Friday, December 28, 2007

The Deaf Mute in the Sun

I must have been quite a vocal and spirited child to many people! My uncles used to say that I never stopped thinking and talking when I was young. I must get my opinion in between their conversation and they would give me that particular look. But as a child, I was not at all bothered about how they looked at me. I would just run along and be happy doing what I liked best I suppose.

And this story I am going to relate is one that I had plenty of occasions to repeat to others. Telling my listeners over and over that those horrible taxi drivers should not have done what they had done.

We had this interesting deaf mute who worked for some food and some pocket money for the Yen King Restaurant in Sibu. The Yen King Restaurant at that time had taken over Hock Chu Leu as the best one in town and a very "happening place". To have a meal there was like going to the poshest place in town, and having a great treat.

Parked in front of the restaurant was a whole row of taxis ready to provide service. I remember the road being named "Wong Nai Siong Road".

The taxi drivers would rest under the shade of the trees near the Sarawak Hotel, which was just opposite the restaurant. Sometimes the taxis were parked next to the five foot way of Yen King, just to be as near to the restaurant as possible, to catch the customers directly.

So one day, a huge feast was held in Yen Ching and my family was invited. I was a bit bored by all the eating and adult chat so I went down stairs to play with my newly collected bottle caps on the five foot way with my cousins and to be away from the horrible mixed smells of whiskey, brandy and beer and oily food. The restaurant was not air conditioned at that time. so you can imagine how hot it must have been.

We then witnessed the horrible scene of the taxi drivers having fun with the deaf mute,who was already tired from his waiter's work for the day. One taxi driver played an a-go-go tune very loudly and another driver got hold of the deaf mute. The third one put a lot of ice cubes inside his shirt at the back!! As the deaf mute twisted and turned, the whole bunch of taxi drivers was having fun, shouting, clapping and saying, "Hao, Hao!!" (Good! Good!) Some were even shouting, " A- go - go!!" But there was no way for the deaf mute to dance rhythmically to the tune. He was just trying his best to shrug off the ice from his back. Finally he got the presence of the mind to pull up his shirt from his tight trousers.

He was terribly red in the face when he finally got rid of the ice and I could see the anger which he could not express well enough.

At that moment, I was really horrified and ashamed that adults could really torture and bully a very mild,disadvantaged fellow man.

Later when I commented on this incident to an uncle, all he could say was, " Hey, what does a little child like you know.......don't be bothered. No use. Adults do what they like."

Although Foochow adults were supposed to be very wise , somehow I had the impression that they were not very much in favour of smart alecks!! In later years, I also discovered in the same manner, that many of the older Foochow men I knew ,were not much in favour of "activists" and "environmentalists". They preferred people who "live and let live" and not rock the boat.

Years later in order to redeem myself and my fellow Foochow men I would push a few ringgit into the deaf mute's hand whenever I met him in town. I cannot explain why I should do that. But I had that inner desire to do so. May be it was because I could talk and he could not talk? After I moved away from Sibu, whenever I went back to Sibu I would be on the lookout for him. But I never saw him again. Perhaps he had passed on. And I hope that he had at least a few years of good life at the end.That someone would love him and respect him. I believe he had done no one any harm. And he had been known to have helped lots of people, like the Good Samaritan.

Having come across him at some points of my life has made the tapestry of my life richer.

4 memories:

FrancisN said...

A very moving recall of your childhood memory and caring gesture for a fellow human being.

Your story took me back to my childhood days when I attended a few wedding receptions with my parents at Yen Ching restaurant.

I have had on many occasions seen the deaf mute (if he is the same person) who worked for the restaurant.

How I admired the skills he had in carrying and balancing the heavy trays of dishes on his head when he took them to another wedding receptions.

I remembered always saying hello to him and he would waved back with a smile.

Life must have been hard for him.

Your recalling of your childhood memories in your stories also takes me back to my childhood in Sibu.

I thank you for that.

sarawakiana said...

Thank you for stopping by. And you are most welcome to share my childhood memories.

For a long time I could not bring myself to write because I thought I had left everything behind. But then the thoughts just came back at all times and at odd moments like very strong flasbacks. So I had to put them down. And I found it easier to put them into the blog, rather than by long hand. Paper, exercise books might be burnt. Cyberspace is so much more reliable.

But some days are just blank days. And when I have a good person posting a comment, I am energized again.

I am sure my almost acrobatic deaf mute was the same deaf mute you knew.

In Miri we have one too but he is rather wealthy . A totally different kind of person.

FrancisN said...

I have just began reading your September postings.

I am amazed at how you are able to recall so much of your childhood memories and especially the history with your stories.

As I read your postings, I started to recall what I had experienced during my younger days in Sibu in the 50's and 60's.

Events and things I have not thought of during the last 38 years came back to me, like the deaf mute. To this day, I never knew his name.

The last time I went back to Sibu in 2004, I visited the places I grew up in, places I spent a lot of time in with my school friends and my old school.

Even though places and buildings have changed, I still could imagine the good times I spent there.

I know that flood can be a curse in Sibu and I found out from reading the online papers that Sibu was again flooded.

One of my fond childhood memories was playing with home made paper boats in the flooded Sibu streets. I was only 10 years old.

sarawakiana said...

I recently heard of a sorry 60's tale of a disabled person was left to fend for himself in a very old house..but later he was helped by a hospitable person of another race. This happened somewhere in Ulu Sibu...need to verify the tale before I post it.

When the tide was high and we were all sitting by the verandah of my grandmother's house my third uncle would start telling stories. This was the best time of our bonding with cousins, uncles and aunties...lovely warm feelings...


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