August 15, 2013

Nang Chong Stories : Getting Husband to Quit Smoking

My uncle Lau Yung Chiong was a primary school headmaster and he first served in Kai Nang, Nang Chong and later Yung Nang, Twenty Four Acres. After he retired, the whole family moved to live in a lovely proerty in Oya Road in Sibu.

As a young boy he was brought to Sibu where he gew up. Later, because he was very bright he was educated in Fuzhou (China) and passed  with Senior Middle School Certificate. My grandmother Lian Tie was the closest aunt he and his wife recognised while in Sibu as his parents did not come to Sarawak from China with the other Sibu Foochow pioneers.

 His wife had been a "child bride" brought out to Sibu to marry him in Ensurai in the late 30's.  While they were young and raising their children they did not have a chance to return to China to visit their own families. My grandmother thus became a "second mother" to my aunt, who had the most gracious personality. On my grandmother's birthday every year, she would always get a chicken from her own backyard and some mien sien ready and make a special birthday soup for her. It was a reamarkable birthday gift. In the times when there was no handphone, Aunt would shout across (literally) the padi field and call grandma to her kitchen for a nice birthday treat.

When my uncle first served as a Headmaster in Nang Chong, my mother and young Aunt Lau Hung Yung, amongst many other relatives, were his students in Kai Nang Primary School.

So we all regarded him as an Educator. And his wife would always try to maintain his image. She did not think that smoking should be a habit of his.

We had a very amusing story about how he stopped smoking.

In Nang Chong there was a Cooperative Society shop and men would make that a very "happening" place in the 1960's and 1970's. It was like the local pub in the village. Men who came back from Sibu would stop there and by word of mouth spread the latest news and gossips, there being no newspapers in the early days. (However due to the the communist Insurgency most of the villagers moved to Sibu for safety. A few young people were actually killed by either the Police field force or the Underground Communists.)

My uncle and his family lived just about a stone throw from the Cooperative or Hak Chok Sia. Whenever he came home from his school in 24 Acres, during the weekends, he would spend some down time with his fellow village people at the Hak Chok Sia, perhaps buying some drinks like Ta Fong Aerated Drinks. The cooperative had an ice box, so the drinks would be cold.

Now another interesting "thing" which the men would do was to smoke when playing chess.

The moment my cousin who followed him to the Cooperative saw his father smoking, he would immediately cycle home to report to his mother. And Aunt would send two kids out to "recall" uncle.

Yung Chiong Ah Ging.

Yung Chiong Ah Kiew

After a few months of constant "recalling" of husband by wife, my uncle gave up smoking.

End of Story.

Today my cousins still remember this event, how their father stopped smoking. In fact all the aunts and uncles living in Nang Chong would regale in laughter whenever they were reminded of this. Addiction to cigarettes was a great fear of the village people. Many men would hide their smoking habits, some more successful than others.

But what was very significant to me in those days was how kind and loving my uncle was to aunty and their children. My cousins were really blessed. Today, they are very upright and religious and a blessing to the society.

Here's an aside on Foochow wedding practices both in restaurants and self catered banquets at home. During wedding banquets, two packets of cigarettes would be part of the "table" set together with a bottle of brandy, half dozen of soft drinks and a few bottles of beer alongside the peanuts and oranges. The women who ruled the table would say quickly to the host, :"Take the cigarettes away, no body smokes in this table..." It was part Foochow courtesy, and part method of stopping the guys from stealing a few smokes....I still smile whenever I remember this kind of scenario. The men at the table would roll their eyes naturally and humourously.

The frugal Foochow wives would not tolerate smoking where their husbands were concerned. Most of them somehow managed to stop them from smoking, one way or the other.

May my uncle's soul rest in peace. He was really a very educated and good man.

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