Our Former Shop At No. 67 Pagoda Street
Burning Joss Papers
Life Savings Up In Smoke – An Anti-Climax
Years ago the Wong family who lived on the 3rd storey of our shophouse at No. 67, Pagoda Street, was removing to a new HDB flat. It was an occasion to be celebrated. The family got the help of a few friends to help move their various heavy items such as beds, wardrobe etc onto a lorry to send to their new home.
As was customary, before driving off, the family lit joss sticks and burn a huge pile of joss paper to inform their Wong ancestors of the removal to their new house. Then the whole family and some of the helpers excitedly jumped onto the lorry for the ride to the new house.
What a happy occasion! After spending years living in a single room in Chinatown , the family was finally able to rent a brand new 3-room HDB flat in Bukit Merah. It was a new milestone for the Wong family.
When the lorry stopped in front of the HDB block, everyone disembarked and ran to help carry things up the new flat. Suddenly, Mother Wong screamed and turned pale. No, she was not having a heart attack nor was she hyper-ventilating from all the excitement around. Struggling between breathes, she managed to tell her sons, that she could not find her self-sewn body belt which contained more than a $1,000/- . It was her life savings from years of scrimping.
To prepare for their house removal, resourceful Mother Wong sewed a body- belt to keep her life-savings by wearing it on her body. She also carried a family deity inside the belt.
Just as they were about to leave, Mother Wong felt a need to pee. As her body-belt had a deity in addition to her life-savings, she felt it would be disrespectful to bring the deity into the toilet with her. So, she removed her body-belt and hid it under a pile of joss paper which was lying nearby. After her toilet break, she hurried up the lorry and totally forgot about her body-belt. Her daughter-in-law not knowing that there was “hidden treasures” under the pile of joss papers, picked it up and set it alight as they bade farewell to their old home.
Immediately, the Wong sons, they requested the lorry driver to drive back to Pagoda Street as quickly as possible, without unloading anything.
Back in Pagoda Street, the family members and every one on the lorry looked in shock to see that the pile of burning joss papers had been removed by the road sweeper after it had burnt through.
Mother Wong and her daughter-in-law burst into tears and wept uncontrollably. The Wong sons just shook their heads in disbelief.
What an anti-climax to a happy occasion?