Today is the 15th day of the 1st lunar month. It is also the last day of CNY celebrations. After today, no more distribution of red packets or lion dances. Chinese usually celebrate CNY for 15 days on the first lunar month. CNY celebrations are now officially over. It’s back to business as usual. In mainland China, the madness of going back to the cities from the villages is now reversed. Before CNY, it was mass migration of millions from cities to the villages to celebrate CNY with folks back home. It will never happen here cuz we are such a tiny country without any hinterland. We do not have vast countryside with villages. Maybe in our case, some Chinese up north making their way back here to start work after CNY.
Today is also my good friend Lohcifer’s birthday. I would like to wish him all the best. May all his wishes come true. I’ve known him since 2008 for about 8 years. I must say that our friendship has matured and blossomed notwithstanding our differences at times. I hope we could remain as friends forever with me leaving before him so that I won’t miss him. I would rather he misses me! Link
Others celebrated CNY but I kept working. My night relief took 6 days off by paying half of the taxi rental to celebrate CNY. I had to drive longer hours to cover the balance taxi rental. I did not mind at all cuz there was huge demand for taxi especially on the first 2 days of CNY. I was glad to play a small part – like all other transport workers to keep moving people around our island state during the long Chinese New Year weekend holidays.
I started driving today around 7am till about 11am when I decided to take my meal break. I’d just dropped off a pax at airport from Ridley Park. Suddenly, I remembered my favorite Indian Banana Leaf Curry rice at Carpmael Rd. Every year, I would go there to present a red packet to the stall holder. Since today is the last day of CNY, I wasted no time by driving empty cab from the airport to the place.
When I reached the stall at the coffeeshop, every thing seemed normal but I did sense something was amiss. I did not notice the “daughter” of the original first generation stall holder and her helpers. There were 3 Indian men whom did not look like locals. I asked where is sister? He replied in halting English that “sister no more”! My heart jumped a little. “What you meant by no more?” “Oh, she retired already. She sold the stall to my boss already!” The smiling Indian man as if he had just achieved a successful coup d’etat asked me what is my order? I then briefed him on my favorite masala chicken, daal, chicken curry, 2 veggies and an extra hard boiled chilli egg. I then proceeded to order my drink and washed my hands thoroughly cuz I usually eat with my right hand. Before that, I presented him a red packet and told him to give it to sister. He quickly usurped it into his shirt pocket with an even broader grin!
When I came back for the pukul mati i.e. Indian curry rice on banana leaf, he charged me $8.00. It cost much more than the usual $6.00 I paid for. If sister were still there, she would have thrown in extra fried fish or chilli ikan billis. Not in this case. The cooking standard has gone down. Service not that good anymore. No more personal touch. Usually the daughter would greet me warmly with some exchanges. Not anymore!
Sadly, the stall holder has sold off the business lock, stock and barrel to another Indian operator. The name of the stall will be changed in due course. I’ve been patronizing this particular stall since 1990 when I was an investigator at Bedok Police station from the original first generation stall owner till the daughter taking over and shifting 3 places around the vicinity. More than 25 years have lapsed and the family running the said stall have finally called it a day. Nothing lasts forever!
Through the years, on every CNY I would present a red packet to the old lady of the stall. She would keep all the red packets collected over the years and showed them to me and others whenever I visited them around CNY. The spirit of “give and take” persisted on with the daughter always giving me extras in return for the few dollars in the red packet. I used to tell them the red packet is meant for luck. I wish her food business would flourish with more customers. They are honest local Indians who believe in returning in kind. The “推” and “拿” moves in tandem to give life its meaning with complete fulfillment. For without the “推” and “拿”, it loses the joy of living. Our Malay friends would connote it as “tarek” and “hulur”. Yup, in life we tarek and we hulur. It’s a 2-way process that synergies our warm relationships and bond us together as humans. As I was trying hard to finish my pukul mati under this new ownership of the same particular stall, I realize there was none! I do not think I will ever go there any more.
After frequenting the said stall for more than 25 yrs, it has finally come to an end. I could only wish that the daughter would remain fit and healthy enjoying her retirement. Hopefully I could meet her some day and personally wish her well.
2 days before CNY, on 6/2/16 (Sat), we had a big reunion dinner at EM coffeeshop. 2 tables with more than 30 of us having the biggest feast of the year to usher in the CNY – Year of the Golden Monkey. Each of us paid $50 to Alan Taxi whom organized the said dinner. It was a great success with so much drinks (sponsored by members) and food. We even had BBQ of fresh seafood by the side of the coffeeshop. One of our members who is an Executive Chef in a 6-star hotel sponsored us with tons of abalone, huge fresh prawns, Peking roasted duck, scallops etc. It was truly a gathering to be remembered for a long time.
On the 1st day of CNY, early in the morning before I even woke up from my slumber, Datuk Freddie as usual delivered 9 pieces of rabbit fish aka CNY fish to my flat. The figure 9 connotes “longevity” or “everlasting” in Chinese. Fish which is a must for CNY symbolizes “extra” or “abundance”. My good friend has brought everlasting abundance to my humble abode by hand delivering 9 pieces of fresh rabbit fish. This time round, he attached a red packet to the packet of fish. This is the 7th consecutive year he has done so! I hope Datuk Freddie will dutifully carry on this yearly tradition bringing joy and happiness to all his relatives and friends. Myself and Lohcifer are amongst the beneficiaries. Thank you Freddie for all the fishes throughout the 7 years you have personally hand delivered to me in your luxury sedan. Link
Last year, it was about $60 per kg which he bought from the Senoko wholesaler fish market. This time, it cost only about $10 to $15 per kg. Perhaps, it’s a reflection of the bad times ahead or maybe more fish in supply? Let’s pray for the best in the year of the monkey.
As usual, I gave a red packet with 2 mandarin oranges to my night relief drivers for luck when they took over my shift. I’ve driven 2 CNYs on this taxi. Hopefully I could drive for another few more CNYs before I call it a day!
On the 6th day of CNY i.e. 13/2/16, our taxi course mates gathered at the usual Kallang HC for our annual gathering to catch up. Sadly only 8 of us turned up with the rest not in town or occupied with other events. Some of them have already given up taxi and moved on to other jobs. Amongst other things, we discussed about taxi vocational license about to expire by Jan 2017. By end of this year, it’s time for another medical checkup, taxi refresher course and paying up whatever we owe to CPF medical account before we are allowed to renew in order to earn a decent living plying the streets in our taxi. Link
About 2 hours later, we took a group picture for remembrance. Like all Singaporeans crazy over the huge Toto jackpot prize, we decided to cough out $10 each to pool our share. Uncle Lai was the in charge. Last Friday, the results came out and we won only $40. We unanimously agreed to continue with the group Toto share and let it roll over to the next draw! Only 2 persons won the 13 million grand Toto prize. One of our EM members disclosed to us that his friend’s friend aged only 39 years is one of the 2 lucky winners. The God of Fortune favored him over all the others to make him an overnight multi-millionaire!
As for me and the rest of us, life goes on. I’ll still drive taxi as usual and keep a look-out for those monkeys hiding in the bush. Better be careful and watch out or we will suffer when our hard earned takings for the day are all donated to them!