Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Poem.

I can still recall when I was about 7 or 8 years old when someone from the family taught me that ridiculous Hokkien poem (or song) about Chap Goh Meh that still leaves me wondering what it actually means till today. Though, I've got a certain inkling that ko mak (the eldest paternal aunt) and amah were the ones responsible for passing down the tradition teaching me the poem. Hmm... I think I'm right. Could still remember ko mak hugging me in her arms while saying that poem to me and amah happily answering the next line that I forgot when I tried saying it myself. The poem goes something like this.

Chap Goh Meh
Chia li kuwa lai chiak teh
Teh sio sio
Kia lo beh kin chio
Kin chio beh ki pek
Kia lo beh chet
Chet beh ki tak
Kia lo beh o bak
Bak beh ki bua
Kia lo beh chua
Chua beh ki liak
Kia lo beh ka kiak
Ka kiak beh ki cheng
Kia lo beh ka leng

Ka leng po
Ka leng soh
Chia lu lai chit toh
Chit toh hami
Chit toh hia
Chiak kam chia
Kam chia ti
Chiak leng chi
Leng chi pong
Chiak tom bong
Tom bong pek
(name here) chiak kelengna tek tek!

Yeap, that's the Hokkien version of it, badly written by me. If you by anyhow know the dialect, there might be a possibility that you can follow what I've written and if you're a real Hokkien (like your ancestors are one of those imported China workers during the British Settlement) you probably know how this sounds already. It used to crack me up when someone recited this for me when I was a child eventhough, I barely know what it meant then. Not much different now also. Anyways, the poem was suppose to end with someone's name being said to "eat Indian nipples" (that's what the last line means). No offence to the Indians but I wasn't the one who created this ridiculous poem. I don't know where it came from either. I also don't know if there's an actual meaning behind all these and was never actually bothered to ask amah about it. Probably forgotten if I had asked. Though, I do know it's direct translation! =P

I'm not sure if this whole poem was made especially for recitation during the 15th day of the Chinese New Year or if it was made up for children to tease each other (something like Ronald McDonald or Scissors Paper Stones, you know?). I suppose it was the latter. Well, my interest for it stopped when I was always beaten by Grace to the last line. Each of us will always try to finish the last line first, saying the other person's name. I never won and I cried every single time she made fun of me, leaving me with the horrific image of a shirtless, bearded, fat Indian man with a set of yellow teeth and sarong, waiting for me to suck his tits as he laughs evil-ly! Seriously. I cried and sulk every single time the stupid phrase made me think of that fat pervetic Indian man. So I stopped reciting it but was occasionally reminded about it over the years.

But somethings just won't go away.

Recently, dad decided to pass down the tradition teach Edmund that incredulous thing. Like me, he was hyped up about the poem and started memorising it the moment it reached his ears. At first, it brought back old memories about me when I was young and was constantly repeating the same thing. I even joined Edmund and dad when they were reciting it in the car, laughing all the way. Believe me when I say it didn't take too long for me to get irritated about it. I was keen on getting on Edmund's nerves this time (after all those times Grace teased me to tears), racing him to the last line. Unfortunately, people like him are not bugged by haunting images of an Indian man's nipples. It doesn't affect him at all. In fact, he sees it all as just a poem recital with little meaning - or we could blame it on his poor Hokkien that he doesn't understand a single bit of the entire poem! He just holds his stomach, keel over and laugh insanely whenever he gets to the bottom of the poem.

Instead of sulking and crying over it, he backfires it on me. Most of the time, it's impossible for him to race me to the end of the poem without him cutting off the entire second part of the poem and screaming the last line. When he can't do it, he waits till I finish and after his maniac laughter, he'll repeat the stupid last line with my name on it endlessly! He just goes, "Matthew chiak kelengna tek tek!" for about the eumpteenth time before he stops in exhaustion! It's rather annoying when that happens. Still, I'm less bothered by it now compared to the time when I was 8. It doesn't make me that depress anymore to think of that Indian man's image. Doesn't change the fact that I'm irritated by it!

Currently, I have to endure this stupid thing for mostly every night when I put Edmund to bed. He just repeats the poem last line over and over again until he falls asleep. It's really awful to hear but I'm numb already. The poem doesn't make alot of sense either way - literally or metaphorically. I mean, to play with ants (Chit toh hia)? C'mon this is really ridiculous. Given it's audacity, there's still no telling if I'm going to pass down the tradition to my offsprings in the future. It's nice when you think of it as a tradition of some sort but highly distasteful when the fat Indian man draws closer to you with out-stretched arms! Yeee!

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