Minority’s Priority

G. Dhiraj, 17–08–2015, Smarties 聰明, Interview

I love to hear stories and at the same time I am quite inquisitive while hearing the stories. Maybe that is one of the reasons why I wanted to conduct interviews for this Social Lab, however language was one of the barriers and I was not able to do so far … until today.

I was able to conduct an interview with a Nepalese elderly man who has been living in Sham Shui Po since 1997 with his family but finding him wasn’t easy unless I got his contact from the key informant who happens to be my friend working in this area. So after calling my interviewee, I and Ada, my team mate wandered around the streets of Sham Shui Po to find the location where I was mentioned by the interviewee over the phone.

Finally when we arrived at the place where we were told, we figured out our interviewee in the crowd; although he was not the only old citizen there, but his eyes at the same time also seemed like expecting someone while he was also busy chatting with people around him.

Mr. RAI Bainsing

68 years old, Mr. Bainsing Rai was a suitable candidate for our interview as we wanted. Holding a can of beer and chatting with other people outside the shade of the mini Nepali grocery shop by the road, I found that was a perfect place to beat the August heat as well as to kill his loneliness.Outspoken, comfortable (even with my team mate Ada around), and enthusiastic he was, and as I informed him about our purpose of the interview, he was ready to share his story and together we decided to move to the nearby park for the interview.

And as we were walking towards the park, I noticed his fingers which seemed like had swollen joints and also he was walking in a slow pace with a walking stick. Something did not seem right but I did not bother to ask anything about it then.

But as soon as we sat down for the interview, Mr. Rai mentioned about how desperately he is seeking for a proper place to live in and
that is his one and only priority at the moment.

Curious I became and asked him why so and before he spoke any words in reply, he stretched his legs and showed us the scars he had.

I soon discovered that gait he has was NOT just old age, but the knee joint surgeries that had to be performed on both of his knees. Having had surgery for both of his knees, he has been finding climbing up and down from his building very difficult as there’s no elevator in the building although he wants to come out of his place and go around.

More Mouths, Less Hands

And on top of that, “There are also more eating mouths than working hands in my family”, Mr. Rai mentioned about just 2 working people (his son and daughter-in-law) and 4 non-working people (Mr. Rai, his wife & 2 grandsons) in the family. And having living in such dire state, he has been applying for the public housing since decades, but he is still not able to get the public housing although he has applied years ago. He wonders when he will get it or where did his application go wrong?

But no matter what, his only priority at the moment is to get a place to live in a public housing estate where at least they do not have to spend much than what the earning is. He understands well that Sham Shui Po area is getting expensive and expensive than earlier, so it will be difficult with time to live by paying rent so he would like to move into public housing as early as possible as he feels it will be burden to the working people in his family.

And even if he gets the public house to live, he would like to live in this area as he has been living in this area for a long time now, but most importantly he thinks it is convenient for his grandsons to go to school and he also has friends around and is familiar with this place.

As of his age, he gets the welfare money too and when asked is he satisfied with that amount, he replied “money is never enough, no matter how much we have, right?”, with a smile mixed with some sort of sad look on his face.

As we hear about local Hong Kong people complaining people about new immigrants from Mainland China in Hong Kong, we also asked him about his opinion on these immigrants and he does thinks some of their behaviours are really disturbing and uncivilised. He complained especially about their littering habits, which is now bit reduced at where he lives. But on the other hand, he mentioned how other minority groups usually have this fights and quarrels in the evening, which he finds really disturbing too.

Overall he loves Sham Shui Po, and would love if there were few more parks to walk around, also more shopping malls, not to shop but for shopping, or window shopping and especially to escape the scorching heat and humid Hong Kong summer.

Last but not the least, he also mentioned about the vote he casts for choosing the district councillor, so if he and fellow Sham Shui Po’ers are choosing someone to be their voice, then their voice should be heard.

He is looking forward to get what his priority is and looking forward to live more happily with his family, where he also has a good relation with his son and daughter-in-law, unlike some local families which we discussed earlier in the morning session.

After the interview, Mr. Rai happily agreed to post his story on the blog, popped into that Nepali grocery shop again before heading home … slowly.