted.

Oh no! I was just a mere kid and no one, least of all my father, ever consulted a kid. Worse, I wasn’t even informed of my father’s cruel decision.

Unaware of the tragedy about to unfold, I came home from school one afternoon (I think it was a Friday) to find my cousin and my father waiting for me. The old man didn’t waste time – he instructed me to have a quick lunch, then get my dog and hop into my cousin’s car, for she was to be given to a friend in Balik Pulau.

I was shell-shocked. My lips trembled as I tried very bravely to hold back my tears. My father was completely oblivious to my feelings. What feelings? I was just a kid!

To him, kids weren’t entitled to feelings but rather, firm parental control and instructions. Kids must do what parents required of them - my father required me to escort the dog to the recipient of the gift, and I must obey.

In those days, interaction between parents and children were fairly simple and straightforward. Based on filial piety, family duty and son'ly discipline, the operative words were complete and total obedience.

How could I eat under those emotionally wretched circumstances, but nonetheless, eat I must, because my father had so decreed. Alone in the seclusion of the kitchen I lost control and wept shamelessly as any frightened and traumatised child would, sobbing spasmodically even as I performed my duty - yes, I cried for myself, but I had to eat for my father.

Did my abundant falling tears mask the tastelessness of the food? I can't remember, for I was then utterly heart broken.

The trip took around 40 minutes, but it was a terrible 40 minutes for I knew that at the end of the journey I would lose my dog forever.


I was in a daze, battered by my own helplessness, hopelessness and growing sorrow. My cousin, sensing my unusual quiet self, and perhaps even realising my feelings, tried to cheer me up but he might as well try reversing his car all the way to Balik Pulau.

The dog was obviously going to be in good hands for the farmer’s children took to her immediately, but that was of small comfort to me. When I left with my cousin after the mandatory polite interval, I made the mistake of looking back. She was frantically pulling at the leash to come after me, barking-calling to me. My broken heart shattered even further into a zillion pieces. It was the most heart-wrenching moment for a 6-year old boy.

I never saw her again, for Balik Pulau to a kid was as far away as the moon was from Ayer Itam.

From time to time, my cousin would relate news of how well she got along with the farmer’s children and how much they loved her. He meant well, intending to show that the dog was properly looked after. But each word was like a piercing sharp knife in my already broken heart.

When she had puppies, we were given one of them – male of course, for my father wasn’t going to have a bitch again. It was a magnificent specimen, but to me, he wasn’t like his mother. Three months later, my father decided that keeping a German Shepherd was too expensive and gave him away to another cousin. Though I hadn’t yet developed the same degree of love I have for my first dog, I was made to suffer the same sad process of escorting the dog to the new owner.

After my father passed away and I grew up, I became more and more conscious of what had happened, especially about his total callousness towards my 6-year-old feelings on those sad events. I may well be wrong in this unfortunate perception, for he was probably conducting himself under the mores of yesteryears, but nonetheless it’s a perception I have harboured for years.

Till today I still cannot forget what had been done to me on a sad Friday afternoon. Each time I remember my first dog, a bitter tear would fall silently in my heart.


We two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years
- Lord Byron




Thursday, September 10, 2009

Frightening conversation with a boy

One day, at a friend’s house, I was relaxing on the backyard decking with a glass of chilled Riesling, watching the birds - real feathered types - pecking away at the seeds thrown to them by a little boy. Let's call the young lad Tee-tee.

Tee-tee suddenly turned to me and asked, "Do you know who Lilith was?"

A little stunned at Tee-tee's knowledge of Lilith, I asked curiously where he learnt about her. He answered rather nonchalantly "In school, during Bible class."

I must say that hadn't been the case when I was in Bible class eons ago, where my mates and I made do with just Eve. Seeing that Tee-tee was still waiting for my answer to his query, I nodded.

He then shot another question at me, whence by then I had an ominous feeling I was been driven slowly into quicksand. I saw all these in by his bright, piercing and very curious eyes.

"Who was she?"

I riposted, "I thought you learnt that in school?", an evasive attempt to avoid awkward explanations. I was rather pleased with my brilliant verbal manoeuvre.

"I like to learn a bit more from you."
Oh oh oh! Young Napoleonic Tee-tee has seized the military initiative with this offensive – nope, he sure wasn't going to let me get away.

He then twisted his psychological knife in my side a little bit more by adding: “I saw you reading a book called Lilith’s Dream – A Tale of the Vampire Life.”


Lilith (1892) by John Collier - from Wikipedia


How in the bloody world did the wee brat know that?

Moral of the story – be careful around kids, 'cause they pick up minute details that you aren’t even aware of.

I knew I was approaching a veritable mine field, thus I hesitated for a while to regroup my thoughts 'ere I answered. I had to choose my words very carefully.

According to Jewish beliefs or legend (in which case why was Tee-tee learning this in a Catholic school?), Adam the first man had another wife before Eve. Like Adam, she was made from earth too. No sirree, she wasn't a mere rib material. Now, would that have made her equal to Adam?

The No 1 Lady was called Lilith, but she didn't get along well with old Adam, so she was expelled from the Garden.

Of course it was gross simplification. OK, I was a coward for skirting around the juicier and occult bits, but hey, we are dealing with a kid in his very tender years.

Well, that’s it then! I began to congratulate myself for handling a tricky situation rather well, and indulged straightaway with a huge gulp of wine. That was when he caught by surprise that nearly left me choking on my Riesling.

"She was rebellious, wasn't she?" Tee-tee fired off that terrifying information like a Rumsfeld's cruise missile. Shattered by his 'shock and awe' statement-query, I turned slowly to look at him, trying to discern whether he understood that biblical misogynistic euphemism.

Simultaneously (in a mere fraction of a sub-second) the following thoughts ran through my mind: ‘My God! Was Lilith 'rebellious'? She most certainly was. She was the mother of them 'rebellious' women – vroom and wow and oh la la! And that’s why those ancient religious misogynists hated her’
.


I must confess then, my most un-Biblical-like mind zoomed to images of a wild wanton Lilith straddling and riding a startled and confused Adam lying on his back in the Garden of Eden while unicorns, griffins and the phoenix cheered them on.

But looking at Tee-tee's solemn face and innocent eyes I felt ashamed at my quick diversion to X-rated Garden. To avoid my voice giving away my naughty thoughts, I gave a non-committal quick nod to him.

By then, I was very wary of his inquisitive, inquiring and inquisitorial probing, which went on for a while. After a fairly long discussion - more like a Kempetai interrogation - I felt safe enough to take a large swallow of my wine.

That's when he, with solemn face and innocence, dropped the 1000-megaton GPS-guided GBU-37 GAM bunker-buster question that had me spluttering the Riesling all over the decking.

"Was Lilith a virgin when she left Eden?"

Praise be to the Lord, who is One, for my startled spluttering. It saved me from answering that. I exploited that cover to make a hasty retreat to the toilet where I locked myself away from further grilling by a one-boy Gestapo-like Royal Commission of Inquiry.


Correspondence with a Sardarji

12 December 2006

My dear Lakhbir,

I refer to the BBC news article on Condoms 'too big' for Indian men, alas, basically a wretched survey report on the … erlong & short of Indian 'tambis'.

I am sorry to learn that you’re somewhat … erdiminished. I understand how you believed you have been short-changed … er … I mean … cheated by that survey. Don’t let that information cut you down to sizeer … disappoint you. It’s a smallooops ... tinyer (fuck!)puny ... sorry .. I mean ... inconsequential revelation.

Indeed I question the 2-year survey by the Indian Council of Medical Research involving a sampling of some 1,200 men in India which found that condoms made according to international sizes have been too large for a majority of Indian men.

Yes, I realize that you are depressed because the study found more than half of the men measured had
penises that were shorter than international standards for condoms. Hey, cheer up Bhai, the other 50% are still OK and could well be still ... er ... maharaja-ish!

OK, some practical recommendations have come up, including a call for condoms of mixed sizes to be made more widely available in India.

Damn the scientists for even checking that their meagre sampling (er …btw, I meant for the word ’meagre’ to apply to the sampling, and not your 'tambi') was representative of India as a whole in terms of class, religion and urban and rural dwellers, which means the brothers in Punjab were not excluded from the … er … stunted status.

Hmmm, I wonder whether the gradual switch by the countrymen from a diet of milk, vegetable masala, paratha, desi ghee, Mah Di Dal and Saron Da Saag to modern cholesterol-conscious petite diet of Italian olive oil, salmon and Thai jasmine rice had brought about the … er … contracted state? Or would it be the whiskeys, beers and bah-kut-teh?

The Indian Council of Medical Research had been cruelly ruthless in declaring, what you would have considered as, its trifling finding that 60% of Indian men have penises which are between three and five centimetres shorter than international standards used in condom manufacture.

This is not only outrageous but embarrassing when Bhais, especially in Malaysia, are supposed to be Big, Strong and … well, you know what. But Lakhbir, do tell me, your best pal, confidentially whether the reputed size of Bhai's ding-a-ling had been an exaggerated and inflated fable all this while?

I read that Doctor Chander Puri, a specialist in reproductive health at the Indian Council of Medical Research, said there was an obvious need in India for custom-made condoms, as most of those currently on sale are too large.

The worrying and very serious aspect in this ... er ... downsizing consideration is that one in every five condoms used in India either slips off (oops) or tears (due to loose fitting), with an extremely high failure rate. And the country already has the highest number of HIV infections of any nation.

But hey Lakhbir, no worries mate, Sunil Mehra, the former editor of the Indian version of the men's magazine Maxim, has encouraging news. He said Indian men need not be concerned about measuring up internationally.

He stated: "It's not size, it's what you do with it that matters. From our population*, the evidence is Indians are doing pretty well.”

* wow, does this mean that the Chinese must be monsters in the erotic department

But what about the Godzilla philosophy you've often quoted, that "size matters"?

Maybe for an improvement to your 'tambi' you need a dietary reversion from jasmine rice to chapati!

See you shortlyer … I mean … soon.

Regards,

kt

p/s You have known me, your childhood pal, for years as kt (Kay-Tee) but in your depressed, dejected and … erdiminished frame of mind, my signing off as 'KT' may be insensitive on my part as you may come to believe I'm ribbing you by suggesting it stands for King-size Tongkat. Sorry.


***

Lakhbir Singh replies!


05 January 2007

My dear Kaytee,

Ji, you bloody rotten ar$*h()le. You will never change, will you? My father warned me years ago to watch out for that naughty 12-year old Chinese boy, namely you! Then you had the bloody cheek to inform the old man you wanted to marry his 19-year old daughter – hehehe!

Mum and Saroj thought you were sweet and cute in your infatuation with sis. KNN, you didn't even have pubic hair and you wanted to marry Saroj; and boy, was the old man pissed off with you – I told you my dad wasn’t one to take jokes but mind you, you weren't joking as well.

Anyway, what the f**k is this blogging bullsh*t on
the long & short of 'tambis', where you questioned the countrymen’s size. The moment I landed in Penang, my brother (with a bloody grin) told me to read Kaytee’s posting.

That writeup has been an insult to your blood brother, moi.

Remember when we were kids and we sneaked unauthorized into the quarry for a dip in their pool. Yeah, trust you to drag me into your illegal forays in the village (as dad warned me), and of course you had to bring along two ah moi's. I can't even recall their faces but one did look rather sweet. Weren't they the farmer's teen daughters, you know the one whose rambutan trees we raided every year until we left school for KL?

Many people thought (and probably still do) you were shy but only I know the devil you were and undoubtedly are. And there we were by the pool where none of us had any swimmers, and it had to be you to suggest we skinny dipped.

I knew you manipulated the two lassies into that situation, angling to get them to strip. I have to admit I was highly embarrassed, mind you, not that I was worried about my … er … size.

I knew those girls were curious about how big the ‘Bengali’ one would be, and while they were staring unabashedly at me, waiting for me to remove my undies (no bloody way), you exploited the opportunity to quietly strip to your birthday suit behind their back and jumped into the pool – you bloody cheat.

Remember when the girls complained that they won’t strip unless I did, you bullsh*tted them I couldn’t because I might terrify them – very tua tiau lah, and by golly for the first time you weren't exaggerating, so I am a bit pissed off with your
long & short of 'tambis'.

Till today I wonder how you managed to chong those ah moi's into the pool with you, you rascal. Oh, their sweet pearly white moons as they porpoised and gambolled with you, you lucky bastard. There were moments when I was prepared to discard my katchera and leap in as well, if my katchera then wasn’t in full operation to hide my 'full salute’.

But I don’t want to hear anymore bullsh*t about the countrymen’s size. As my family (save dad) and I have always treated you as an honorary countryman, I feel I can share with you the most inner secret of the Sikhs.

Some people think we only subscribe to the 5-K’s of kesh, kangha, katchera, kara and kirpan. But just for your ears only, we Bhais have a sixth K, and it's related to your posting. I want you to think of what it may be … hint … it starts with ko

You work it out, Ji, you have always been naughty-smart.

By the way, Saroj sends you her love from London. She asked whether you’re still up to mischief, which I answered in advance with a 'yes'!

When you come to my house next week, please bring (I know you'd steal or help yourself) a bottle of your granddad’s VSOP Hennessey and we’ll talk the usual sam kok.

F**k you buddy – oh, don’t forget the ginger ale as well.

Lakhbir

p/s don't you bloody dare post my reply - my brother warned me you will.