A Way of Life
Buntal, a District Officer from Punggol, was walking from his house to the office early in the morning. His car was used by his wife who would be playing golf. Buntal thought of his past- how he managed to climb from the position of an office clerk to his present situation. Many years ago, he had a fight with one of his classmates, Chua, in the school, and was sacked by the principal. His greatest enemy was Chua, then a welfare officer in the Singapore Civil Service.
“Good morning Buntal, I have been transferred back to Singapore. Please allocate me a quarter," Chua requested.
“Sure, " Buntal answered with an icy stare.
The following day Chua came to sweep his quarter, which white ants and rots had taken off the front and the back doors. The windows and the ceilings were in shabby condition. Chua returned to request for a better quarter.
“Get out of my office or I'll throw you out," Buntal whose lips, hands, and legs were trembling, after a heated row yelled.
“Throw now," Chua gazed at Buntal.
Buntal jumped up, pulling Chua by the collar and swung Chua out off the office. Because of this incident, Chua lost his job.
The public had begun to notice how Buntal courted the favours of the Governor. Rumours leaked out that one cold rainy afternoon the guard who looked after the golf course happened to have a peep when the clumsy governor was making love to this longhaired young lady in the clubhouse when she squealed and groaned with ecstasy. No wonder the governor was often seen playing golf during the office hours.
" I must climb higher, " Buntal told himself. " That bastard was saying that I became a convert to please the governor. Isn't it an open secret that all the converts were the ones holding the higher positions?"
One night after a party the governor requested to sleep in Buntal's house because of dizziness. The guest room was beautifully decorated, but one thing was missing, a woman. All the women had gone off with the other men. Buntal called a lady who was on a part time callout basis. Unfortunately, this lady's husband just came back from the timber camp and would not be gone until one month later. The ship, Kimanis berthed at 11 pm, and the woman’s husband reached home before 12 a.m. He came home for one month holiday with pay, after completing 12 months work in a jungle in Sabah. Sometimes, nature is against us. How does Buntal solve this problem? All the one-night stands on his list are occupied. He called up a hotel but the guy who answered said the lady could not go and entertain guests outside.
The poor bachelor could not go to sleep. He rolled left and right on the bed, his eyes were wide open. At last he walked into Buntal's bedroom and tapped gently on the young lady's face. She woke up. Not a word was spoken. She followed him to his room.
Both of them groaned and mourned with delight. Helen could not care if Buntal would wake up and find her in the room with the governor. Why should she? Had Buntal not spent most of his time with the other girls, even with his own office girls?
The squeaking sound woke Buntal up. He thought Helen was in the toilet. The way the servant girl peeped at the copulating couple behind the flower bush this evening assured him she would not refuse him this time. He hurried into her room and kissed her on the lips.
“I thought it was a devil," the girl woke up and whispered.
“Devil or man, I can give you what you want."
Buntal climbed on the girl and began kissing her all over the body after he took off all her clothes.
“I know you really need it now. I saw you peeping at the Bangladeshi making love to Ah Yun, who lived at the Block 166, Starry Road."
“Yes I want it badly. But please tell me. The guy from Bangladesh is only 20 years old. Why was he making love to the old hag, Ah Yun, who is 65 years old, with sagging and wrinkled skin full of warts, and has hundreds of wrinkles on her head and neck ?"
“You have to ask the guy if you happen to see him tomorrow. My guess is this guy was only a sweeper. He cannot afford to find more attractive girls. Have your ever offered your body to these laborers from Bangladesh? Are they better at sex? I heard they have longer and bigger implements?"
“One month ago, Ah Yun wanted to sell to me one piece of stone wrapped in black cloth, for1000 U.S. dollars. She said that lust spell was from India and a woman who possesses it just has to rub on the body of the man she wants to have sex with and the man would be in love with her forever. She bought the stone from Lin Hu Huat, who was a labourer from the construction site at Tuas. Hu Huat always changed into a white shirt whenever he knocked off from work at Tuas. He told the girls he was a qualified engineer.”
“Who was this Lin Hu Huat?” Buntal was curious.
“ Oh, this Hu Huat is a local. One day I heard him boasting to a group of old women, about ten of them. He said his name was Hu Huat because his black magic was very powerful. And in Chinese “Hu Huat” means black magic. That was why all the locals called him Hu Huat. He claimed that by casting a spell on an air hostess, that hostess fell in love with a labourer.”
“Can you tell me which airline that hostess was from?”
“ It’s British Airways. On another incident, this Lin Hu Huat, who was also known as Lin Thiam Huat at the construction yard, sold a piece of black stone, shaped like an egg, weighing exactly one kilo, to a Thai labourer. Lin told this labourer that the USD 5000.00 he paid for the stone would not be wasted. He said it was an investment. Lin told the labourer to buy a black shoulder bag, and carry that stone wherever he would go, together with 13 incense sticks imported from India. If he is interested to marry any beautiful woman, he just have to follow her to the toilet, and as the lady is urinating the labourer would chant the magic verse outside the toilet, standing not more that nine feet away for 99 times continuously, and complete the chant before the lady comes out of the toilet or else the charm cannot work. His secret chant was: Nono nono, chinta I nono, dia kanchang sekarang, chinta I suka I sehlalu.”
“We’re Christians. Do you believe all these rubbish? This cocky hag is trying to suck some money out of you. If black magic and occultism can effectuate the desired results, John Kennedy would have died long ago! John is holding the most coveted position on this planet. Millions of politicians are dying for that position. Every day, these politicians pointed their finger at the United States and swore and cursed it. They blamed the US for all the problems on this earth. Even if their son dropped down from top of the coconut tree and died on the spot, they would still blame US for it. They said if there was no US, the world would be without problems, even the recession during the 1930s was caused by the US."
“Ah Yun entertains about ten men per day. She can’t take the men to her flat because the owner of the flat doesn’t allow her to do so. Yesterday she took me to see a black magician who ran an office in Chinatown. The office was air-conditioned but was dark and very smelly. You cannot recognize a person from ten feet away. All the visitors were old women.”
“Do you believe all these swindlers?”
“You were assistant district officer before. Why didn’t you tell the police to arrest them? They must have given you a lot of money?”
“Why do you want to arrest uneducated people who cheat few hundred dollars every week? Those old women deserved to be cheated. They are very evil and greedy.
The most notorious cheat is Lin Hu Huat. He claimed his black magic can make a young man falls in love with an old woman, aged 60 or more. Many women believe him. But the charm never worked. These hags do not know that the more they go to ask Hu Huat, the more their problems increase. Lin Hu Huat loved to put on a white shirt. He puts on one every day. Hu Huat claimed that one airhostess was charmed by him to fall in love with a drain sweeper. Hu Huat means Black magic in Chinese and this made the stupid old Chinese women believe him even more. The managers, engineers and directors in some companies cheat million of dollars per week. Nobody cares. The auditors and the HR personnel are all the same. They help each other to cheat and share the money. If a commodity is worth $1000.00 in the open market. The companies buy it for over $10000.00 each, and for others like metal containers used for transporting goods on board the ship, these swindlers charge over $300000.00 each. The actual price should not be more than $3000.00. Every employee was asking or telling another employee in the same company that if you want to depend solely on your monthly salary, just how long do you still have to work.”
“ There was something else I forgot to tell you. One fat woman paid Hu Huat S$5000.00 to cast a spell on the engineer from China. This engineer was earning about S$6000.00 per month. Hu Huat said that engineer would surely marry her and that she would become rich. That spell did not work but this ugly hag continued to hold a piece of dirty cloth in her hand and pretended to wipe the shelves, coffee makers or other dispensers whenever that engineer came in to have his coffee. Once she grabbed that piece of cloth at one end and whipped it on the head of that engineer, as advised by Lin Hu Huat, saying that the perfumed cloth must land on the engineer’s head for the spell to be effective. She told the engineer she was only trying to whip at the coffee maker. In fact that is her way of harassing this engineer. Is is a crime for that engineer to refuse her advances? If an eighteen-year- old sweet thing makes advances to him, the result could be expected. But an ugly hag, 65 years old, what does she have to offer? She must be very repulsive? She asked for the money to be returned but Hu Huat said if she wanted the money, she must report the matter to the police. ”
Buntal slept soundly with the girl that night. In the other room his wife was still on the governor. Was this her favourite position? Who are the other lucky guys in her life?
Years passed quickly. Buntal was then the managing director of a manufacturing company at Tuas. He secretly stirred up the people of Singapore trying to instill some patriotism into them so that they would want to fight for independence, hopping that he could be the first president. A secret society was organized with Ahmad Yong, a man of no political principles, as the leader. Since Chua was aware of Buntal and Yong's plot, these two cunning guys tried to put Chua on their side so that Chua would be willing to keep the secret at whatever cost. Chua decided not to collaborate with them because he heard another group of people was also starting to come out with something for the independence of the country. The later group consisted of more qualified people. But the decisive factor was that Buntal and Yong did not have any leadership material at all.
Buntal and Yong believed if Chua was not killed, Chua would definitely leak the secret to the British government which would definitely result in great troubles. Yong organized a dinner party on board Sri Gaya one night. Being a friend it was not difficult for Yong to persuade Chua to drink until he was drunk. Chua was getting drowsy by 11 o'clock that night. He went out to sit at the rear of the boat, his back facing the sea. Yong staggered out of the room.
“Aye, brother, another glass, “he filled Chua's glass with more wine.
As the wine was rising to the brim, Yong cut Chua with open hand on the throat where the Adam's apple was and thrust him into the sea with the right foot.
Many years passed, not many people even knew Chua was on board the ship that night, except Sara. But what could a widow do? The murderers were the friends of the governor. This Angmo (white man) was also treated like a Deva by almost all the Singaporeans. She would only endanger her own life. She was then three-month pregnant.
The political party Buntal wanted to organize could not materialize, not because fate was against him, but it was his own inferiority complex that caused him to back out. Cowards always imagined a lot of obstacles when they wanted to plan for anything. He was not willing to compete with another group of young graduates whom he knew commanded better respect and trust from the public. How could Buntal win support if his strategy was not compelling and believable? Instead of joining the few young graduates, he went around running down the credibility of those graduates saying that these graduates eat with knife, fork and spoon and that the chop sticks were unknown to them and for that reason the Chinese culture would be finished off if these graduates were elected. Buntal and Yong therefore moved from one location to another in Singapore telling people that it was better for the country to remain a British colony because the potential political leaders could not even speak Mandarin. According to Buntal and Yong's standard, a person cannot be classified as Chinese if that person cannot read and write in Chinese.
Sara's son, David was only seven years old when she narrated the painful story to him.
“Your father was a most smart guy. Buntal was jealous of him. In the department where Buntal worked, only the inefficient and the bootlickers were promoted. "
“Why didn't you report to the police that Dad was missing?" the innocent son wanted to know.
“At that time Singapore was a very unsafe place. A gangster could simply pull out a gun from his pocket and shoot at anybody. No one would dare to report the matter to the police. If the police requested for help to nail down the killer, no one would come forward to assist. Even if the police knew the thugs were hiding in Kumpong Bugis, they wouldn’t dare go in to search for the thugs."
When David grew up, Karate was his favourite sport. Every weekend, after collecting dead wood in the forest, he would chop a few pieces of wood bare handed.
Buntal was about to retire from the private sector when David found him at Sembawang. First of all David got himself a job in that company called Global Construction. It was also in that company he met Selini, the beautiful daughter of Buntal, if she was his biological daughter at all, and fell in love with her. Eventually, David was shocked to find out that he was in love with a murderer's daughter.
One night, David, Selini and Buntal went camping at Pulau Ubin. Helen did not go because she wanted the chance to be with the governor. Many of the marriageable young ladies on this island were wondering what was it that glued the governor to Helen. The real reason was the governor did not have any special liking for her except the fact that she was a married woman and should she become pregnant, the pregnancy would not be a problem. In this part of the world, when a child is born, only the father can go and have his or her name registered and a birth certificate issued. Buntal and David went out fishing in a speedboat leaving Selini to amuse herself in the tent.
When they reached a certain location where Buntal thought there were huge corals on the seabed and therefore there would be plenty fish around, they stopped the boat, and threw the two anchors down into the sea, one in front of the boat and the other behind. They got ready the fishing lines and dropped them too into the sea waiting for the fish to bite the baits.
" Mr. Buntal, do you know the murder of Chua had been found out?"
" Who found out?"
" I did."
" Who are you?"
" His son."
" You father left a poor seed behind?"
Buntal turned pale, got very nervous and was unable to speak properly. His immediate reaction was to get rid of the son of the bitch who was then sitting in front of him.
" Don't panic," David comforted him.
" What do you want?"
" To marry Selini."
Buntal swung an oar over David's head. David caught the oar and kicked him on the left armpit. Buntal dropped noisily into the water.
“ You stupid bastard. If you just begged for mercy, I would have considered forgiving you. But you wanted to get rid of me too. If I die, Selini would be hurt the most.”
David came down on his knees and uttered.
" Father. I have taken the revenge. Please forgive me; I want to marry his daughter,"
At midnight David returned to Pulau Ubin to tell Selini that her father was taken by sharks, that though he fought hard to try to beat off the sharks it was impossible for him as there were more than ten of them in the water. If David were to jump in and drag him on to the boat, David would also be bitten to pieces.
“Oh, father!“ the lady yelled pitifully and was on her knees. David dragged her up and put his arms round her back, pressing her hard toward him, and promised that he would take care of her forever.
Indeed, David did as promised. Both of them remained married until they passed away naturally during their 80s.
Copyright © 2010 by Poh Tiong Ho
Footnote: Singapore received independence from Britain peacefully in 1963.