Monday, May 21, 2007

THE BEGGAR by Lam Chun Chew

My mother told me a story when I was a kid. There was this rich man who was a very extravagant and wasteful man, and a wouldn’t-care-less type of a person. Every day his horde of servants would throw away useful things. When preparing meals, the kitchen staff would carelessly spill large amount of rice into a drain which flowed down hill past a monastery.

The chief abbot of the monastery was disgusted with such daily wastage and instructed his monks to use a sieve to trap the rice flowing down the drain, dry them in the sun, pack them into bags, and store in the temple’s warehouse. This rice retrieval went on for a number of years.

Due to some misfortune, the rich man lost all his wealth and became a pauper, and had to resort to begging for a living. One day he visited the monastery and begged for a meal. The abbot recognised him and quickly told his monks to serve him a hearty meal, for which the rich man was very thankful.

The abbot said: “You need not thank me. The rice you are eating now actually belongs to you”. The former rich man was surprised: “I don’t understand?” The chief monk then explained how his monks had retrieved the rice wasted by this rich man in former days. The rich man understood his misdeeds which caused him to lose all his wealth

We can learn a lesson from this story. Sometimes, when I pass by a coffeeshop or a eating place, I see people order large portions of foods, but unable to eat all, leaving behind much leftovers. Many people have forgotten that Singapore has, in its history, gone through ups and downs, and just because we are having good time now, we throw caution to the winds. If we ever placed on a complacent mood, please remember the above story.


Photo courtesy of: Morton Fox

18 comments:

peter said...

I heard this story from my mother.

Finish all your rice on the plate - otherwise when you marry you will get pimples on your face.

My father was more strn - never leave rice on your plate. Think of those who had no meal.

To this day, I finish every single drop of rice on my plate without fail. It's the same I tell my boys.

Victor said...

My mum told me a similar story as what Peter had described except that the one with the mopeng (blemished) face would be my wife. My wife's face turned out quite alright so I guess it must be because I cleaned up my plate pretty well at every meal, haha.

Laokokok said...

Yes, such story was told by my parents and godparents too. Me too, tell the same story to my kids haha!

But nowadays, an unfussy eater like me also find it rather difficult to finish each and every grain when eating outside. Some of those food sold outside taste really bad...

zen said...

Sharing a conversation with my cousins during CNY, one cousin recalled: "you know our father made us ate up all the rice until the plate was really cleaned. I still have this habit until today!" - but for our children?

Another story, one of my old workers recollected that when he saw papaya, he had an aversion, why? During Japanese occupation, there was a serious shortage of rice, hence many resorted to eating papaya and tapioca (ad hoc basis). These plants had the characteristics of growing easily and fast in Singapore. The undisireable diet went on for three years causing great hardship for the people.

fr said...

Hahaha, sometimes I think we all need a dose of bad times to remind us not to waste food, water, energy or to throw away things that are still usable.

Ivan Chew said...

This can be easily titled "You don't know what you have until it's gone" : ) Thanks for sharing this story, Chun See.

Ivan Chew said...

Oops! I mean, Chun Chew!!!

Cool Insider said...

I remembered reading about this story which I think originated from Thailand. It was one of those story books with pictures in my primary school days. This story struck me hard because it was something that I have always believed in for my whole life and a value that my dad has inculcated in me. There are just way too many starving and hungry people in the world for us to throw away food!

Tom said...

Tom said...
Chun see,when I read that story about the rich man and then he became a beggar.it reminded me of what my mother said to me.Eat all your dinner,and count your blesings, and be glad you have food to eat,and thing about all the children around the world who have next to nothing to eat. When I go in to the super markets and see people filling up their Trolly to the brim, Surely alot of that food must thown into the bin.I still say to my kids dont waste any food , unless it is bad. And I still clear my plate.

zen said...

There is a popular cantonese opera showing s story of a rich man who wasted all his wealth away. Though he was married but still spent most of his time in illicit sex, finally turned blind, and had to beg in the streets, telling people not to be like him. There is a Chinese saying which states that among all vices, illicit comes up top, but I am sure many would beg to differ.

f r said...

There is another opera with the same theme. In this case the son witnessed the step-mother's adulterous affair with another man. When his father was away on business, the step-mother blinded him and kicked him out of the house. He became a beggar.

Lam Chun See said...

I think the Cantonese opera that Zen mentioned is called: 萬惡淫為首 - 新馬師曾 which Frannxis has blogged about here.

I believe kids of our generation learned a lot of values from Cantonese and other dialect movies; including many idioms. For example, I had earlier blogged about our favourite movies in the 50's and 60's. One of the most popular was the Wong Fei Hong series starring Kwan Tuck Hing. Those days the action/fight scenes were not very realistic. But there was strong emphasis on moral values. At the end of the story, the villian, played by Shek Kin always had to endure a lengthy 'sermon' from the kung fu master.

chuck said...

There is a Malay saying which I remembered my friends told me in my kampung days:
Sedikit sedikit, lama lama jadi bukit....
Little by little , after long a few grains will become a mountain..
waste not, or you'll waste a lot ....

Lam Chun See said...

I am afraid this deeply ingrained habit of not wanting to waste food may be a cause of obesity in today's age of abundance. In my home for example, my children often do not complete eating the dishes, and the old man has to finish the job.

I had a client once who liked to bring me and a few of his managers for lunch at his favourite restaurant at the (former) Unity House along Jurong Town Hall Road. After ordering many dishes, he would just eat a little and then drink his beer; but not before telling us that he doesn't like to waste food .. so we had to finish everything.

zen said...

Young kids today may be scatching their head when they see their grandpas asking their friends: "have you eaten?". This old customary habit came about because of widespread hunger that existed in China, due mainly to wars and famines, which were experienced by our fore=-fathers.

SiDyZ SEE Property said...

I heard this story on Redifusion by the late renowned Hokkien story teller, Ong Tow back in the 70s.Your story did not mentioned that the collected rice were sun-dried and stored. To consume, either mixed with new uncooked rice or almost like our instant noodle, put in boiling water and Viola! Dinner serves... Back in 70s, we do not throw away the hardened residue of the rice at the bottom of the pot. We cook them with new rice.
Sid-Old Bt Timah near Turf Club

Philip said...

The moral of the story 'Every grain of rice is precious'. In 1962I was in Saigon and saw poverty of the Vietnamese who lived by the riverside. The children were malnourished and underfed as the war was still going on. When I returned to Singapore, I decided not to leave any rice on the plate. Last Friday I had dinner with my cousins and left about half of bowl of noodle unfinished. I felt very guilty. Actually, I have dental problem and could not chew my food. I saw the dentist on Monday before the dinner. This Wednesday I shall be visiting the dentist for follow up treatment
. I felt so relieved when the waiter removed the unfinished noodle.

Lam Chun See said...

For years I have always seen this wasteful habit in our hawker centres. The hawkers selling cooked disches tended to scoop a lot of rice. Every time the customers, especislly ladies or office workers, will ask the hawker to give less rice. Otherwise, a lot of unfinished rice is wasted.

At least nowadays, with the huge increase in price of rice, they seem to have reduced the amount to rice they scoop out each time.