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!!
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