January 12, 2010

Disappearing Miri : The Neighbourhood Pao Lady

These two pictures are part of my series on Disappearing Miri.

But together with the photos I have a story to tell. The story has no connection with the photos or the neighbourhood pao lady.

In the growing village straddled across a small stream there was a widow who had two sons. She made a living by making paos and selling them to the students and teachers in the village school.

She was very careful worker. Her paos were always very white with a red dot. To her the red dot signified hope and good fortune. She would never make a pao without putting a red dot in the middle. Each of the paos would have exactly the same amount of filling and she would not cheat on the ingredients. Each day she would carefully count how much capital she put into her business and at the end of the day she would count her profit. She was as happy as a lark!

As the village grew bigger the school also grew bigger. Naturally her business also grew. The eldest son tapped rubber and grew vegetables and soon he married into the family of the rubber garden owner and prospered.

the widow was happy that her son had prospered but her second son was not doing too well. He was wasting his time in school and one day he just disappeared.

The poor mother was disheartened in many ways but she continued to sell her paos. However new technology appeared in the area and soon the urban pull was too great for the village. Her eldest son went to live in the huge city too.

In no time the old widow could not make a living even for herself. Each day she would wait for her younger son to come home. Her little hut was getting too dilapidated and no one could be counted on to help. The able bodied neighours had either died or gone away.

One day the lady took her steaming trays and moved to the city too. She rented a little room and continued making her paos and selling them at a small corner along a busy market road. She learnt to get a license from the urban council and was a proud night hawker and by day she took in a little bit of tailoring. Each day she kept away a little sum of money in a safe place.

One day a huge fire swept through the city and she was saddened that many people were left homeless and helpless including some of the richer homeowners.

One morning she made enough paos to give to the fire victims. Many of them were very grateful although some of them complained that the meat filling in the buns were not as large as a burger patty. Any way free things of course were not always good enough according to the old lady.

When she had almost finished giving out her paos she saw a familiar face. Wasn't that face very similar to her old long dead husband?

The man gave her a look and realised that she was his mother!! With a shout he rushed to hug his mother. He was the eldest son who had not looked at her for so many decades!

The son remorsefully told the mother that his own family had left him many years ago when they moved overseas and he had been thinking of reuniting with his mother but since they had lost touch for so long he did not know where to start. But he had just recently came home to look for her and had found the village gone. He asked for forgiveness.

But the mother only shook her head and said "It is what a hopeless mother can do. Just hope for the best. I could not give you much a long time ago but now you have come back to look for me! That is enough!"

The mother and son had a tearful reunion and shared a pao. The future would be warm like the stove for steaming their paos for them. They would start all over again.

She too was hoping against hope that they could find the second son.

Every pao lady has a tale to tell!!


Yan said...

Touching pao story! Thanks for sharing.

天鵝江畔 said...

your pao tale made me hungry and also expecting another unfinsihed tle abt how she find the second son......

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Yan
This is a tale to help people learn to love their mothers.


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Rajang Basin

Pao stories are nice....I know you like Paos...

Superman said...

Very touching story! Motherly love is priceless. A mother will never blame the son no matter how bad the son treat her. Salute to all the mothers!
But nowadays youngster will not like to go back to the little hometown and prefer to stay in big city or oversea. That's why Sibu population is actually decreasing...hope our beloved Ministers can do something to revive the city economy rather than just talking all the time.

Ah Ngao said...

i like man tou pao.you know how to make them?

William said...

True story or not?

By the way, I wanted to make good pau. Anyone can teach me? I have a dream to make pau for sales!
My father made good pau but the recipe die with him. Unfortunately non of us picked up the skill.

Daniel Yiek said...

Good story

Ghosty Nana said...

Very touching story. She kept waiting for his son. And found his son when she was helping others.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Nowadays families can be different in so many ways. In the past families can have similar stories. Because there are more options now. People can go overseas and leave their aged parents at home or old folks homes. Children are not necessarily the carers any more. This is across all races. The Chinese used to be very filial to their parents. Nowadays it is quite common to find abandoned old parents especially amongst the poor. Sometimes they say it is by choice of the parents themselves.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ngao
Thanks for writing. Yes I can make my own version of man tou. The real ones from Beijing are best.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hahaha...this story is quite true. The mother who made the pao was a real character. The second son was also a real person (really never found). But "the eldest son" was a distant relative. This pao lady's eldest son is still alive.

the reasons why the lady stayed on in the village was because she wanted to wait for her second son to come home. But it was turbulent political time too.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

William - you need to pay respect to my sifu to learn how to make pao....Want or not?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes the story is very touching...the lady was a true character.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ghosty Nana
Yes thank you for pointing out the significant point. In fact she saved a lot of money waiting for the day she would be reunited with her second son. She did not have much hope on her eldest son in actual life.
Thanks for visiting.

Uncle Lee said...

Hello Sarawakiana, I really enjoyed this story, abit like the Bible's 'Prodigal son'.
And today, thanks to you I learned about a pau's 'red dot'.
Have always wondered about that too. Now I know.

There are always such beautiful, heart warming stories if we care to learn or find out.

I had an experience personally of an adopted son who rented a room in a house, not realizing it was his real mom.
As well went out for food together, even on dates, (nothing happened) till one day by chance they found out.

Love your eloquence, Sarawakiana. And you are observant.
You keep well and have a great week, Lee.

Anonymous said...

I love baos/steamed buns. The traditional ones...not the sticky Hong Kong ones.

thanks for the story. Mum died when we were all little and Dad never remarried. Grandma's fine.


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Uncle Lee
How are the first few days of 2010?
I am sure the cold spell has not dampened your spirit!!
Thanks for sharing your story - life is stranger than fiction many people say!

Hope you are keeping warm at all times.


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Justin....
good you have written!

Hope all is well with your family...I love homemade paos.

Bengbeng said...

touching story.. may i describ it as a beautiful story?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thank you Bengbeng

Hope you have a great weekend ahead!!

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