Monday, June 6, 2011

A kind deed renews our faith in humanity

A TOUCHING scene at a night market in Air Panas caught my attention last week. It was the sight of a woman belting out sentimental Mandarin songs of the 1970s which I believed were sung by Taiwanese songbird, the late Teresa Teng. The woman, whom I presumed to be in her 30s, was singing with a karaoke box. She had positioned herself in between the stalls.
Although techno music was blaring away from two illegal DVD sellers a stone's throw away, her voice managed to come out quite clear that I thought the music which accompanied her songs would have done her justice with a better set of speakers.

But it was not her songs alone that attracted me -- it was the handicapped man seated in a wheelchair in front of her. He was holding a biscuit tin on his lap with his right hand. His left hand was only a stump of an elbow and he had no shirt on his back.

As the woman sang, the man appeared to be immersed in a world of his own. He was oblivious of the crowd hunting for bargains and snacks just as they were of his presence. The sad songs the woman sang did not appear to have tugged at anyone's heartstrings. 
For a good 10 minutes I watched as she sang. Fate was not generous that night. Every single pasar malam shopper walked passed, watched them, and moved on. Some did it with looks of pity, some with whispers of suspicion. None drop any money.

One chap, who wanted to take a closer look, was quickly ushered off by his lady partner.

The trader selling fried stuff two stalls away was cursing under her breath at her bad luck to have the couple nearby -- they must have driven her customers away, I thought.

Then a woman with a small boy in tow walked past. The boy, about seven years old, I think, stopped his mother and asked for some coins. When his mother asked why he wanted money, he shouted above the din that he wanted to give it to the uncle in the wheelchair.

Grudgingly, the woman obliged with some loose change which the boy took and dropped into the man's biscuit tin. The act of generosity drew a nod of gratitude and a weak smile from him as the boy was quickly led away by his mother.

I left the pasar malam wondering how much the couple raised that night and how they had survived the nightly disappointment and possible humiliation thus far. They were fortunate for the small boy even though the coins could hardly be sufficient to pay for two glasses of plain water.

The boy's kindness -- whether he understood the merits of being charitable or was merely repeating something he had seen on TV -- was encouraging. The woman who sang the sad songs, too, was an inspiring sight. At a time when the sanctity of relationships is constantly being challenged, it is reassuring to see the woman standing by her man.

Events like the one which unfolded at the pasar malam that night renews our faith in human kindness. They help us rise above the pettiness and treachery we see unfold around us every day.

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