As I drove past the temple, I saw buntings and traupaulin tents. The Chinese Opera is back or is it? This is not the time for the Hungry Ghost festival and this is not the 60s.
The wayang cina time or the chinese opera was a time of great festivities. The whole kampong, the majority of which was Malay would have a whale of a time. It would be a week long festival. Long before that, Pak Mokhtar the mee rebus man, wak apam balik and the sotong bakar seller would have set up the thatched or atap huts. No traupaulins.
There were numerous others, the kacang putih, the ice krim potong seller the ais kacang and the ais kepal.
As we walked past the temple to and from school we would be waiting in anticipation of the festival. This was the festival we look forward to, second only to Hari Raya Puasa.
There were two shows, the afternoon matinee show and the one after Maghrib.
It was the one after Maghrib that drew the most crowd. After Maghrib, mak, and teh, pah and mak mah and mak lah and yours truly would be doing the 1.5 km walk. We had no torchlights. It was the andang that lighted the footpath, the laterite road full of potholes. The andang is the dried coconut “branch?” wrapped up nicely to make a lighted torch. Not dissimilar to the one you see in “survival”.
The aroma of grilled sotong could be sensed miles away. Even then it was expensive, 20 sen a portion. The 20sen mee rebus was the best I could ever think off but that would be a luxury. others were at five sen a piece.
Mak and her gang would be attentively following the proceeding of the Chinese opera. I did not understand a thing. But presto, the next day she would be narrating to me the story of Siti Zubaidah, the story of Laila Majnun and numerous other tales.
What attracted me was when the fairies were doing the flying using the ‘baju terbang”. How could they fly, I wondered.
I once stopped by in the middle of Kuala Selangor because there was a Chinese Opera in full dress performance. That was the 80s. My children were clueless but that brought many sweet memories.
Now they are all gone. Only skimpy dressed bimbos, you can find doing the singing during the festival. In the 70s the interest slowly waned. The operas were not drawing the crowd. There were ocassions when they were performing for what they were meant for, the ghosts.
There is something I could still get though, the sotong gelek. I could get them at the Ramadan Bazaar.