Saturday, October 01, 2005

See You Sifu

After work, I went to the Chinese medical hall to buy some Chinese herbs for the weekend. After the trauma of the last few days, I thought I need some tonic to calm the nerve and fortify the senses.

At the Chinese medical hall, I gave the sifu my written order. I can't really pronounce the names of the herbs but I know what they are in Chinese script from my grandfather's old books. The sifu looked fairly impressed as some of the herbs I was asking for were not that common. He also looked helluva surprised. I could just read the thought bubble above his head:

"What's a young lady like her doing with this herbs?"

"Does she even know what to do with them?"

"Where did she get this prescription?"

When he gave me the saffron, he told me I had to soak it in hot water ... and I said I know. Then he said I have to remove it from the broth and not eat it, and again I said, I know. He was very impressed and there was a transformation in how he treated me. When I first entered the medical hall, he was kinda indifferent and disinterested. But after seeing my prescription and finding out I knew how to treat my herbs, he was suddenly all friendly and open.

You know, by now I should be used to being underestimated constantly by people who take one look at me and either consign me to bimbo status or to bitch status. But it never fails to amuse me when they have to make an almost 180 degree reversal (the other 180 degree takes time as prejudice does not go away in one day) when they realise I might know more than I let on or I am actually nicer than their bigotry would like to admit.

Anyway, the sifu asked me how I knew so much about Chinese medicine and I admitted that my knowledge is limited and mostly based from memory from what my grandfather taught me when I was a little girl. Which is all about herbology. I never learnt accupuncture from him. Just as he was beginning to teach me about accupressure points, I was sent away to school and did not really go back to visit him during hols after that. I missed those visits - I had the best fun learning Chinese medicine, how to play badminton up in the hills, flying kites and watching Chinese kungfu and Tamil movies (go figure) with him.

One of my greatest treasures is one of his books which I managed to salvage from the avaricious but clueless hands of my aunties. Although my Chinese sucks big time, I managed to translate or get translated some sections that I've carried with me all these years. The sifu was really amazed and told me I should pursue Chinese medicine and even hinted that he would be willing to teach me. Wow ... me, Dr Squint Medicine Woman! From Master Criminal to Medicine Woman ... I can just see it now ...

I think he was tempted to offer to take me on as a disciple as I could see that he was running the place all on his own. Knowing from my grandfather's example, most traditional Chinese medical doctors usually retire with no disciples as no one really wants to undertake the arduous task of learning about the millions of herbs and applications and running a medical hall; especially their own children. That's why my grandfather used to recite or teach me about the herbs ... because I was the only one out of his children and grandchildren who would listen to him.

To be honest, I would love to learn more. In a way, it brings me closer to the memory of my grandfather and fulfils this strange need I have to continue a legacy. However, to go down this path would take me from everything I have ever known and I am not sure if I am ready or will ever be ready for this. At the moment, I like my lifestyle and I can only continue to retain what little my grandfather imparted to me and perhaps pass it on a little to those who are interested.

Sorry, Grandpa. Sorry Sifu. Perhaps a decade more down the road if the path is still open to me.

Categories - Rambling Prose


Blogger Zya said...

I love your blog:) The pictures.. the flavours! I will be checking back again ;)

6:47 pm  
Blogger MM said...

Aw, bless. Welcome ... anytime. You have a cool blog too. Have a good one!

6:57 pm  
Blogger Zya said...

Neil Gaiman is great! I can't wait to see mirrormask :)

8:01 pm  
Anonymous Nishiko said...

Any reason why you can't learn from him on a part-time basis as your schedule permits? Perhaps even make room in your life for it somehow? I think it's something you should pursue in the near future, anyway -- who knows whether Sifu will even be around in ten years?

6:52 pm  
Blogger MM said...

Rrrrrright, Nishi ... and I would find this time to learn from him during .. when? In the 3-4 hours of sleep I get every day in between my work and ... work? LOL. And learning Chinese medicine is a lifelong endeavour. It is not something you can learn part-time.

9:44 pm  
Blogger 3A Gurl said...

Agree with Nishiko. Why not start with recipes first and then decide if you want to broaden your horizons to include TCM? You never know where a path leads. And girl...try to get your hands on more of your grandpa's books! They are invaluable in today's 'seow' world.

8:30 am  
Blogger MM said...

Again, I repeat myself (stop making me repeat myself, women!) ... and where would I find the time? Seriously, I work from 9am to 2am every day even on Sundays. Where amd when would you guys be expecting me to find this time? Even cooking for myself is a problem, what more messing with Chinese medicine? Roll eyes.

And re the books, even getting the one was a hard-won fight. When my grandfather passed away, I was away in school. By the time I got back for his funeral, I discovered that my aunt (by marriage at that!) had almost stripped everything from his house like the avaricious and peasant vulture that she is. She stole almost all his books even though she did not want them for herself. Even with her limited intellect, she knew that these books had value and she stole them so she could sell them.

She also stole the violin, pipes and gemstones that my grandfather left behind for me. To this day, she denies it even though she was the only person left in the house while the family was off making the funeral arrangements. What's worse is when I kicked up a big fuss, no one gave a shite as they thought it was just Grandpa's dusty old books and things that no one cared about. They all fought over the gemstones though. Those books, violin and pipes had value to me.

The violin had meaning as my grandfather was the worst violinist ever. But it was his and I always remembered everyone shouting at him to stop playing and the godawful screeching when I looked at the violin. The pipes were reviled by everyone but I used to sit with my grandfather as he smoked his pipes. I actually liked the smell and it now reminds me of him. Since I was the only person who liked his pipes and the smell of the tobacco, my grandfather always said the pipes would go to me when he died. He even got a little ivory (I know it is wrong but those were the times) pipe made for me when I was child so I could smoke with him but my mum found out and kicked his arse. Never saw that ivory pipe again too.

And the gemstones I was allocated were not terribly valuable but my grandfather used these to teach me how to differentiate between the different gemstones. He always told me the opals, cats eyes and turquoise ones (oh, and one moonstone) were to mine while the others were to be distributed to the other daughters and grand-daughters.

Sorry, got me going on a rant now. I despise the woman and the thought of her handling any part of my family's heritage with her usual disrespect and greed makes me want to heave.

6:09 pm  
Blogger 3A Gurl said...

Know what you mean, girl. We can swap stories one night in Arab Str. I tell extended kin not pretty either.

8:31 pm  

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