Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Grave Keeper's Stories (守墓者的故事)

One night I was passing beside a Malay cemetery and stumbled across Pak Samad who worked as a grave keeper. So we habitually started to chat and coincidentally the sky started to drizzle. Since none of us had the intention to cut short our conversation then; Pak Samad invited me to a Mamak stall to have a cup of 'tea tarik' (pulled milk tea).

After a few sips of thick milk tea, I was curious if Pak Samad had any bizarre experience while working in the graveyard. Perhaps that had triggered Pak Samad's chatter box and he started to talk. So as to encourage him to talk further, I ordered two pieces of 'roti canai' (flying pancake). 

Perhaps food can really close the gap between people, once our stomachs were filled; Pak Samad started to talk:

Unlike burial customs of other religions, Muslim burial service should ideally be done as soon as possible upon death, or at most within 24 hours.

So, in many occasions Pak Samad must work in the middle of the night to prepare for the forthcoming burial requests.

One midnight as Pak Samad had completed some work in the cemetery he worked in, just as when he was about to leave, he suddenly heard weeping sound came from the further end of the graveyard. 

Pak Samad was curious as no one would be visiting graveyard in the dead of the night. Due to curiosity than fear, he ventured to the grave where the weeping sound came from...

As he was approaching the grave, he saw a man was squatting beside a grave and continued to weep. Pak Samad approached the man from behind and then tapped the man's shoulder and said: "Brother, what are you doing in the graveyard in the middle of the night?"

The man stopped weeping and turned his back. When Pak Samad and the man met face to face, Pak Samad saw that the man has no eye balls... instead, the man's eyes were just hollow holes... The man is not human!

In a state of fright, Pak Samad took a step back and fell backwards and sat on the floor while crying out the God's name loudly...

When Pak Samad wanted to look at the person again, he has vanished. After some frantic search around the cemetery area, there was no one there except Pak Samad.

In another occasion, Pak Samad was looking for a pair of tombstones in the storeroom at night preparing for a burial service scheduled at dawn. After searching high and low, the tombstones seemed to have disappeared.

Pak Samad was certainly in a state of panic as he may be blamed by the deceased's relatives for creating troubles and inconveniences in a few hours' time.

As a last resort, Pak Samad decided to dig into the store room again for a last check. Just as when he was searching frantically while bending his back, he heard foot steps walking into the store room from outside.

It was a series of 'thump, thump..." and the sound stopped right at Pak Samad's back. He thought it might be the gravedigger, Ali. So Pak Samad turned his back and opened his mouth: "Hey, Ali..."

Before Pak Samad could finish, his jaw dropped and there he saw a man holding a piece of tombstone that Pak Samad was frantically searching for. The man was quite cold without facial expressions. He asked Pak Samad: "Brother, can you show me my grave?"

Pak Samad was stunned as he has never seen the man before but before Pak Samad could scratch his heads, the mysterious stranger has vanished! In place, there was a pair of tombstones that Pak Samad had searched throughout the night!

And in one more occasion, Pak Samad was taking a night watch in the cemetery, he heard a lady's voice calling his name...

So, Pak Samad traced the voice to a huge tree in the grave. As he approached the tree, he noticed an awfully foul smell similar to rotten flesh. When Pak Samad approached beneath the tree, he instinctively raised his head and...

There he saw a woman in white was sitting on a tree branch waving her hands at Pak Samad... Without second words, Pak Samad ran as fast as possible into the cemetery store room and recited some prayers to calm himself.

The rain soon stopped, before we parted; I asked Pak Samad what motivated him to continue his carrier as a grave keeper. And his answer was quite philosophical: "Well, we all will die some day. I might as well get used to the graveyard before my time is up."

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