Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yet another funeral

As I sat having my dinner, the strains of the Teochew operatic singing came up the storeys from the ground floor. No, I am not complaining about the noise. In fact, I am "enjoying" the music, in a way. I should not be saying that I enjoy as this is part of a Teochew ritual in a funeral wake. This is part of a "journey" of the deceased as he/she leaves this world.

The Teochew operatic style singing reminds me of the many Teochew street operas that one could find along the streets in the old days. Yes, in the old days in Chinatown, there would be some kind of events - temple or community - almost every other week.

In the old days, when someone in a Teochew family passed away, there would be such a ritual performed by members of a Sian Tng (Shan Tang in Teochew) that the family could have been a member of. The interesting attractions to the neighbours would be the young children choir singing the Teochew rituals in their sweet voices against the playing of the strings, gongs and cymbals. These days, they are rare but there are still enough older teens and adults doing the rituals.

Where I live, it is a community of Teochews and Cantonese. Interesting in that together, they form the little Guangdong. Yes, in the apartment block where I live, the original residents were actually resettled from the Teochew area such as Teochew St (but of course) - of what is now Central Mall and the Chin Chew Rd area (where Upper Chin Chew St was known as Tau Foo Kai in Cantonese). It was a vertical community of two communities. Traffic between floors was high because of the extended families and old neighbours. Almost everyone would be greeting someone in the lift.

As days went by, such greetings seemed to lessen. The old wrinkled faces that wrinkled even more with their smiles seem to be getting less. I would be meeting more younger and fresh strange faces. I would still be meeting some familiar old faces, but they would be recent victims of stroke or with a walking stick supporting their weak legs. Greetings in dialects decreased. If any conversation in the lift, chances are it will be in Mandarin (of various accent) or English (also of various accent).

As the children moved out leaving their parents, the population here grows older. Some have moved out (yes, we are bombarded with record breaking offers of buying of our flats) bringing in new residents. For some of the older folks, they have found a space in the coffeeshop downstairs for coffee, and maybe beer, as beer seems to be the mainstay of coffeeshops these days. Some gathered on some discarded chairs to chat, listening to the Teochew Operas from a mini player. They would have been sitting along the Teochew Street in the evenings as their parents or grandparents would have done. That was history.

This scene could well become history soon. (^^)