The Mango Tree:
In the front compound of my Chinese grandparents' old wooden house there was a large mango tree. In my four-year-old eyes it touched the sky. Long dark green leaves wove a wide umbrella shading me when I went to count the growing mangos. Dad had wanted to hang a swing in it but Grandpa said no, nothing must hang from it.
It was shortly after the Occupation of Singapore when they chopped it down. My grandparents said too many British soldiers and locals had been tortured and hanged from this tree. I didn't know what they meant, but down came the tree, green mangos and all. No-one would eat the fruit. The villagers said it was a sad tree. Its sadness seized anyone coming near it, even if they had been happy before. Some said they could hear it sobbing, sometimes weeping or moaning.
Today the village temple priest is here to offer incense, prayers and food for the spirits of the tree and the men who suffered and died. At dusk, after the tree stub and its lengthy roots have been dug up and the crater it lived in filled with clean earth, the priest purifies the area with sweeping flames from temple torches. Uncle lights the massive bonfire of the tree's remains. Grandmother hauls out a sack, bundles of white and blue Occupation dollars fall out, each with its unique coconut tree design. Dollar after dollar we burn every one until the ghosts are gone.