There's always the Hungry Ghost festival that some of us Chinese get immersed into every year. Not me nor anyone in my immediate family. We don't go out to pray to the God of Hades who orders the Gates of Hell thrown open every seventh month of the Chinese calendar. But to be on the safe side - there's never a better time for us to be careful - we don't go around and do reckless things after dark. After all, we don't want to bump into unknown things in the dark. No, no....better be safe than sorry.
This year, the Hungry Ghost festival runs for 30 days from 20 Aug until 18 Sep. I do note that Bukit Mertajam people can be very religious and superstitious, and the 24-foot effigy of the God of Hades at the Tua Pek Kong temple in the middle of the old town is among the biggest, most hideous and most ferocious in the country. As usual, the bigger the better, the more hideous the better and the more ferocious the better for all believers and worshippers. That's Malaysiana for us.
Talking about the Hungry Ghost festival, a mysterious festival passed us by here in Penang almost unnoticed: the Permatang Pasir Phantom Police Phestival. Yes, this mini-festival was celebrated for only nine days from 17 Aug until 25 Aug exclusively by the people of Permatang Pasir and was joined in by their relatives, friends and curious visitors. But it was enough.
It was as if another type of gate had opened up. No, not the Gates of Hell. Yes, the floodgate of Permatang Pasir. Suddenly, there was this great, big deluge of men in white uniforms raining down on us. Even on the sidelines of Permatang Pasir we were greatly affected and inconvenienced. On the radio, the Weather Girls' song, It's Raining (Police)Men was blaring at us unceasingly. Couldn't turn down the volume or even change stations. Every time I had to drive through Bukit Mertajam, there'd be them standing bored at road junctions, looking silly in their face masks.
Then suddenly, as if the gates had closed, they disappeared! Gone like the wind, gone like the phantom voters that never were here. Whoosh! Gone! When I drove to work yesterday, not one white-clothed policeman was in sight anywhere between the Bukit Mertajam traffic police station and the Bukit Tengah roundabout. I was disappointed. Even my regular traffic policeman who would be stationed at the roundabout to direct traffic during the morning peak hours was gone.
I guess that's why I have to call this festival the Permatang Pasir Phantom Police Phestival. It's mysterious, all right....