The Mysterious Hindu Priest
I am Chinese; an Apek , if you will. The young call me Apek as a form of respect. Apek means uncle in Chinese.
A friend recommended that I write this letter to you, for you feature many such stories. My English is bad because I am not English educated, so I write to you in broken Malay. I hope that you will translate my story into English and publish it.
Retired and bored, my friend and I meet daily at a coffee shop near Yio Chu Kang. We like slouching comfortably on the cheap plastic coffee shop chairs while resting our feet up on other chairs. Sometimes, the soles of our feet would face a Hindu Temple just next to the coffee shop.
One evening as usual, we were sitting at our spot, and the soles of our feet were facing the Hindu temple. Suddenly, appearing from nowhere was a frail old Indian man standing by our side. He was really skinny and he had three lines made with ash running across his forehead. He looked really scary; I was shocked to see him suddenly appearing from nowhere. I looked at him from head to toe with a grimace on my face. Not only was I startled by his appearance, I was annoyed that he dared to stand so close to us. He was so old and weak that his right arm was shivering holding a cane that was supporting his weight.
I guess my stare had made him a little nervous; he clasp his dhoti[white sarong] and started to walk away. As he walked, he turned back and glared at us. I was furious, so I scolded him.
"Apa? "(What?) I said coarsely in Malay to him.
He glared harder at me. His already dark face turned even darker. He turned to look at the Temple, and then he faced me again and pointed with his chin at my elevated feet.
"Itu kaki bawah taroh! " (Put your legs down!) he ordered us with a hoarse, airy voice.
"Who the hell is this man to tell me what to do?" I grumbled in Chinese as I stood up. "Wah! Lu mau cari galoh ah?"(You looking for trouble?) I said angrily in my limited Malay.
As I towered almost a foot above him, he backed away. He cursed at me before turning to walk towards the temple. I sat back down and faced my friend.
Ah Kau, laughed but reprimanded me. "Why you want to scare old man like that?" Ah Kau said as he turned his face towards the temple. "Eh! Where he go, ah?" Ah Kau's face turned red; he is quite a superstitious man, this Ak Kau.
I began to wonder too, for there was nowhere the old man could have gone besides straight on; the five-foot way he was walking led nowhere else but to the temple. And the temple was at least 70 meters away. The Old Indian man with his cane was shuffling very slowly. It was impossible for him to have reached the temple. He had vanished into thin air!
Ah Kau and I exchanged glances. Beads of perspiration began to form on my forehead. I began to feel tiny cold prickles all over my skin. I looked at Ak Kau and saw that his face had become white as paper. Then the air around us suddenly turned cold-—I mean freezing cold! Quickly, we slipped on our foam slippers and got the hell out of there.
That night, I could not sleep. The old Indian man kept creeping into my head. I tossed and turned so many times that I finally sat up at the edge of my bed and began to cry—literally. "Why do you haunt me? Whatever I said to you, I take back. Please forgive me and leave me alone."
Strangely, after saying that I felt dizzy, so lay down. I fell asleep immediately.
The next morning, I called Ah Kau and invited him to the coffee shop for breakfast.
"What? You still want to go to the coffee shop?" Ah Kau's voice went up a pitch.
"Don't worry, nothing will happen." I felt confident and cheery.
Instead of heading straight for our chairs at the coffee shop, I went to take a closer look at the Hindu temple. I stood at the temple gate and peered in.
Ah Kau was confused at my action. "Oi, what are you doing? You okay or not?" he said in Hokkien. I could tell he was worried and wanted to be as far away as possible from the temple.
"It's so peaceful inside," I said, looking at the colourful stone statues of the Indian deities. Then, I felt my hand going up and my finger pointing at one of the statues. "Look, that is Hanuman. And there, that is Krishna. That one is Kali. Oh she is the one you don't ever want to mess around with."
Ah Kau looked at me with a deep furrow forming between his eyebrows. "How you know all this?"
I don't know how I knew the names of the deities, but I just knew. Without thinking or saying another word, I removed my slippers and stepped onto the temple ground.
"Hey Lim, Are you sure or not?" Ah Kau grabbed my shoulder to stop me from entering the temple ground.
I shrugged his hand off my shoulder and I walked on. Reluctantly, Ah Kau removed his slippers and followed behind. We walked around the temple looking at all the marvelous figurines.
Suddenly, Ah Kau grabbed my right arm and pointed to the front. "Look! That's the old man we saw yesterday!"
Our eyes enlarged instantly and our jaws fell open. It was a glossy statue of a pious devotee worshipping one of the many Hindu gods.
"Oh god, you are right, Ah Kau." My voice was barely audible. Then, I walked over to the statue and looked at it more carefully. It seemed to stare at me too, as if alive.
"Whatever I said to you yesterday, I didn't mean. Please forgive me." I bowed before the black statue.
Ah Kau was unsure and uncomfortable, but I saw him bow too. Then, when we looked up, the statue was no longer a statue-—it was alive! I nearly screamed my head off. I staggered back and crashed into Ah Kau, who had become frozen in shock.
Strangely though, my fear dissipated almost immediately. I began to feel a sudden calm overcoming me. I looked at the old man and smiled.
Without saying anything, the old man, who we now know is a priest, dabbed his thumb into the palm of his other hand and smeared white ash on my forehead. He did the same to Ah Kau. With palms together in a praying gesture, we bowed and thanked him. He smiled, turned around, and walked away.
This story may be hard to believe but I swear it's true. From that day onwards, Ah Kau and I have become unofficially Hindus. We go to the temple every morning before taking our breakfast at the coffee shop.
We have, of course, stopped putting our feet up on the chairs. Frankly, we feel great, and our wives too notice our difference. They say we treat them better. How? I am not quite sure. Maybe because I stopped spending money on 4D. Hehe.
Oh, before I forget, the old priest is nowhere to be found. Even the statue of him we saw is no longer there. Don't ask me how. I too am boggled.