Anyone for an Elephant Buffet?

Anyone for an Elephant Buffet?Dealing with life and all of its challenges she offers and also understanding burial in penang.

How to eat and finish a whole elephant?

Being a true Penangite, food matter will always be at the tip of our tougue. We at all occassions, be it a birth, a wedding, or any festive occassions and even death food is a must. A friend from UK who is working at one of the factories here commented that people here must have their food, even at a simple half-day training program. In Penang you can find a food outlet 24/7 and at any part of the island and no way, one can say they are hungry and cannot find a place to eat as long as they can pay for it.

I remembered when I was young, when the family used to go to the beach for a picnic, my mum will cook and prepare nasi lemak and fried fish with sambal belachan. We will eat it on banana leave right after we played by the seashore. And boy…just thinking of it now sends saliva shooting at every corner of my mouth and stomach juicies whirling, calling out for my mum’s nasi lemak. Being a true-blooded Penangite as I am, food is always on my mind, even when writing an article.

On the matter of food, how does one eat and finish a whole elephant? It can be in an elephant pangang, kerabu elephant, rendang, or even a Nyonya curry elephant. Does not matter how it is prepared but how do you finish eating an elephant? (For those that are not from Penang, it is not an exotic Penang special dish. Sorry to dissapoint some Chinese brothers thinking it is a new exotic dish with medicinal value and I can also imagine people from PETA and all the Animal Rights group preparing for battle with me.) Wait a minute, some may say, is this a bereavement page? Have I turned to a foodie writer? Bare with me as I come to my point, my wife has always complained I am a long-winded person and she has learnt to turn off herself while waiting for me to reach my point.

Life as you may know it throws us many challenges and at times, these challenges may seem over whelming to some. I guess the greatest challenge is trying to give the best to the family by doing what ever it takes to get there. Along that journey, the hurdles, and fire fighting never seem to end, when one fire is put out, another begins. At times temptation of envying the rich comes into mind, picturing them with no worries and leaving life with endless supply of money. Then again, looking at the flipside of the coin, other worries such as maintaining their status and security would be their greatest challenge. Sometimes I feel there is much laughter and fun in families with little compared to families with abundance, as parents is always busy with work and entertainment. So…what is my point here?

Being a funeral director, God has opened my eyes to all sorts of families, be it from the poor to the super rich. When we die, we all leave this earth with nothing, and not a cent can be taken along neither whatever qualifications nor possessions we can bring along with us. As a Christian, the only thing we can bring along with us is the report of our life that we have led, and how we have live it that has benefitted others and how we bring glory to God. One can see the way a person’s life has touched others is to hear the tributes and eulogies given by others during the funeral service. I have heard of eulogies that speak of the person’s cooking only and children of the deceased remember her for her cooking and nothing else. Now that is remembering a person from the bottom of the stomach and not heart. What about her sacrifies or love and care, is there anything to remember a person by those virtues? I remembered a funeral when the children went up to speak, they spoke of the sacrifices their mum made during their growing years, when she lost her husband and had to look after the four kids and how she struggled to give those kids an education so their future will be brighter. On the other hand, there was a funeral of a wealthy man, the son went up and said, he did not know his father that well as he was always away for business trips. I wonder what values he would pass down to his children. I have many testimonies and stories in my bag, maybe in future; I shall bring them out again.

So how do we eat an elephant? You eat it one small piece at a time. Sometimes life throws us many challenges, but if we try to take all tasks at one go, we can end up scared, confused or worried and even depressed, but if we learn to take it out one piece at a time, one moment and task at a time, we eventually will accomplish our task. Learn to look at life positively and not worry overly about what you cannot foresee. Life without a challenge is not living at all. Learn to set achieveable goals and learn to set priorities for yourself but never set money as the main priority in life, as if you do, then nothing else around you will matter, you will loose all sense of humanity.

Whatever you place as priority in your life, it must speak well of you during your final tribute or eulogy.

In this article about bereavement, I would like to help you understand the difference between being buried or cremated. Today, I will write about burial and the coming one will be about cremation.

In Penang Island, land is scarce for a Christian burial but for others, there are still grave lands all over Penang. I guess when the British occupied Penang, they must have thought that Penang will only have a hand full of Christians, unlike the Chinese; they have hills of grave land. I cannot say much about other religious rite or neither am I a biblical scholar, but what I write here is merely my limited insight and humble opinion about burial.

These days, burial plots can be quite expensive, for instance, in Western Road cemetery, a new plot can cost you about RM 10 000 and this is without the erection of a tombstone. The total cost con come up to about RM 14k to RM 20+ K. Lets put money aside, and talk about being buried.

I have seen gravesites unattended with weeds higher than the tombstone itself, and when checked with the cemetery managers, they said that the descendants have never visited certain graves. I am guilty of that too, I never visited my grandfather’s grave until my grandma passed away and was buried next to him, which for me was the first time I visited that grave. I never knew my grandfathers from both sides of the camp as they died during the 2nd world war. Now, being an undertaker who makes visits to the Western Road cemetery regularly, I do drop by to say “hi” to my grandparents whenever I am in the neighbourhood.

Maybe to help you decide I shall list some pros and cons of burial:

Pros for burial 


ü  If you have a plot at the Western Road Cemetery, you can make ground niches when you do up the head stone.

ü  If it is a nice memorial park concept, it would be a nice place for families to visit.

ü  If you are a traditional Christian, if would be the final ideal send off.

ü  Surviving spouse or children can have a personal moment by the graveside without interruptions.


Cons for burial


ü  Burial caskets can cost more, this depends on the type of wood choosen

ü  Headstones can vary from RM 2 800.00 to RM 20 000.00 or more. This depends on the granite or Mable stones used and complexity of the design and work.

ü  Sometimes over time, there is a need to rebuild the gravesite, as nature takes its effect. (I have seen gravesites that has degraded over time and no one attends to it, it is such a sorry sight)

ü  The second generation may not pay visits or might have migrated, so there is a lack of maintenance.

ü  I have only seen Western Road Cemetery allowing families to build ground niches but other cemeteries in Penang do not allow it.

ü  If the burial plot is located in the mainland, then transport and workers’ cost is higher.

The next article I will talk about cremation and its pros and cons. If there are any questions or comments, you can either post them or email me and I’ll answer those for you as quickly and accurately for you. God Bless

By Felix Nair – Funeral Director

Peace Caskets and Funeral Services

Tel: 04 899 1298 or HP: 017 588 2498


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