Friday, March 14, 2008

Village Shop Keeper's Generosity

Along the Rejang River amongst the enclaves of Foochow settlements were little shops which helped with the economic development of people.

Each area would have a small shop often built near a primary school and that would be like a market square of an European village.

My mother's Ah Nang Chong, or Lower Southern Village boasted a fairly vibrant primary school called Kwong Nang Primary School and a little sundry shop called Huo Ling Shop. Huo Ling Shop was sited at the head of a bridge , a locality similar to any Chinese shop in China, as it was strategic that all people must pass the small bridge whenever they travelled up and down the road to all the different villages along the river.

Every day the children would be given some pocket money for snacks and at the end of the school day, they would buy some supplies for their mothers. Such was the simple and easy life of that time. A bit of sugar, a bit of salt, some dried squid, ginger, and everything else for the villagers as most of them would only take the slow motor launch ride of more than two and half hours to Sibu once in every two or three months.

Going to town was a celebration!! And not all children would be brought by their children to see the town lights. A trip would have meant a real treat and the children would have many stories to relate to their siblings and friends at school.

My mother's youngest sister is married to an extra-ordinary man. He was a teacher, a principal and then later personal assistant to a timber tycoon because he has proven himself to be exceptionally trustworthy, ethical and loyal.

This exceptional man has an extra-ordinary childhood filled with bitter sweet experiences which helped him turn into a very strict disciplinarian.

When the children were growing up in the village, most of them had a certain amount of pocket money. they were not however, extremely rich. So they could afford an icicle may be, a lolipop or even a biscuit or two with the few cents they had. They would of course had brought their own packed rice which they would eat cold.

But my uncle unfortunately had a mother who considered pocket money insignificant.

Ikan bilis was only a few cents a kati at that time. And so was peanuts which were really sold for peanuts. The owner of Huo Ling shop did not really pay much attention to any child who came into the shop to pick up a few ikan bilis and chewed them right in front of him. Many ladies would also come into the shop and pick a few peanuts to chew. He did not mind at all.

So my uncle would walk into the shop during recess and grab a handful to put into his pocket. Whether the towkay saw it, we would never know. But my uncle would have something to bite or chew during recess or at lunch time. According to my uncle, he was creative enough to have "something to eat" during recess and no one was wiser to know that he never was given any pocket money by his mother.

whenever my uncle recall his days in the primary school, he would look so sad and shake his head. He had suffered so much. Perhaps it was also God given that Huo Ling's towkay kept one eye close on this matter. In later years, my uncle treated him with respect and they were truly the best of friends. My uncle was so grateful to him for allowing him to fill his empty stomach with ikan bilis.

This quiet generosity of the shop keeper reminds me of the Bible verse that when we measure grains for our customers, we have to make sure that the measurement is overflowing and beyond the required weight. God's grace would be overflowing for you too.

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