Big Q.T ., Trader
Set this down:
When you are last-born in a large family
lost in poverty, chances of survival are small.
But I, being so small from birth,
needed only a tiny slice of luck to survive.
And I did, surprising everyone.
When the chance came,
it was I who took the boat for Singapore.
Do you wonder how this illiterate,
standing five feet only as I went barefoot for work,
should make his fortune and bring honour to his family?
Begin business: you begin small.
I had experience of that.
It made me hungry to survive.
Some despised me, others liked me, because of my size.
I did not trouble some, I ran errands for others
and little by little – always my way, little by little –
I survived, surprising everyone.
When the Chinese Chamber of Commerce invited me
to meet the Governor, he welcomed me saying,
as he bent down towards me,
now I was "one of the big boys."
I asked for a translation.
The Governor asked why I left China?
I told him: Singapore is like me –
small on the outside, big on the inside.
The day I died I was still five feet only
but everyone called me Big Q.T. after that!
Lee Mui Mui
That first morning when I came on deck
how my hopes soared!
The sun shone on coconut trees I had never seen before -
big leaves spreading welcome
over the distant shore of Nanyang, the southern seas.
Greedy boats nudging us like hungry fish.
Brown-skinned, bare-chested men
with shocking white-tooth smiles
wave up, unruly as the waters.
Suddenly your uncle's sing-song greeting!
The only thing I know as his firm hand helped me down.
Over the rocking water we row,
my heart too full for talk.
Slowly the shore coming closer.
On the road beyond the sand
strange carriages pulled by horses.
High above the river the fort on the hill
with a blue, white and red flag.
Stepping onto the rough plank jetty,
my feet unsteady
and my heart astir with hope and fear,
I swore I would always remember that first morning
when I stepped out of the old life
into my new home.
Rubber. Rice. Flour. Wood
Coffee. Pepper. Charcoal.
It's all the same,
barrel, crate, gunnysack:
Hard on the back,
the arms, the legs.
All I had
at the end of the day:
From The Belly Of The Carp on The 5 Show (14 May 2015) with Gillian Tan, Drake Lim & Shaiful Risan acting as sinkheh
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