April 19, 2010

Satu dua tiga empat ?

Many Chinese in Malaysia are obsessed with number games and bets. For three days a week, they patiently queue up at gaming outlets to ‘mai chee” (betting on numbers in Cantonese). There are several number games and bets in the country. The nickname given to the 3 big gaming companies is “KTM” … not the popular one known as Kereta Tanah Melayu. This KTM stands for Kuda, Toto and Magnum.

People bet on all sorts of numbers … their car registration, ID Cards, birth certificates, receipts … you name it, as long as there are numbers on it, they will bet on them hoping to strike it big. When they run out of numbers to bet, they have all sorts of ways from all sorts of places to find numbers that they hope will win them big money.

The common practice we always see are people shaking out pieces of papers (written with the numbers 0 to 9) from a container. They do this in temples, graves or at their ancestor’s shrine at home hoping that the gods or their dead loved ones will bless them with winning numbers. Some wrote numbers on red coloured hard boiled eggs during birthdays or special days, so that the person celebrating can pick out a set of numbers with their eyes closed. They believe that the person celebrating birthdays or special days possessed great luck. There are those who are always looking at things and listening to sounds. They claimed to be able to interpret things they saw or heard into numbers. Whether it is the shape of the clouds or the smoke swirls from burning joss sticks or the sounds of animal, they can find numbers in them. And those who don’t want too much hassle can conveniently obtain a “lucky number” via SMS ... there are outfits that provide this service for a nominal fee.

Others use extreme method to get to what they wanted. Have you heard about people seeking out graves of those who died recently and knock a hollow bamboo into the grave to pour dog’s blood in it? The belief is that the blood will cause serious discomfort to the dead in the grave and force the poor soul (believed to have the ability to predict winning numbers) to disclose the winning numbers or else more blood will be poured in. Is it true? I don’t think so but it is sadistically cruel. I have not heard of anyone striking it rich this way but my dad once told me a rather funny story about a guy (a chronic gambler) who actually went to a grave to carry out the evil bamboo and dog’s blood ritual. While he was doing it, he felt someone (or rather something) was pulling his pants. When he tried to run, he was held back. He was so frightened that he fainted on the spot.

Then the next morning his friends went searching for him and found him lying unconscious at the grave. They soon find out that while he was trying to knock the bamboo into the grave, he was so scared that he closed his eyes and did not see that his long pants was caught on the bamboo. While he was knocking the bamboo, his pants were being pulled into the ground. He must have thought something was pulling his leg and holding him back when he tried to run away. I thought you can only see this in ghost movies and comedies.

I remember another story that happened in my “kampung” (village). A lady who was found in trance in front of a “Latuk Kung” shrine (Latuk Kung is a deity that the Chinese worshiped believing that it will protect them from evil and keep their place safe). Someone said it could be the “Latuk Kung” that possessed her. Strange as it is, she began to mumble in Malay about how dirty the shrine was and needed to be cleaned and also ask to be given water to drink. Someone took the opportunity to ask if she can provide winning numbers for the coming draw. Immediately she shouted out loud in Malay “satu dua tiga empat” (meaning one two three four). Everyone present heard it loud and clear and was in a mixed reaction whether to believe or not … hey come on, one two three four? Sounds like someone wanted to pull a fast one. Anyway, after a while the lady regained consciousness but she could not remember a thing when told what had happened to her. Almost everyone who knew or heard of the incident placed high bets on the four numbers “1234” on the following draw.

Then when the result was announced, all were disappointed. The first prize number was “2444”. Everybody was cursing and swearing … then someone actually realised that the lady has given the correct first prize number. Huh? You see, when she said “satu dua tiga empat” she did not mean the straight forward “1234”. What she meant was ‘satu dua” and “tiga empat” … in other words, she meant one “two” and three “fours” … meaning one numeral “2” and three numerals “4”… so she actually meant “2444”. Everyone was stunned, nobody figured that out earlier. It was a “talk of the village” for a long time. Even until now, some of the old folks staying in the same place still remember that incident.

Do you bet on numbers? You want the winning numbers for the next draw? I suddenly feel that lady luck is standing beside me now … and I think I heard she said “tiga lima satu lapan” … so you figure it out ok?