The Rice That Never Cook

In the old days of the 50-60s era, many people were still very much pan tang (taboo in malay), even for the modernised, cultured peranakans. This incident happened way before I was born and when my grandmother was still a young maiden. This was what she heard from a relative.

Apparently, someone in our extended family had passed away and as usual, there should be no celebrations of any sort for the next 1yr ( or was it 100 days? This I am unsure of) as a respect to the dead. No festival celebrations, no weddings, etc… However, the daughter-in-law of the deceased was a modern and practical woman. The bak chang (Dumplings) festival was round the corner and she didn’t believed in the traditional taboos. A lot of disagreement and argument carried on and in the end, the mother-in-law gave up hope of talking the daughter-in-law round. Prior to a few days before the Dumpling Festival, the daughter-in-law had bought the necessities needed to make the bak changs and went about to prepare it. The main and most important procedure is to have the seasoned rice cooked first before it could be used to fill up the banana leaves. The daughter-in-law washed and seasoned the rice as it should be and left it to cook in the cooker pot. By right, a large pot of rice wouldn’t take an hour to be done but not in this case this time. A few more hours was waited and still, the rice failed to cook. The cooker’s fire was on and burning endlessly, the water boiled but there was no sign of a single grain cooked to even half the desired done-ness. The daughter-in-law had put the rice to be cooked on the stove early in the morning and dinner time, it was still uncooked! Thats an estimated 8 over hours at least.

Now, this unexplainable, freaky incident had already struck fear in the girl that her mother-in-law’s words might very well be true. Her husband rang his mother up and told her all about it. The old lady came down that night, peered into the cooker pot, shook her head and said:

” I told you right? You never want to listen to me. Now you have angered your father-in-law. The fact that your rice never cooked is a sign that he is very angry for your disrespect. Turn off the fire now. Go to the altar, light some joss sticks and ask for forgiveness. Tommorow I want you to accompany me to the temple and give further prayers and offerings.”

The daughter-in-law did as she was told and never ever anymore did she became a skeptic in any traditional superstitions.

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