Updated: May 20
A cappella from the Back Seat.
Among some of the common occupational hazards Feng Shui consultants face is that we will never know what we are visiting. Once we commit to a job, we turn up.
In 1999, I was operating three retail shops besides doubling up in my consultations for clients. It was a busy period and I do not choose (as it is the case today) my clients. This is my story of a mysterious client, a strange encounter and a song I will never forget.
I took a land line call from a Mr Tan who wanted me to visit his home. It's an apartment in Geylang, he said. We spoke and he mentioned vaguely that he was experiencing some bad 'experineces' and also believed that there are some people who wanted to cause him harm. I know this is going to be a tough job but I could not leave a man who sounded desperate without finding out if I could be of any help. The appointed time is 1pm in the afternoon.
Geylang in Singapore is made up of a two-way stretch of houses, retail shops, restaurants, boutique hotels, several lanes of brothels, handful of temples, a mosque, a church or two and home to various clan associations. Geyalng's got it all, rich past, colourful present and a great future, perhaps more as I was about to find out.
I arrived at the address at 12.30pm in the bright cloudless day. A seven storey building, it had a coffee shop on the ground floor. As I looked up towards the top floor unit I was bound for, I noticed that the top floor was cast in a dark pall while the rest of the units were brightly visible. The lift was tucked away from the coffee place which oddly is not well patronised for a place with good footfall. Alone in the lift, I pressed for the 7th floor. On the 4th level, the lift stopped and opened up to a dark narrow corridor. No one was there. I continued the lift ride up. It opened up at level 7, it was a dark narrow corridor that led to the apartment unit to the left.
The first thing that hit me was this rancid and repulsive atmosphere. Besides the obvious incense that was emiting from the unit, it was dark and damp. There was no door at the entrance. Just an old altar with burning candles, joss sticks and some religious looking idols. I stepped in, called out for Mr Tan. Went into the unit, walk past the altar and it opened up to partitions of rooms. No light, not a sound, no sign of life and definitely no Mr Tan. At this point, I had enough and decided I had to leave. Heart pounding and blood rushing to my head, I made it back to the ground floor to catch my breath and some fresh air.
I decided to at least have the courtesy to call Mr Tan to prove my presence and apologise to him that I couldn't find him, hoping he would be forgiving, whatever the reasons.
I called the land line number which he gave me after our conversation. The line was dead. I called Singtel, our main telephone provider. The operator told me this number had not been in use for five years or longer.
It had been an unpleasant start to the day but I wouldn't allow this to stop me from the rest of my work for the day. With some level of drag and tiredness, I finished my meetings and fulfilled the work for the day. It must have been 7pm as I remembered it was sunset and since I was in the vicinity, I thought I might as well go somewhere quiet and peaceful for some respite.
There is a short stretch of the Sungei Khatib reaervior in the Yishun area where anglers go for fishing and lovers congregate for some private moments. I parked my car at the end of the stretch away from the thin crowd and stopped to wind down for the day before I head for dinner.
It thought it must have been ten minutes or so before I realised I had dozed off in my car with the window wound down for a light breeze. It was then when I heard a soft humming that sounded like a female singing a Chinese tune which was not clearly audible. As it got dark, I couldn't see anything when I peered out of the window but the singing seemed to be getting louder. Once again, I decided I had to leave. I looked at the time, it was already 10pm. Bewildered, I had a quick dinner at the nearby coffe shop and headed for home.
Coming down from Sembawang Road, I was heading home for Redhill which will bring me past Thomson Road. The road seemed unusually quiet but I dismissed it as a working weekday. As I turn the bend towards Adam Road, I passed by the old Caldecott site which was (now exhumed) an old cemetery and a very well known haunted house along the main road.
I was and still am tuned to the English radio stations whenever and wherever I drive. As I drove past that stretch, my car stereo switched by itself to a Chinese station. Slowly but surely, the singing on the radio turned soft but the song continued its tune ! It was coming from my back seat, A cappella, a female clear melodious voice belting out a familiar Chinese tune. Heart pounding, I peered into my rear mirror. Nothing. The singing continued. I drove on. Just as I reached the Japanaese Association building towards the brighter part of Adam Road, the radio came alive and switched itself to The Stylistics' 'You make me feel brand new'.
Heart in my mouth by now, I arrived home. Staying alone at that time, I took a hot bath and tried to sleep. Thankfully, nothing happended that night. However, I developed a fever for the next two days. I decided to visit the temple for advice and was told to go to the two places which I had been. With some simple prayers and a sincere plea, things went back to normal after a few days.
Was it due to my hectic schedules that played tricks on my mind ? Who was that Mr Tan ? What led me to the mysterious apartment ? Who was singing to me ?
I cannot be sure. For my Chinese readers, the song that was sung must be one you know - in English, it can be loosely translated as "I am awaiting your return at home". In Chinese, 我等着你回来。