White is the colour of peace, and purity. I belonged to a Christian Brother’s school, right through my school life. The men in white , Christian brothers in their flowing white robes were predominantly white men. Br Michael was affectionately nicknamed Lao Haw, the tiger. I still don’t understand how a tiger can be affectionate. He prowled the school compound with zest and urgent determination. Boys would panic and scatter like wounded gazelles the instant we heard his name being uttered. Lao Haw! Lao Haw! Those with hair long enough that touched their collars were relentlessly hunted down. Lao Haw’s gait was supremely effortless, that of a white tiger out-running a lost baby gazelle. His white robe hid the long strides of his powerful legs, and more sinisterly the long white sleeves hid a well used bamboo cane. The hunt swiftly ends with the vicious swish of the cane on some pitiful boy’s buttocks. RIP, Lao Haw, you’re much respected and loved. Sorry I quit your school orchestra.
One afternoon whilst playing “achiloke”, a cop and robber game, I almost ran into the little office adjacent to the school tuck shop. An older boy hurriedly took me to one side and cautioned me never to venture into that room. He said: teacher will make you sit on his lap, and sometimes he will take your shorts off. Men in white…. be careful people, some do bite.
I have fond memories of another man in white. Tan-pek was always in his impeccably ironed white shirt and matching white trousers. A dapper man, with pure white hair, white strong eyebrows, sparse and long white beard, and I think white fluffy ear hair too. He would be easily cast as the Shou of the Fu Lu Shou, if he held a staff and a gourd containing the elixir of life. The God of Longevity lived up to his legend, for me at least. I was no more than 11 or 12 when during the month of the hungry ghosts, I woke up early one morning and in a trance-like manner, went cycling in the cul-de-sac outside my house. Instead of cycling, something told me to sit on my bike and be as stationery for as long as possible. Suddenly gravity took over and I hit the ground, with the middle of my head. For about 7 days I was bed ridden, feverish and lost all appetite. My world started spinning, and as the days past, the spinning got faster and faster until I had to grab the sides of my bed to avoid falling off it. The wound on my head wasn’t visible to me but it scared me when I felt it with my index finger. Softer than tofu, its texture was more like tao fu fah or tao huay. My mum’s frantic visits to the Sinsehs were in vain. Bitter herbs mixed with bitter powder, nothing relieved me of the vertigo-like symptoms. In desperation, my mum flagged down Tan-pek who was on his way back to his work from lunch. He didn’t even look at the patient, listened intently at my mum’s report of my injury with a grave look and gave her his script, told her I would need to complete three dosages to be fully cured. Three bowls of that! I couldn’t, I simply couldn’t, but I did finish two in two days. The infrequent tremors in my brain today do give me some regret in not taking that third dosage.
The non-FDA concoction consisted of: one baby mud crab, its shell must still be soft. One small rice bowl of a young boy’s fresh warm urine, whose better than my own? Pound live baby crab, slowly add warm urine to the paste until it is of a porridge consistency.
Directions: consume above crab gruel completely, do not waste any, scrape any leftovers that could be stuck to the bowl. Crushing a live crab was cruel, eat it all, guts, eyes, shell, the lot, don’t waste a life.
To this day, I believe this man in white saved my life. I wish I got to hug him and thank him for being my God of Longevity. Thank you Tan-pek. I hope you aren’t too disappointed with the urghhling you saved.