Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pray for luck

WHEN you're swimming in a sea of red, when nothing, not even rescue packages initiated by governments around the world, seem able to stem the bleeding in markets, what are you going to do?


Desperate investors, it seems, are seeking intervention of another kind by heading to the temples to pray for the recovery of their investments.

A check on Sunday found on a temple found out that seven out of 10 people who walked out of the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple had the shaky stockmarket and their investments on their mind.

The writer spent five hours each on three days at the Waterloo Street temple, where thousands of devotees - and tourists - visit each day to pray for blessings from the Goddess of Mercy.

Temple workers say they have seen a surge in the number of worshippers after the markets dived.

After offering prayers, many proceed to shake a bamboo or metal cylinderuntil a fortune stick - which bears a number - falls out.

The stick is then exchanged for an oracle - a pink slip of paper with acorresponding number.

The writing on the paper spells the worshipper's fortune or misfortune.

Businessman Y H Low, 53, said: 'Who else can we trust now?

'The way I see it, only heaven can help us pull through this crunch.'

Mr Low declined to give more details of his 'close to a million-dollarloss' but added: 'I don't think I can recover even 10 per cent of that.'

But the oracle he has drawn offered a possible 'light at the end of the tunnel', he said.

Cheered by the thought, Mr Low left the makeshift table, where the divination interpreter sat, with a relieved smile.

But not everyone who stopped at the table was as lucky. An elderly

couple, who refused to be interviewed, returned to the temple to offer more prayers.

Said the divination interpreter, who wanted to be known only as Mr Teo:

'They got a 'xia-xia qian' (bad lot) which means they're likely to lose everything.'

The man, who has been practising his trade at the spot for more than 10

years, claimed he was not surprised by the surge of advice-seeking devotees. His 'work station' comprises just one table and some stools,two traditional Chinese books and pink pieces of paper with Chinese scripts.

Mr Teo said: 'When all else fails, who else can you turn to but the

Goddess of Mercy? They believe the divination lots they draw from here can offer a solution for them.

'It's like their last chance and they'll come, praying and hoping for a miracle.'

Plying his trade further down the five-foot way is Mr Tan Lai Wai.

The Hong Kong-born fortune-teller, 60, said: 'It's not just the Chinese;

I've got Eurasian and even Indian customers who approach me for advice.'

They are usually accompanied by Chinese friends, who act as translators.

Mr Tan admitted he 'knows nuts about investing in stocks'. 'But it's okay because they're usually more interested in the forecast of their remaining luck cycle.'

Among those there was retiree Mr Robert Ng, 69, who was feeling 'horrible heart pain' from his estimated $200,000 losses.

Mr Ng, who used to work as a regional sales manager for an electronics company, said: 'Luckily I didn't play the market with all my savings or else I dare not imagine what will happen now.'

His worry now is that he may be unable to help his youngest son with his wedding expenses.

Said Mr Ng: 'He's getting married in February and I'd hoped to make more money so that I could help the couple.'

But the direction he was seeking seemed to evade him even after the reading.

With a heavy sigh, he said: 'I was advised to hold on to the papers as there should be a rebound. But I could end up losing more money.'

Asked if he intended to heed the 'advice', Mr Ng said: 'I still don't know.'

This article was first published in The New Paper on October 19, 2008

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