Sunday, May 14, 2006

Wesak Day 2006

So I was heading to a jungle somewhere in Gerik, Perak on Wesak Day morning. Not having to drive, I get to sleep and recover from the 3+ hours sleep the night (technically morning) before. Went drinking with my colleagues and mabuk a little bit while my brother was waiting for me at home to head to my aunt place at a border town in Perak. Reached home at almost 2am. I had told him earlier that I will be late. Pack my cloth, yes in a state of a little high I manage to leave out an extra short, and my cap (for the golfing, the day after Wesak Day) and my brother drove us to aunty place.

Back to my Wesak Day visit to a small temple in a jungle somewhere in Gerik. I was going there with all the cousins (who are working and staying in Klang Valley). We all gathered at my aunt house, and after all the huhaa of taking turn to take bath in limited bathrooms, we took off at 7:30am, 30 mins late from the planned iternary. You don't have to be a math genius to know that we are going to be late for the rendezvous with my uncle in Gerik. He came all the way from Kelantan.

Being the "releks" nephews we are, we managed to make the monk (as was told later) to wait for my uncle for at least 15 mins, before he decide to give up and start the prayer without waiting for my uncle to arrive.

Yeah, we stopped for breakie in Bidor and had another stopped at the north south highway R&R (I can't remember exactly where, I think somewhere after Tapah and before Ipoh) for a cousin to make big business. All in all, we were late for almost 45 mins and by the time we arrived at the little temple (actually more like a small hut), the prayer session has almost came to an end.

When we arrived at the rendezvous point, we asked our grandma to get into our car. Actually that's the main reason we went to the temple. Not so much for the prayer, but to meet with grandma. Grandma has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's few years back. With grandma away from home, it mean our eldest aunty, who is taking care of her during day time, can truly have a public holiday on this Wesak Day and have some rest.

Grandma was seated between me and another cousin in the middle row seat on the MPV. Her first comment was about my small ear. "Mmm... small ear, this boy is surely very brave." and as usual the rest of the cousins will start to make noise, as we always do whenever she make any "nice" comment about me or any other cousin.

She can't recognised all of us, and sometimes mistaken us for her grown up sons and daugthers (our parents and moms). During the early period when she was first diagnosed with the disease, one of the story that she made up and told the rest of the family member (hallucination is one of the sympton of this disease) I phoned her and "reported" to her that our not so youngest uncle (her favourite and still single) being "disturbed" by the malay chicks. Being the grandson who call back the least and go back the least, most of the cousin will make fun of me everytime this story is brought up. The same story was being brought up when grandma commented about my ear that morning, and I sort of expected it.

Anyway, grandma seated next to me and put her arm around my shoulder. Just like a friend, my brother commented later. I guess she don't even know where she was heading to and where is she at that time, but I am surely glad that I get the oppurtunity to spend some time with her, even for few hours.

The temple is situated pretty deep in the jungle, about 30km away from Gerik town. We took a small one lane tar road into the small siamese village. It's a peaceful and nice place. I didn't expect to see so many visitor there that morning. On rough estimation, there was at least 20 cars (maybe more) parked fully packed in the small clearing at the temple limited compound when we arrived. Mostly Kelantan and Penang cars.

After the prayer, we had our lunch from the meals that was brought over by devotees. Easily 60 of us, and the small temple was overflowed and few of us late comers have to seat on the ground outside the small wooden temple. I prayed for SCB too.

The chief monk is a meditation (vipasana) monk, who earlier had a temple in a small jungle somewhere in Kelantan. There are a couple of cave around this new temple which is very suitable for meditation. I heard that the caves is protected by some spirits.

There was a lay person who went to meditate there one night, and while meditating had the urge to have leak. Being late at night and dark all over, he'd decided to just take leak at a rock within the cave. Then he got back to the rock where he meditate earlier. The moment he start meditating, the rock he was sitting on was being shaken voilently by unseen force. There after he was unable to pee, until he went to see the chief monk, who chanted the metta (loving kindness) prayer and "restore" his ability to pee. My uncle advise us to be respectful when we went into the caves.

We head to the cave after we took the meal. The first cave had some of it's stalamites decorated into some stupas. There was two opening to the cave, and within the cave there was a small cavities where we can climb in. The monk and visitor goes there to meditate.

Then we head for the second cave which is about 1km from the first cave, and the climb up to the cave opening is pretty steep. As steep as the climb I had in Mt. Kinabalu last month, but fortunately it was just a short distance.

This second cave was about triple the size of the first cave. It's deeper too. We had to walk in with torch or it will be too dark at the end of the cave. We sort of turn off all the torch when we were at the deep end of the cave, just to have a feel of being in the dark. We were surounded by complete darkness.

After washing our foot and hand in the chilling and nice water in the stream, we went back to the temple, where grandma was left with my aunty in-law. Initially we had decided to leave the temple together with my uncle and some of his friends and their family. But after waiting for no end for them to take bath and refresh, we decided to leave first and wait for them in Gerik town.

While waiting and before decided to leave, we spend sometime with grandma.

Grandma: When will you be going back? You are not going back today ain't you?
Me: We will be going back today. Later.
Grandma: Since when you come back? Have you go back to your parent house?
Me: We don't planned to go back to hometown. We are just here to see you.
Grandma: Oh ya? How do you know I am comming here?
Me: Uncle told us he will bring you here today, that's why we come here to meet you.
Grandma: Oh!

After five minutes.....

Grandma: When will you guys be going back?
Me: Today. We will go back later.
Grandma: Have you return to your parent house?
Me: No. We are here to see you only.
Grandma: so fast?

And this exact conversations were repeat for at least five times within that one hour. Then grandma mistaken my uncle friends car for my uncle car, and walk toward the car. When my cousin caught up with her asked her what is she looking for. She said she is looking for her money. Why? "What for?" my cousin asked her. She said she wanted to give some money to me. When she couldn't get the money, she walked to me try to give the few bucks she had in her pocket to me. I told her we had all started working and earning our own wage and politely turn down her money.

I guess she still remember us as college/univ going kids many years back. When everytime we went back hometown to visit her, and she will passed us some pocket money. This is a typical condition of a Alzheimer's patient. They tend to recall old memories, and thought that it's just happened very recently.

So while the rest of the people was taking their sweet time to refresh (take bath) at the temple, we left for Gerik town, first to refuel as we realised that the car fuel was very low when we are arriving the temple earlier.

By right, we can go back by ourselves. But my uncle and his friend said we want to go out together as we all planned to visit Luang Phor Thuad's shrine in a small kampung (village) called Kg. Kuala Kenering. It's is somewhere between Gerik and Lengong town. So my uncle and friends actually will have to detour from the route back to Kelantan to go to this place. This monk is a very famous for his amulets I have been carrying on of his amulet since I was in high school, passed down to me by my dad and easily the amulet is older than my age as my dad got it from a monk when he was still young and single. That's easily more than 30 years.

As we were coming out from the small road onto the main road, it started to rain cat and dog. I was fast asleep on my seat all the way to Gerik town. After refuel, we decided to head to one of the mamak to have roti canai and other food while waiting for uncle and the rest to arrive. It was still raining cat and dog. When they finally arrived at the town to refuel, we had ordered our meal and still waiting for it to be ready. So we told them to go ahead first, and we will catch up with them after the meal. Only few minutes later we received call from them, saying they had decided to scrap the plan as it was raining cat and dog and will head back to east west highway toward Kelantan. So we had our snack meal and head back to my aunty place 4 hours away.

In the car, I told the cousins we will scrap the plan to visit the shrine if the rain didn't stop. The place was like about 10km away from Gerik town. When we were finally there, the place was so dry with no sign of rain at all. The sky is dark, yet it only started to dizzle a little bit as we get down from the car.

We'd never been to that place, and were finding our way around based on the hand drawn map given by my uncle to my brother. When we turn into the tiny village with few kampung houses, we sort of thinking that we might had got into a wrong place. As that is a malay kampung. Then my cousin saw a small hut by the riverside, and we decided to stop the car and walk in and had a look.

There were two stupas about one meter aways from the edge of the water. One look pretty new, and the other one which is nearer to the river look older. There is a yellow plastic board on the fence of the chandi, but the sticker wording on it has mostly gone and only word we can read was of Luang Phor Thuad name. So that's the chandi that we had been looking for. And as if the he is welcoming us there by preventing the rain from falling when we arrived.

We had with us some jossstick, yet no of us is smoker so no lighter. And again luck is with us, when there is a pakcik fishing there and had a lighter with him. We borrowed the lighter from him, lighted the scented jossstick and made our prayer. I was given the honour to light the joss stick and start the prayer. I guess not many people knew about Luang Phor Thuad shrine in this place, as most will expect his shrine to be in Thailand like his famous Chang Hai temple.

His year of passing is carved on the candi, but I can't remember the exact year. It's was in 17th century (year 16xx). The meditation monk we whose temple we visited earlier came here before to confirm that this shrine really belong to Luang Phor Thuad, and he is certain that this shrine really belong to Luang Phor Thuad. While the location may seems pretty unlikely now, yet if we were trace back the history toward 17th century, the northern part of penisular malaysia was under influent and administration of Thai Kingdom. So it's pretty logical. From most of the story I came across about Luang Phor Thuad, there is little mentioned on where and when did his passed away. Being far south of the Thai Kingdom, and with little mean of communication at that time, this maybe the reason why not many people know about his passing away's time and location.

From the little conversation we had with the pakcik who is fishing there, occasionally there are tourists come all the way from Thailand to visit the shrine. We can't ascertain whos chandi the new one belong to. My uncle said he can only very little of the thai character carved on the new candi, not enough for him to know who's ashes it contains, when my cousin called him later.

As the sky was getting dark, we left the place and head back home. Five kilometers ahead, it rains cat and dog all over again. We would like to think that, the only reason the small kampung was so dry and doesn not rain, while the surounding areas was raining cat and dog, as a sign Luang Phor Thuad was expecting our visit and welcoming us there.