| | | Cocoa Evenings | | | 可可黄昏

Ah Cek’s House

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Door.”

I immediately notice the metal grills that criss cross in front of the folding panel doors. I notice the red cloth with  Chinese characters on it and the red pumpkin-shape lanterns with complimentary yellow tassels hanging from beneath. I find myself transported to more than two decades ago when I was barely able to count.



Then, I would followed my mother on the long pilgrimage to a temple that was housed inside someone’s house once or twice a year. I called her Ah Cek, as my mother did. Ah Cek probably means Ah Jie or elder sister, and was likely a term of respect because Ah Cek was way older than my mother was.

I remember that Ah Cek’s house was somewhere along Joo Chiat Road, near to the Guanyin Temple on Waterloo Street.

I would smell Ah Cek’s house before I saw it for there was always incense burning.

I would see the rusty grills that criss crossed in front of the folding panel doors.

I would feel tears welling up in the rims of my eyes for there was always incense burning.

I would follow and pray.

I would use the washroom before leaving because it was a two hour long Bus 61 ride home. I had to scoop water with a handy pail from a large bucket of water to flush the wastes away. I would turn the creaky metal tap to release water and wash my hands.

I lived in the era where one could still find house without the flush system.


Now, I find great resemblance in the grills and doors of this photo to the one at Ah Cek’s house. However, I know they are not the same for this door is much more colourful and has flower carvings on the wooden panel above the door.

The doors are not the same because Ah Cek’s door belongs to the Chinese culture while this door belongs to the Peranakan culture – a blend of two cultures where the people are ethnic Chinese but culture and language are predominantly Malay-influenced.

In that era, doors were mostly utilitarian for the Chinese- for locking up the place. Metal grills were mostly unpainted and left to rust, and wooden doors were left to rot.

On the other hand, this door belongs to the Peranakan culture and is a little more decorative, really making the place look much prettier.

Till now, I smell the incense and almost find tears in my eyes when I chance upon such doors.

[Photo: Taken along Joo Chiat Road, Singapore, in 2014.]


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