Saturday 21 March 2020

Once upon a time in… Hong Kong

Standing up for Others

(The voice written in below is Tina’s, from a memory she shared)

Ah Chung was a giant yet only five-foot tall in flip flops that were so much too big for his feet.

He wore an old black sweater and old black pants. His face was brown and mottled, the skin stretched taut and thin. His “Fu Manchu moustache” was wispy grey, his hair silvery like a poet’s, and bristly eyebrows shaded eyes sunk deep in leathery sockets.

Sat hunkered on his haunches on the pavement, Ah Chung was a beggar, by which is often meant subhuman and invisible like a ghost. Ah Chung was a man.

On my way to work, I met Ah Chung each morning with a cheery: ‘Jo sun!’ and a smile as I do anyone. He acknowledged me with a crinkled toothless grin. Most days I gave him a soft drink or a sweet bread roll from a local shop; I often gave him money.  When I asked him his name, he said, ‘Ah Chung.’

If Ah Chung wasn’t at his begging pitch, I’d tell a friend at work that I was concerned. She’d laugh and say: ‘Aiyaah! Why always you are talking to beggars. So crazy!

One morning Ah Chung asked my name. I told him: ‘Tina!’ Instead, Ah Chung called me leng loi, meaning pretty girl.

One morning typhoon signal number 3 was raised. Monotonously fell the rain in squally showers. I struggled in the street with my collapsible umbrella which crumpled quickly in the wind and rain.

Ah Chung sat on his haunches beneath a building’s concrete ledge. I waved and when he saw me he beckoned me. His smile came from somewhere deep inside and he unfurled a huge green and black umbrella and pushed it to me in place of mine. I offered money; he refused. Instead, he squinted at the pouring rain then poked his chin at me: ‘Leng loi!’ he said – pretty girl.

My friend called me a crazy gweipo, when I told her I was touched by Ah Chung’s act of kindness; she moaned that I’d get germs from touching something from a beggar, so I teased her.

Ah Chung disappeared not long after.

My friend explained matter-of-factly that he was a sickly old man and probably dead. She said if Ah Chung had been a good man during his lifetime he would come back as a better person in the next. It was her belief and not for me to judge.

Ah Chung had nothing, yet when he saw I was in need, he found something to give. He stood up for me.

We all need to stand up for others, especially so in times of need, like now.


Rog Thomas
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