Friday, February 12, 2016

Go Dutch

Kiam Siap.

In colloquial Penang Hokkien, that basically means being stingy. Hardly a complimentary epithet but one that is irrevocably linked to the Penang islanders who have gradually gained disrepute for being overly frugal.

Since almost my entire family hails from there, I'm inclined to deny the entirely malicious slander .... but it's almost impossible to do so when examples of such miserly behaviour abound. As a matter of fact, an older auntie proved the maxim right repeatedly last weekend when I was back home.

Let me give you some pertinent details first for this lady who I shall call Auntie Kaya since she's obscenely wealthy. Not only was she born with an engraved silver spoon, it probably came encrusted with precious stones and pearls as well. One would think that money wouldn't be an important life's goal for her yet Auntie Kaya seems preternaturally obsessed with cautiously guarding her hoard of gold. Only several months ago, she astonished the lot of us when she demanded a hefty discount from a surgeon who basically saved her life.

Paul : You're certainly active tonight.
Auntie Kaya : I paid for the band and I'll dance all night to make it worth every penny.
Paul : You don't sound like you're joking.
Auntie Kaya : I'm not. 

And this from a bonafide nabob with several properties in Hong Kong and Singapore. Before you scoff at such meagre earnings, let me tell you it's all landed properties.

So you can imagine my consternation whenever she displays her renowned economy.

Picture perhaps a group of ten intent on exploring the island in pursuit of great street food - something Penang is rightfully world famous for - and before we've even decided on our first stop, Auntie Kaya stops everyone mid-stride yelling 'Go Dutch.'

For once I actually felt quite mortified. For her. Evidently that wasn't what she was feeling in the least since she didn't stop insisting on going Dutch despite the horrified silence that greeted her pronouncement. Not only did she say it once, she said it repeatedly from person to person.

As if we hadn't heard her the first time.

Kiam siap enough? I'm certainly no saint of charitability but Auntie Kaya takes the cake. With such fanatical parsimony, I guess it's no wonder she just keeps getting wealthier by the day. Doubt she even knows you can't carry it beyond the grave. 

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