Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Butcher and the Debtor

There is a Chinese saying which goes like this,"Ten years a river flows in front of the house. Then ten years the river will flow at the back." This is metaphorical talk.

The Foochows are very good with metaphors and inferences but unfortunately as the younger generation have become more modern, more Malaysianised, the older generation's version of Foochow dialect is a disappearing feature.

There is a real story which is related to this saying.

In the 50's a poor man who was out of luck wanted to buy some pork from a butcher . Butchers were traders who had sharp knives and probably a sharper tongue.

It was a normal practice then for customers to put their finger on the cut pieces and to point to the slices they would like to buy. The butcher would stand at a respectful distance and wait upon the customer until he/she made up his/her mind what to buy. The butcher would then cut according to the customer's heart's desire. Most customers would be very happy with this kind of service. And it was expected that a good butcher would behave in this manner, since Sibu was a small town and everyone knew everyone.

However, on that particular day, the poor man approached the wealthiest and perhaps the best butcher to buy himself a small piece of pork. And he did what was customary, pointing to the pork and asked for a certain cut.

But the butcher, knowing the out of luck gossips of the man, said rather rudely,"Put away your fingers. My knife will cut your hand off!"

The butcher cut a poor thin slice for the poor man and wrapped it up quickly, weighed it with his "daching" or chinese balance and called out his price loudly and curtly. The poor man was taken aback . Feeling slighted,belittled and embarrased no doubtm he said in a firm voice, probably with throbbing temples, he said, " My friend, a river water may flow in front of the house for ten years. And the water may flow to back of the house after that... ....."

He then left rather abruptly.

Many years later, the poor man came back to Sibu , now well known for his success in business in South East Asia. He was able to redeem himself by paying off all his debts and giving treats to everyone he knew.

One day he went up to the pork market. And the wealthy, but now older butcher took him by the arm and welcomed him to his stall, saying "Any cut, which ever you want. Just show me... And I won't even charge anything higher than necessary. It will be cheap for you. I will definitely give you the best price."

The now rich tycoon gave the butcher a cold look,and said, "My friend,fortunes of men may change with time. Never underestimate a poor man."

I often use this story in my training of adult students and teaching of younger children. Sometimes I would be all choked up inside remembering the hard times of the past of so many people I know.

2 memories:

FrancisN said...

Hi Sarawakian. I stumbled across your blog while looking at anything Sibu or Sarawak.

I started to read 1 of your stories and found them well written and informaive. So I continued to read on and on.

As someone who left Sibu to study in Australia in 1969, I am still home sick for Sibu every now and then.

I read all I can find on Sibu and Sarawak every chance I get. Your blog has been a good find for me.

Keep up the writing and I will keep enjoying reading it.

sarawakiana said...

Thank you for stopping by. I find the environment in Cyberspace very conducive for my writing. I can reach my children and continue telling them real people stories wherever they may be.

I hope perhaps my simple non judgemental stories are helpful and encouraging ,besides a myriad of other objectives, to a lot of people. And I am happy to write on.

This is a good mental exercise for me too since I have a teaching background and I miss teaching.

God bless you and your loved ones. May I wish you a happy new year.



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