Monday, May 15, 2006

The Fish Bee Hoon Woman

This particular hawker at Yeo Chuan Huat Food Centre in Tampines has never failed to fascinate me. At the age of probably late forties to early fifties, she would sashay through apparently insurmountable barriers made up of closely packed tables and chairs, shouting, “Lai, Sao. Lai, Sao” – which translates approximately to “Come, it’s hot. Come, it’s hot.”

Undaunted by her senseless chants, customers would continue to chomp on morsels of delicious Singaporean hawker food. Balancing on her fingers are at least three to four bowls of fish noodles. While her militant cry of “Lai, Sao; Lai, Sao” might make some sense to her, it never ceases to remind me of the inherent paradox within her short statement.

Why would we “come” to her, especially when she is carrying a precarious number of bowls of boiling hot fish soup? Obviously she was not beckoning to us to approach her during that vulnerable state. Furthermore, her passion in selling as many bowls of noodles in the shortest amount of time is only rivaled by our gastronomic passion to eat. As the saying goes, “money is never enough,” at least in Singapore. And I’m sure she is getting what she desires.

This comical character might convey some spiritual lessons to the observant customer. Her double entendre “Lai, Sao; Lai, Sao” may reflect the attitude of many Singaporeans. Specifically, do Singaporeans know where they are heading after they have passed on to the other side? Most wouldn’t even care to think about eternity, let alone the other side.

Some have heard of the aphorism “Hell knows no fury like a woman scorned.” But the sad fact is, “Man knows no fury like that of Hell.” It’s real. It’s horrific. And it’s definitely hot. Remember the parable of the rich man and Lazarus? “And in hell [the rich man] lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. [24] And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame (Luke 16:23-24)”

So before we strut along blindly like the rest of the world, let us take a moment to reflect upon the hawker’s statement: “Lai, Sao; Lai, Sao.” Or, “Come, it’s hot. Come, it’s hot.” Knowing that it is hot, do we really bother if we are heading towards that burning abyss?

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