Suchitra brings out her mixed feelings towards Hong Kong as she bids goodbye to it. First published on June 5th, 2002.
This had not been a city I loved. In fact, in the three months I had been here, I had thoroughly despised it. And now it was time to leave.
I sat at the window, looking out at vistas of Hong Kong spread below me. We lived on an elevated road – you could take the steps from the road below or use the elevator at the mall to reach our road. All of Hong Kong was undulating.
It was a beautiful city with steel and glass structures on one side, and green hillocks and tree-lined avenues on the other. You could call the people beautiful too, and if you called one person beautiful, you would have to call them all. So striking was the resemblance between persons. They were all smooth of skin, and had hair that dropped down like silk.
My impression of Hong Kong had been marred from the start. When the plane touched down at the airport, it was like stepping into a toy city made of matchboxes. The sea was on one side, but it was green and dull unlike all the seas I had ever lived near.
And then there was the slaughter of animals that I had seen the first day I ventured out. I had walked along a lane of Wan Chai, with vegetable markets on one side and the meat market on the other side. A truck had stopped a few feet in front of me, and a man in waterproof overalls climbed down. From the back of the truck, he pulled out a huge, pink, dead pig and carried it on his shoulders. The pig was as big as he was. The entrails were dripping blood. I am not a person easily shocked by gore, but that scene disturbed me intensely. In later days, I was to see snakes being skinned and their blood extracted to be served in glass bowls. It troubled me.
There was also the racism.
There was no real racism – it was simply an undercurrent. I was not resented, I was simply ignored. Back in Bangalore, I would have been happy to be ignored. And if anyone had said that it would trouble me to be persona non-grata, I would not have believed them. But here it was, I hated living in a city where my existence was of no consequence, where what I spoke was not heard, where eyes looked past me as if I was made of glass.
I had hated the feeling.
Nevertheless, this last day, sitting and looking out at Hong Kong, I feel a dull sadness overcome me. It is not the pain that hit when I had left Bombay, it is not the helplessness that loomed when I had left Chennai, it is not even the mixture of joy and disappointment I had felt when I left Bahrain. All the other cities were ones I had come to know intimately. But with Hong Kong, I had made no attempt to know the small avenues, taken no steps to look behind the faces that passed me everyday. I had accepted my stature as an outsider without protest.
And that is the sadness that I feel today. The sadness of saying goodbye to someone who may have been misjudged.
I must make a resolution to myself today. That someday I will return to Hong Kong and understand it better, beyond all my superficial dislikes and discomforts. And in that knowing, perhaps the fact of not being acknowledged would show itself to be an illusion.
Until that day then, goodbye Hong Kong.
Leave A Comment (0)