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Friday, May 29, 2015

The coin: A gift from grandpa

The coin: A gift from grandpa

 An incredible tale as recounted by K. N. Song

It was a recurring dream; a nebulous dream that subsequently became more vivid.

In her dream she saw her grandpa carrying a sackful of coins,   scattering fistful of them, as he trudged along a road. She did not pay much heed to the dream, dismissing it as a product of a troubled mind or of over-eating.

Her mother had passed away when she was still a baby and as her father was working in a different state, the task of raising her and her four older siblings were left to her grandparent and an aunty. As the youngest in the family , her grandpa began to shower her with love and attention. Her older cousins can still remember her grandpa taking her for morning rides before cycling to his orchard in Machap.

 The old man would place his grand child in a bamboo basket, strapped to the rear carrier of his dilapidated bicycle and as the bicycle bounced along the pebble-strewn dirt track, she would squeal with delight and he would smile tenderly at her. When she was older her grandpa would take her to his orchard during the fruit season and he would pick the choicest durians which were hidden among the tall grass. His face would light up, as he watched her little fingers dig into the creamy flesh and slowly savoured it.   

Her grandpa had migrated from China at a very early age and later married a local girl, a peranakan, and soon learned to speak the baba patois. He started work as an ox-cart driver, but with the advent of motor vehicles he decided to become a cab driver.

When he finally, retired from driving a cab, he spent the rest of his years in tending to his orchard. At night, especially when there was a full moon  he loved to sit  on a bench in the front porch of the wooden house. The village children would gather round him and he would regale them with tales of his travels. Most of his tales revolved around ghosts, spirits and the supernatural, as he lived during the period when the country was still covered with dense forest, country roads were just dirt tracks and flickering oil lamps glowed from within isolated wooden houses. His young listeners would listen in rapt silence, mesmerised by the interesting stories.
However, there were stories he kept from his eager audience; stories he would only reveal to his loved ones.

 One such tales was the story of a coin which he recounted to his youngest granddaughter.

“When I was working as a cab driver I had a good Malay friend, a fellow cab driver. When we went on long trip, he would be my travelling companion. On one of these trips, he turned to me and suddenly asked,
“Have you seen a Chinese coin?”
“No,” I replied, wondering at the rather weird question.
We drove along in brief silence and then through the corner of my eyes, I watched as he began to rub his empty palms in a rotary rubbing action. After a while he asked me to open one of my palms and he placed a small object in it. A burning sensation shot through the middle of my palm and I let go of the object which fell with a clink to the uncarpeted car floorboard. Later when I stopped to retrieve it, I found it was a coin; a coin embossed with Chinese characters and looked like it had just being freshly minted. I noticed there was an identical coin in his palm.  He asked me to keep the coin I had retrieved and to take good care of it. He told me the coin would bring me good luck and may come in handy someday.”

Photos of the original coin, Courtesy of K N Song

The miraculous feat did not come as a surprise to her grandpa. Remembering another incident, he continued with his story:

"Once we were travelling along a deserted road when my friend suddenly rolled down the windscreen and taking some money from his pocket, his earnings for the day, he threw them out of the car. I watched in amazement as the money drifted through the evening air, as if following a guided flight path. Perhaps, noticing the perplexed look on my face, he said,

“Don’t worry, I’m sending the money home for safe-keeping

Besides, the miraculous feats which he had personally witnessed, he had heard other incredible stories about his friend's extraordinary abilities. The villagers knew him as a holy man who was endowed with supernatural powers and he was popularly referred to as  keramat hidup or living saint. 

It was told that one day he  boarded a bus and when he could not come out with the fare the bus conductor ordered him to get off the bus. With a calm demeanour he left his seat and the moment he stepped out off the bus, the engine sputtered and died. The bus driver tried to re-start the bus, but all was in vain.  A few passengers who recognised the holy man advised the conductor to invite the ousted passenger back into the bus. The conductor offered a profuse apology and after he was comfortably seated, the engine  sputtered, gave an apologetic cough and came to life.

A similar incident occurred when he was travelling on board a train. When he failed to produce his ticket, the train conductor ordered him to leave the carriage. The moment he alighted the train refused to start until he was invited back into the carriage.

The years rolled by and after his friend left his job they lost contact of each other. Then one day her grandpa fell gravely ill from suspected poisoning. He sought treatment from both western and traditional practitioners, but met with little success. He became increasingly weak and emaciated and was  losing hope of finding a cure, when he remembered about the coin_ the coin his good friend had given him in a cab long ago. Recalling his friend's advice and instructions he used the coin to perform the necessary ritual and concoction. After a few treatments he grew increasingly stronger and eventually recovered from his illness. As predicted by his friend, the coin not only brought him good luck, but had miraculously saved his life.

  One day, before he passed on, he called his granddaughter to his bedside, handed her a coin and told her to take good care of it.

As soon as she opened her eyes, she thought about the dream, and she wondered about its significance. What was grandpa trying to tell her.

She slowly sat up in bed and tried to recall the recent events in her life. Things had not being going too well with her lately. She was suffering from nagging health problems and there were days when a sense of vague apprehension and uneasiness would grip her. Then it dawned on her the recurring dream about her grandpa  and her problems started on the day she gave away the coin to her elder brother. Realising her mistake, she persuaded her brother to return the coin and as soon as she regained possession of the coin, she was no longer haunted by the vision of her grandpa carrying the sackful of coins. The feeling of uneasiness too disappeared and her health began to improve. 

The moment I stepped into the cocktail lounge, my cousin greeted me and introduced me to her new acquaintance and then asked,
"Do you still write in the blog?" 
"Yes, if I can find something interesting to write," I answered.
"I have a story about a coin which you may like," she told me.
Then above the hushed voices of the other wedding guests who were chatting amicably in small groups, she told us the story about a coin.
After she finished recounting her story I knew I had to write and share her story. It was not only a story about the supernatural, but also about the special bond between a grandpa and a granddaughter that transcends all boundaries of time, place and belief. It was a story about true friendship that transcends colours and creeds.

Listen to Al Grant sings, "Grandpa's little girl".

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