Tuesday, 20 May 2014
The "tui nee" ceremony
I received a telephone call this morning from an old family friend. She was asking me how long it has been since my aunt had passed away. "It's one year already," I told her, and added, feeling rather surprised with the timing of her call, "actually, by the Gregorian calendar, yesterday would have been her first-year death anniversary."
But then, we had already observed her death anniversary a week ago, I added. Last Thursday was the anniversary date if you reckon with the Chinese lunar calendar. The "tui nee" ceremony, as we Hockkien Chinese would call it.
Unlike funerals which are all rather public occasions with friends and relatives coming to pay respects to the deceased on their final journey, the tui nee ceremony is very much a closed, private family affair, and we were my aunt's closest relatives in Penang. My daughter had come back from Kuala Lumpur to join the rest of the family to participate in the occasion.
Firstly, we picked up some vegetarian food offerings from the Happy Realm vegetarian food centre in Burmah Road before proceeding to the Buddhist Triple Wisdom Hall in Pangkor Road where we had arranged for two of their resident monks to chant prayers at my aunt's memorial tablet in her memory. That done, we went down to the Kong Hock Keong (Kuan Yin) Temple in Pitt Street to distribute the vegetarian foodstuff to the vagrants there.
My wife was telling me later that some of the vagrants were asking around themselves whether anyone wanted the vegetarian food. That surprised me! As vagrants, they should be thankful that anyone is giving them fresh food regardless of whether the foodstuff is vegetarian or non-vegetarian, but here are some vagrants who are beginning to get choosy. Well, beggars shouldn't be choosy, isn't it? Anyway, they did line up to collect the foodstuff from my wife.
That done, we proceeded to the Sri Mahindarama Temple in Kampar Road. This was the last stage of the day's occasion. We listened in to the monk's prayers before they partook their lunch, and I did the transferring of merits to the deceased by symbolically pouring water from one container to another. And that was that. My aunt's first-year death anniversary observed and done with.
After a quick lunch in the city, it was time for the four of us to go home, pack our clothes and head out to the airport for a well deserved vacation together.
As an after-thought, I should add that this old family friend wasn't the only person who asked about my aunt in recent weeks. At the beginning of this month, one of the vegetable sellers at the Kampong Baharu market here in Bukit Mertajam asked me whether it had been a year since her passing. A few days later, one of the stall owners at the same market asked me the same question. And only this morning, it was another stall owner who did so. My aunt must have had some good friends there when she was still alive....