By Rei Tanotsuka, 22 May 2019
My mum is Singaporean so not only is she a multi linguist, she has a baroque archive of memories tailored to her psyche, which means, she’s a great story teller.
I remember the early hours in the evening when the stories would begin, only to treacle into midnight and beyond. The opus magnum of most of these anticipated story nights, would be the highly requested GHOST STORIES. Mum enjoyed telling us these stories right before bedtime and we LOVED THEM! We would request encores but alas, she would decline and say ‘another night…..another night’.
The following story is real, though the exact sequence of events is now a patina of recollections, born decades after the event and from the mind to naturally antedate reality. Some place names I probably misspelled, if anyone is from Singapore and would like to remedy any location errors, please comment below the story.
Old Apartment 90, on Duxton Road.…..(click to see pictures and read the history)
This happened in the 60’s when my mum lived in the old apartment blocks on Duxton Road in Singapore. She lived in apartment block number 90, on the second floor.
The tenants who lived there, each had their own room with a common kitchen and living area. The toilet and shower facilities were shared too. Mum enjoyed going to the common areas for daily chats with her neighbours and delighted everyone with her teen life sagas.
One evening, a little shy of 9 pm, a middle aged couple walked up the stairs to the second floor of the 3 storey apartment block. Mum was chatting away as usual with her neighbours, Mrs Foon and another young guy who was nicknamed Little Shrimp (unpleasant as this sounds, it’s a really popular nickname for young guys in Asia). The lady of the couple, upon reaching the common living room of the second floor politely asked ‘May I please speak to the parents of Cheung Siew Kiew?’ My mum thought nothing of it and called out to the only resident most likely to have had a child, ‘Ah Sum (common form of address to middle aged ladies), there’s someone here to see you!’
Ah Sum walked out from her room and was shocked to see the unknown couple. She asked them what did they want. They told her they were from Bukit Timar, a swanky area in Singapore. They were the owners of a lorry company called ‘Fan Ji’…….and that they were here to propose marriage to the deceased son from her husband’s first marriage.
Ah Sum was slack jawed for a few seconds and my mum and the other 2 neighbours were equally stunned into silence. My mum never knew Ah Sum’s husband had been married before and she certainly didn’t know that he had a son who had passed away.
Ah Sum is the second wife of a man who had lost both his first wife and son while fleeing China to Singapore. The deceased son’s name was Cheung Siew Kiew.
Ah Sum, upon regaining her composure proceeded to ask the ‘who, what, when, where, why, how’ questions. Was this a joke? Who would prank a poor middle aged women who worked hard labour at construction sites? How did this couple know about the deceased child? How did they know the child’s name? How did they know where she lived?
The couple told Ah Sum that they had a baby daughter 20 years ago. She died as an infant and left a void in their hearts. All these years have been spent thinking about what she would have been like had she lived to be an adult. From about a month ago, the lady of the couple started to dream about a young girl. She was beautiful and seemed really happy because she had found someone she wanted to marry. The first night this dream occurred, the lady naturally thought she was just dreaming. This dream became a recurring event and after the third time, the lady went to consult a medium.
Apparently in Singapore in the 1960’s it was de rigeur to consult spiritual mediums if you had any emotional problems, or any problems really. Hydromancy (gazing into a bowl of water to divine an answer) was quite a common form of mediumship. The medium told the lady that she had been dreaming about her deceased daughter who had now grown into a young lady, and that she was ready to be betrothed to a young man (equally deceased), the son of the Cheung’s. The name of the young man’s step brother was also given in addition to the deceased boy’s name with an address for further clarification.
Ah Sum had no choice but to respect the wishes of this couple. A wedding was arranged in the apartment block. My mum said she remembers feeling eerie about the whole event. They used chickens to represent the deceased couple. Imagine an old style, traditional Chinese wedding sans a bride and groom………but with chickens….. As crazy as this sounds, my mother bursts out laughing now when she recalls the chickens but she remembered feeling terrified back then.