Saturday, January 05, 2008

Money out of a Hat

Years ago, after my grandmother sold a lot of rubber to the middlemen in Sibu, she would be so happy that she would buy up a lot of groceries and cloth for her children and grandchildren.

She would buy cloth by the bales. Perhaps this was to absolve her absence in Sibu during the Japanese Occupation. She was stranded in Foochow City , in the Fujian Province in China thus she was unable to be with the family during the worst times of their lives in Sibu. Furthermore, my grandfather was terribly sick at that time too. My mother and siblings suffered tremendously because of lack of amenities and food. But nevertheless, they managed to rear their own domesticated animals and planted some padi and lots of potatoes. The threat of the Japanese soldiers was always there so the young women often did not go out into the fields, hence often they did not manage to collect enough food for the large extended family for several days. After the first year, food became really scarce and they had to ration.

thus when my grandmother was able to bring in a good income some ten years later, she was absolutely generous and hospitable to all relatives and neighbours, and especially to her Third Son and grandchildren.

She was particularly kind to poor people. Her generosity was well known throughout the Rejang Basin. Very often when she was older, many relatives would pay for her drinks and food in coffee shops when she came from the village for a town visit.

I would like to relate here a story she told me and I have used this story throughout my teaching and training days.

Before she came out to Sarawak, in Foochow City there was a very huge textile store which sold the best and also the cheapest of materials. The shop was like Salih Ahmad of Kuching or some of those huge Chinese textile shops in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.

One day an old lady wearing rather tattered clothes and an old hat came into the shop. The young lady assistants did not entertain her well and in fact practically ignored her,and when she asked for the best brocade for a pair of black samfoo trousers, the girls laughed at her and suggested that she should buy the black material at the back of the shop which went for the cheapest price.

The old lady was not at all offended but instead, she asked for the shop owner to entertain her.

When the shop owner saw her, he was surprised and he recognised her.

"What ever you want, madam! Good morning to you!! Welcome to my shop!" the owner said to her.

The young girls were surpised by his courteous manner.

So the lady bought her two yards of brocade. She went to the owner and started paying him.

In fact the shop owner told her that it was on him and she need not pay him.

The girls were now very very curious.

But the old lady placed her hat on the piles of materials and took out a few pieces of notes from the layers and layers of her straw hat. Hidden in her hat was actually a lot of money!!

When the old lady left the shop, the shop owner scolded the girls for behaving badly.

He told them that they should never look down upon an old lady like her, or any old lady for that matter. She was actually a very important land owner in her own right and in fact she had sold the land to the shop owner very cheaply so that he could build his shop.

The young girls bowed their heads in shame. But they had learned a great lesson.

My siblings and I too learned a great lesson from my grandmother. We were taught to deal with any one with respect regardless of what they wore.

2 memories:

FrancisN said...

It still happens nowadays.

I have walked into shops wearing a suit during lunch time and I get lots of attention and eager service.

At other times, my casual clothes would not attract any attention or service at all.

I have money to spend and if they do not want my custom, I usually go somewhere else. Their loss!

I Am Sarawakiana said...

It is a pity whenever older ladies/men go shopping in the malls they get treated badly. sometimes because of differences in culture they ask the "wrong kinds" of questions and the sales assistants become rude and rough.

A retired teacher was peeved more than once when she asked about the authenticity of some imitation leather goods. Once she was asked to buy her own cow to get the hide for her shoes!! Such rudeness is rather uncalled for.

Most older folks also tend to be more casual in their dressing. It is only common sense to wear cotton clothes and minimal makeup when shopping in an equatorial climatic area.


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