It is Chinese New Year. After a trying drive through the choked artery that is the Federal Highway, Uncle Chong arrives at his parents’ place where the dogs are yappy and the squirrels, squirrely. His nieces and nephews happily tear after each other with pinwheels clicking softly amidst the shrieks of joy from the young children. In the background, the stacatto shuffle and clack of Mah Jong tiles act as accompanying bass to the orchestra of happiness which complements the idyllic picture of the kampong house on stilts to ward off the September floods. Chickens chase amongst the legs of the house and the children alike, all seemingly in a conspiracy to set the scene just so, perchance that Lat, in happening by, may be moved to immortalise this scene of perfect happiness in one of his works.
After a pleasant reunion dinner of hearty laughs and ropy Yee Sang, the children gather expectantly around the dining table for their Ang Pow. Uncle Chong gives little Jia her red packet. Smiling, she reaches out with both hands and nods enthusiastically as the red packet rasps against Uncle Chong’s calloused hands in it’s leaving. But just as she was to run off richer to chase the dog, he grabs her by the shoulder, spins her around, and gives her a slap across the chops before snatching back the Ang Pow. She is in tears, startled at the unprovoked attack.
Hard lessons in life kiddo. What comes easily can just as easily be taken away, and more often than not, it will be a painful parting and without warning. Remember this. Welcome to the real world. This lesson is more valuable than the money in the red packet that I just took from you. You will understand my meaning when you grow up.
And with that, Uncle Chong grinned and patted little Jia on the head, who now, looking confused (and a little frightened) backs away until she is out of reach before taking off with all speed, pigtails flapping. Of course, Uncle Chong blagged his way through what could have been an embarrassing faux pas. The kiam siap bastard willfully forgot to put any money in the Ang Pow and continued in like fashion throughout the evening, the adults about the table thinking him wise and benevolent, and the children, scarred forever from the kindness of kin and left none the wiser for the lessons in parting.
Farhan Read is generally happy with life and his two kucing kampung, Belle and Jew.
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