Looking for Grandmother Money


This is a sad story, come to think of it.

I met an old friend today together with 2 other friends at D’ Junction after not seeing him for a few years. This friend, whom I know since the early 80s, is your typical old-school chinaman: what he lacks in formal education he makes up for in diligence and hard work. He was, and is, a fishmonger and a fisherman, and he has done good enough to send his 3 kids to college in England. The 2 elder boys are now Phds and living in England, and a daughter in her final year in electrical engineering at Sheffield University.

After coffee and formal business discussion, the conversation wound up to other topics. This friend related that he lost his wife recently to lung disease and sort of related his surprise that she left some money which he did not know of. It was bad form, of course, to ask how much money it was.

This is when his story got interesting. He related that in addition to some 3 million Ringgit in a bank account, he was surprised when he started to clear the house that the late wife had stashed some 2 million Ringgit in cash in all denominations and currencies in plastic bags, wrapped in newspapers, in tins and under clothes. Some of it were from fish sales in 1 Ringgit denominations from the early 80s. About 600K worth were in old currency—the RM1000 and RM500 notes that Bank Negara discontinued in 1998. He laughed when he related he had to lug 4 big sacks of old and current monies all the way to the bank.

Later, having finished at D’Junction, he invited us to his old terrace house behind Lido to give us some massage ointment he said he bought from China. Once we reached there, he announced he had another intention when he invited us. In his own words:

“You three are people with good hearts. I want to give you some of these money. There is some of it still somewere in the house.”

Off he went and came back with a large tupperware of RM1000 and RM500 notes and various foreign curencies, also in thousands. So there we were, sitting in front of piles of money, shifting through, looking for “Grandmother Money”. (Grandmother Money is a currency note with a serial number that starts with 9 and ends with also a 9; it is even better if there are a lot of 9s bookended by the two 9s. Grandmother money is supposed to attract money to you. See pic below.)

Later he showed us his late wife’s gold jewellery—all 7 kilos of it. He has been giving her jewellery every year. The sad thing is she never wore these. In fact, I saw some still with shop labels. At RM150K per kilo of gold, that’s another 900K worth of property. Much later he related that none of his kids wanted the jewellery and so they are still there, sitting in a dinky terrace house near Lido. Also, he said he wanted to give each of his kids RM1.7 million to divide the money but they also refused.

So finally, we have to leave him—I suspect, a lonely and sad 63-year old man living alone in a small terrace house—with his 900K worth of jewellery, the 5 million his wife left him, and probably millions more of his own money. But, before we left we promised to join him for beer and get drunk next time.

PS: It was bad form, of course, to pile your food sky high from the buffet table so I took a RM500 non-legal tender as Grandmother Money.

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