Thursday, August 13, 2015
Sifu Sabrina and Sakura Siew prepare themselves for the Hungry Ghost month
[Pixs of models for illustration purpose only]
Tootling along the corridor on the first floor of Sungei Wang Plaza, I hear a female voice calling me: “Hei, Ewe! Ewe!"
I turn at the waist to see Sifu Sabrina and Sakura Siew (pix above) walking behind me. “Hello, ladies, what a coincidence!”
Dressed in a bustier that can quicken a man’s pulse, Sifu Sabrina flashes a smile. “Earlier, we saw you walking to the escalator but you didn’t see us.”
I flick my gaze to Sabrina’s face. “Wow! You look younger with your new hair style! You’re here to shop or to eat?”
“I’m going to a salon to cut my bangs and look for flat pumps.”
“Me, too!” Sakura hitches the leather strap of her bag higher on her shoulder. “I’m also looking for flats.”
I look down at the two ladies' feet. “Both of you're wearing heels. So, are flats suddenly in fashion?”
Sakura scrunches her brows. “No, tomorrow’s the start of the Hungry Ghost month. Wearing heels is not good for people whose luck is low.” She casts a glance at Sabrina. “That’s what Sifu Sabrina told me.”
“There’re several taboos during the seventh month.” Sabrina’s eyes glint with concern. “Whether you want to believe them is up to you.”
“How about some coffee at Starbucks downstairs? I’d like to know what those taboos are.”
Five minutes later, we are seated in Starbucks on the concourse. The aroma of coffee and baked delights wafts around us.
Sabrina takes a sip of her hazelnut latte. “See my bangs? I want to have it cut, change my hair style.”
“Why? What's wrong with your fringe?"
“According to Chinese metaphysical science, the human aura comprises three lights.” She puts the glass mug down. “One at the forehead, two at the shoulders. Covering your forehead with bangs weakens your aura. My luck is on the low side this year. That’s why I want to expose my forehead to strengthen my aura -- especially so during the Hungry Ghost month.”
Sakura swallows a morsel of muffin and casts her gaze at me. “Sabrina told me that wearing high heels should be avoided if your luck is bad.” She leans forward and rests her elbows on the table. “As you know, walking with the back of one’s feet not touching the floor apparently can result in an early death. So, the same principle applies. When you’re wearing high-heeled shoes, the back of your feet is not touching the ground. If your luck's rotten, you can be more vulnerable to a bad intention by an evil spirit. That's why we're looking for flat pumps.”
“But how do you know whether your luck is good or bad?”
“Depends on your birth particulars.” Sabrina lets out a gentle exhale. “An astrologer should be able to do the necessary calculations. Or just go to a temple and check using the fortune sticks.”
“What other taboos are there? I know that going out at night should be avoided, especially for children. They should also avoid looking at people praying at the roadside.”
“Abstain from the following activities at night: hanging clothes to dry in the backyard, leaving a wet umbrella open in the front porch, leaving dolls overnight in the front porch and discussing about ghosts, zombies and the nether world.” She wags her forefinger to emphasize her point. “That includes not watching ghost movies.” She throws her gaze at Sakura and me. “Any one of you has fragrant plants or trees in the garden?”
Sakura and I shake our heads. “Why?” I ask.
“Stay away from plants and trees that emit fragrance at night. They attract spirits like ants to sugar.”
I cross my legs and lean back in my chair. “Any tips for self-protection during the inauspicious month?”
“Pray outside your house, ask the spirits to leave you in peace. Leave the front porch light and backyard light on until the next morning. Wear amulets if your luck is low. Avoid black clothes, wear bright colours. Do play dangerous sports or swim in places where people have drowned previously. Smoke the house or condo every evening with burning sandalwood if it's in a bad location.”
My eyes fuse to Sabrina’s for a few moments. “What do you mean by bad location?”
“Have you been to Siu Siu Restaurant in Taman Seputeh?”
“Nope, but I heard it’s famous for its BBQ pork.”
“My girlfriend lives in that area. One day, after lunch with her in Siu Siu Restaurant, she invited me up to her condo, just ten minutes walk away. I moved to the balcony hoping to see a panoramic view of the city.” She winces and shakes her head. “I was shocked! What I saw was a cemetery. And it was quite close. You get what I mean?” She looks at her watch. “One final tip before we make a move. Just now when I called your name, you turned around. During the seventh month which begins tomorrow, if you’re walking at night in a dark, lonely place and someone calls your name, never, never turn around. You may see something scary.”
My hair stands one end. “What should I do then?”
Sabrina chuckles. “Run for your life!” She and Sakura rise to their feet.
“Ta-ta!” Sakura flaps a pudgy hand as she starts to walk away.
A few moments later, I see Chow Kah walking past and I wave at him. We exchange pleasantries and he plops into a chair beside me. “Shopping?” I ask, looking at the bag he has placed on the floor.
“Yes, high-heeled shoes for my mother-in-law.”
“Huh? Why?” I take a sip from my mug.
“Tomorrow’s the start of the ghost month, buddy. That seventy-year-old cow is a bloody pain in the ass. I hope when she's wearing them, an evil spirit will snatch her soul to the underworld! You know, make her drop dead from a heart attack or something like that!”
I choke on my coffee and splutter, “Sweet suffering saints! That’s murder!”