On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Eight Chinese New Year posers

It’s eight because the number 8 is auspicious for the CNY, it rhymes with fatt or prosperity in Cantonese, and it is a favourite number of the community.

THE Chinese New Year celebrations are just days away. Amidst the festivities, there are still some things that remain a mystery to us. Here are eight points worth pondering upon as we head home for the reunion dinner.

One: Kuih bakul aka ning gao (Cantonese) aka tni kuih (Hokkien) aka nien kao (Mandarin) is a traditional Chinese New Year delicacy but I am finding it hard to swallow the folklore that it is actually used to ensure a good report from the Kitchen God!

The story is that this sweet sticky rice cake must be offered to the Kitchen God before the CNY so that his mouth is full of sticky cake, and he is thus unable to say negative things about the family. In short, we get to bribe the Kitchen God before he hands over his annual report to the Jade Emperor! This is a serious offence, man!

Actually, I like the kuih bakul steamed and covered with grated coconut for dessert but I shudder at the thought that we can use this delicacy to bribe a Chinese God. Hello, are you serious? Get out of here! It sounds bizarre.

Can you imagine this line, “Tuan, macam nama mau selesai? Boleh kasi kuih bakul settle kah?” Or try using this line to a bigwig official with powers to approve a contract, “Boss, can we do a deal, can I sweeten your mouth with kuih bakul?”

Two: There is an indefinite ban on fire crackers. No compromise. The authorities will not tolerate any attempt to smuggle in such fireworks. We will leave no stone unturned in our move to ensure a safe Chinese New Year: That’s how cops talk or that’s how reporters make them sound. Memang dilarang!

But I can never understand why, on the first day of CNY and on the eighth night – which is when the Hokkiens prepare to celebrate the Jade Emperor’s birthday on the ninth day (or pai thi kong) – the whole of Penang and Klang, these self-declared Hokkien nations, end up louder than the whole of Syria under fire.

I mean where did all this “fire power” come from? We all thought that the authorities and their tiada kompromi (no compromise) statements will ensure that such dangerous explosives cannot be brought in. Maybe both these towns, being port cities, find it easier to get these fireworks.

Three: I have booked my tickets for a short holiday. I am choosing the Japanese city of Hokkaido for a badly needed rest. There is only so much politics that a Malaysian can take. I have to fill up my forms carefully. Got to make sure I am not denied entry for no good reason.

Got to make sure I don’t get myself mixed up over “intention of visit” when filling in the disembarkation form. You never know, we sometimes get confused with melawat and meliwat. So I’d better be sure.

Four: There was a time when I would look forward to CNY movies from Hong Kong. They were usually movies that made you happy and cheerful. It’s CNY, after all. I used to look forward to the movies by Sam Hui and his brothers, Michael and Ricky. Then there were action movies by Jackie Chan but with a twist of humour. They were always released during CNY.

But this year, it looks like the movie we should all be watching is The Wolf of Wall Street. That’s a howler! Hey, its lead star Leonardo DiCaprio did take home the award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy at the 71st Golden Globe Awards but it’s not known yet whether the censorship board here will allow the film to be shown in our cinemas. If not, Malaysians will just have to go to their usual joints at Petaling Street or elsewhere to look for a copy.

Five: For some strange reasons, the price of oranges goes up every year. The distributors will blame it on the weather and transportation costs. Wonder who they will blame this time and still get away with it. In Singapore, they usually blame the weather, whether it is the drought or the terrible winter in parts where the mandarin oranges come from.

In Malaysia, we are usually more creative. The Government is blamed for just about every­thing, even when Manchester United loses. MU kalah lagi? Sial betoi, ini semua hal gomen lah! Takda direction, bro!

Six: Kangkung will never be an issue for CNY. Stay calm. Relax. It is not an essential item as far as CNY cooking is concerned. So the PM can be assured that he would not be a target of creative jokes during the CNY reunio­n dinner. But we may still talk about how creative Malaysians are. So talented one! So funny one!

So there is no need for Perkasa to get jumpy and overreact. Perkasa reportedly said the kangkung furore can lead to racial clashes similar to May 13. Duh.

Are they saying we will go down in Malaysian history, where students will have to learn from their history books, that we clobbered each other over kangkung? I repeat, over kangkung? That’s a big duh!

Seven: For some strange reasons, the rubbish collectors and council workers will show up at the right time during CNY. They seem so visible during the festive season, even if it’s a public holiday. Maybe it’s because I leave the house too early and come back too late to see them at work on other days. The rubbish is collected regularly after all. But I am sure they know my presence during CNY. Okay, I am getting the ang pow ready. I get the hint.

Eight: I am not sure whether it’s a Chinese excuse but from young, there have been older relatives who reminded me if I wanted to be good in Maths, I must learn to gamble. It will be good for speed and mental arithmetic. Others also told me that if I do not wish to be senile, lose my memory and end up sufferin­g from Alzheimer’s Disease, I must take up mahjong.

I didn’t take their advice. My parents imposed a total ban on gambling in the household. But these Chinese-educated relatives of mine are good at Maths. I am not sure if they have elephant’s memory but, for sure, they have selective memory.

The many non-gambling friends seem to have gone on into journalism, advertising and law while a few have become politicians, with guaranteed selective memory. Oh? Saya ada buat janji ke? Janji ditepati, apa tu?

There are eight points for this article because the number 8 is auspicious for the CNY. Eight rhymes with fatt or prosperity in Cantonese and is a favourite number of the community. In any case, I could only come up with eight points this time.