Sunday, 27 March 2011

May's Mom

'Mom has psychic power!’ claimed May as she chatted with me over coffee at The StarBucks’ outlet at The Mid-Valley shopping mall one afternoon. The thirty something real estate agent was adamant about her mother’s paranormal, inborn knack of seeing things that we normally do not see.

‘Tell me more, please!’ as I put down the mug on the table, with half a mouthful of cappuccino dripping from corner of my mouth. ‘Have some French toast?’ I pleaded with her with offer of some palatable temptations. ‘Oh yes, how about you?’ she then continued:

We were from a very poor family back then during the early 80s, residing in Pokok Assam, near Taiping. Father left us for Ipoh to seek employment one day and that was the last time Mom spoke to him. He disappeared without a trace and that broke our hearts. We had in the past tried in vain to reach out to him but it seemed that he just vanished from this world. Till this day we have no idea whether he is alive or has gone to another world. So Mom had to shoulder the task of bringing us up single handedly – two girls and one boy. She found employment in a textile factory in Kamunting area as a stock control clerk; with her new found job, smiles began to come back to her face as the burden of finance for our home was taken care of. The minus point was she had to do few days of night duty in a week.

One night when she was on the way back home in the factory van around mid-night when she suddenly shouted loudly to stop the vehicle as what she saw was a skinny old Malay man standing in the middle of the road, waving at them. The van screeched to a halt and everybody in the factory van was angry with Mom as she had awakened them for no apparent reason. They were dead tired after work and nobody saw what she had seen. Aru the van driver grumbled and uttered some unprintable words and they continued the journey home. As the older lady alighted she casually glanced at the back row of seats of the vehicle, her eyes caught the sight of an old man seated there next to her colleague Kak Ainon, who was then still sleeping. The van left immediately after dropping off Mom, leaving her some unanswered questions. The next day she confronted Aru who vehemently denied ferrying any old man in the company’s vehicle apart from the all women workers. She was more puzzled when Kak Ainon told her that she was there at the back row seat all by herself. She instantly knew that she had seen what other people could not see. That apparition must be that of the old man she witnessed the night before.


As days went by, she continued seeing those unknown souls on the way home that she kept a deaf ear and turned blind eyes on them. It would not be the old man alone anymore; it could be a Malay woman or a younger girl, sometimes accompanied by a little boy.  Mom decided to stay mum about it all as nobody seemed to be interested of her sightings of strange characters in the middle of the night. It was difficult for her to ignore what she saw as the front passenger seat had always been reserved for her being the supervisor for the evening shift.  She forced herself to close her eyes whenever her factory van passed by the Kampong Melayu Pokok Assam cemetery, still she could feel that some uninvited guests had come aboard the van. It had been an ongoing affair like this for about a year.

Then one night one of her colleague alighted earlier before her usual stop, for some unknown reason Mom followed suit. Aru, the van driver did not asked her why, perhaps he was too sleepy to want to know further. After sometime Mom realized that she had been walking in circles for more half an hour around the village; and worst of all not only she did not know how she got there for whatever purpose, she forgotten who she was! She would have been walking like that all night until one acquainted Malay village elder came cycling and asked her ‘Nyonya, ta’balik rumah-ka?’ She then regained her senses and headed for home quickly. Fortunately our house was just a stone’s throw away.   

No sooner her colleagues at the textile factory knew about her extraordinary encounter and plight; most of them were sympathetic and some of them claimed to have the same experience though not as lurid as Mom’s encounter. Some of them appealed her to keep them company while going to the toilets. Mom never turned them down, as she had often heard the sighing of a woman’s voice in the next cubicle when there was no one there while she relieved herself. While all factory workers wore the same colored dress of blue and white, Mom caught sight of some women with red or totally white dresses at some corners of the plant at different time, but this always happened during the mid-night shift. Mom at first was puzzled as there could not be visitors at those unholy hours, after all they were not told of any impending visits. But then the apparitions she saw did not make any attempt to communicate or interact with any of them, she then knew that she had possessed the gift of the ultimate 'Ying Yang' eyes! She quickly consulted the medium of a local temple. The Tse Por, or the old lady clairvoyant told her the evil demons were coming for her life and she got to do lots of home works to save herself for any untimely misfortune or death! She was instructed to pay the prayer house’s in-charge some money, so that he would cleanse her body and soul, so as to avert disturbance from these wondering spirits. But being poor, with young mouths to feed, she did not do as told.

Mom had been a kind hearted person all her life, she made periodical donations to few temples in the neighborhood, and attended all the mass prayer ceremonies. She also became a voluntary helper to an old folk home run by a Buddhist society since she worked at night most of the time. Mom often did the unenviable task of picking up animal carcasses from the road surface at the risk of her own life. One day she even found a new born baby girl wrapped in a piece of Malay sarong by the side of a large rubbish bin; unfortunately the baby was already lifeless. Mom chanted words of Buddhist wisdom to appease the poor soul. We were all very touched and moaned for the ill-fate of the new born.


I believe that due to Mom’s unselfish and benevolent ways, she could ward off the impending attacks of the evil spirits repeatedly. When I was in primary school, one day Mom suddenly got herself insured against any misadventure. When my aunties and uncles (her sisters and brothers) questioned the need to spend so much money on insurance; she replied that she might be dying and the policy could help to see her children completing their studies. They did not pursue the matter further but Mom fell sick soon after that. She forced herself to continue working in the daytime, but she could not sleep well at night. She developed temperature and began to lose weight. With medicine swallowed she could sleep but she was constantly haunted by ghosts from hell. What appeared in her dreams repeatedly were the two dreadful stewards of the hell emperor – the bull headed and the horse faced demons demanding her life. She pleaded for mercy, claiming that she still got children to care for. The two awful villains were relentless; they refused to listen to her plight, and kept terrorizing her with their menacing weapons. The night mares went on for weeks; Mom thought her time was up. She left words here and there, saying goodbyes to friends, colleagues and relatives, urging them to help to look after her children. Since she was losing weight and becoming thin, they thought that she was terminally ill. Still she made an effort to donate her blood to the needy and found solace and peace in her sleep after that. And guess what? She began to regain her health as the nightmares had stopped. She continued to work until her retirement at 56 some years back.

I approached the abbot of our local Buddhist temple for advice regarding Mom’s encounter with the unholy kind. I was told that those spirits or ghosts appeared to human being who were still alive were out for justice, for some debts owed to them(the apparitions) or they had some matters not solved, done or handed over(to their loved ones) before they left for another world. Some were full of grievance and harboured strong desire for vengence. ‘Yes,’ the well-respected abbot cleared my doubt as he continued; ‘usually they would make the person disoriented before appearing to him/her, like losing the way home or forgetting one’s own identity.’ ‘Your Mom had been kind to humans as well as animals; the donation of her blood gave her a chance to see her children grow to be adults. She shall enjoy longevity and good health.’


Now Mom is already in her 70s. We are now a blissful family as we shower her with our love, care and filial piety. Even though some of us are married with children, we will fight to have Mom staying with one of us at any one time. Mom keeps going her style of benevolent living for humility, remains a vegetarian since the disappearance of father, rescuing tortoises and frogs from the cooking pot, feeding the homeless cats and strayed dogs. Once a while she still   could sense the presence of uninvited companions, like one sitting on a branch of a tree, wrapped in white cloth, talking to himself inaudibly. She is already immune to these sightings as no harm is done to her so far.

Mom had never discussed openly with us her sighting of the unnatural; maybe she was worried that we could get scared. We heard her stories from our neighbours and her former colleagues. All she kept on inculcating us her advice of kind deeds to render to all living things.

‘Thank you for the stories regarding your Mom,’ as I bade farewell to May at the payment counter. 'Can I visit your Mom one fine day?’, ‘What for? You want to ask her for my hand?' We then both broke into loud laughter in sheer jest and friendly tease.

 A true story by
  Alan CY Kok


Some friends narrated this story to me years back. I managed to recollect some details and put them in my own style of writing. I sincerely hope that you folks out there will enjoy reading this short story. 

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