Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Business : Babies for Sale

Sibu had a myriad of professions and businesses in the past, mostly traditionally Chinese in nature. As a young girl I was very amazed then by what men and women did. There was one man who only made rattan baskets or cages for chickens and there was another man who made pails and buckets from aluminium sheets. And I remember watching one man making buckets, and water tanks from well seasoned pieces of wood. He could make wooden bath tubs as well. How I wish I could buy one now from him.

But here is a story which paralysed many of us young girls when we heard about it from an older woman who knew the couple personally.

Apparently that was a good for nothing man who gambled most of the time. However he was fortunate enough to marry a hardworking woman. And they lived in a rented room quite near the town. She earned a bit of money by washing clothes for several families. But the man survived by gambling. Sometimes he would end up with big debts and the wife had to help him pay with her meagre earnings.

She became pregnant almost every year, and she had no rest from childbearing.

The story teller told us that one day when she herself was at the maternity home she met the tearful lady. Even before she was discharged, her husband had already sold the new born for one thousand dollars. Her husband had given her some money for her confinement chickens and asked her to get well and start working. According to her, he was also a broker for other families if babies were available for sale.

We were all told later that this man had sold altogether seven of her children. In the end she did keep one boy. Boys fetched 2000 dollars for the gambler.

Of all the stories I heard this is one of the saddest. In one action, a man could cause a lot of heartbreak for his wife and regarded his own flesh and blood as a merchandise.

This was indeed a horrifying and inhumane business. He must have regarded his wife as no better than a mother hen which could lay eggs for sale.

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