Shades of Beddegama in Teeming Hong Kong

I stopped visiting the village, but would see Mr. Li in Sai Kung town, sitting at McDonalds, engrossed in a newspaper that appears to have been salvaged from the garbage. He held the paper close to his face, which probably meant he was nearsighted. That may also account for his shyness and avoidance of people, because he couldn’t see well.

Over the years, his favorite place in town had been the Hong Kong Jockey Club betting center. Even in the last days I saw him, he would be squatting on the pavement near the betting center, carefully reading the racing sheet. He was shirtless, shoeless, the bicycle and the dogs long gone. He was becoming much scrawnier and unkempt over the years. Even when I said “Hello Mr. Li”, he would not look up or return my greeting.

I left Sai Kung in 2015. Recently, I saw that the following message had been left on my blogsite:

I’m sorry to announce that the lone survivor died at the beginning of this year (2015) and within weeks the developers moved in and put up 10 foot high corrugated hoardings fencing off the land from the public access road. This is a major eyesore and even worse is the bulldozing of the trees and wildlife areas (lush green grasslands that covered former paddy fields that were farmed by the villagers in the 50s and 60s).

I wonder about Mr. Li’s last days. Were they like Punchi Menika’s in Beddegama? Did he die alone, miserably, or did someone find him before it was too late?

As for Wong Chuk Yeung, I have no wish to return. I prefer to remember it from all those years ago.

GEORGE BRAINE

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