HK ArtAs part of my course on world literatures in English, I recently asked students to compose a piece of imaginative writing that might reflect or problematise the way in which we had been talking in class about diaspora and the diasporic experience. My hope was that this task would encourage students to think creatively rather than (just) critically about this kind of literature.

Over the next few days I will be posting some of the poems and short pieces of prose that the students presented – and I invite you to leave comments or questions for the authors. Over all, I think you will agree that the students did a wonderful job of thinking creatively about this difficult concept:

“And Then”
by Nick Chan Chun Fan (17 March, 2016)

Yut wun wonton min ng goi !” Through the steam comes the order of a customer. It’s been a long time since there was a Cantonese-speaking one, most of them speak Mandarin now.

I gave up my job and moved here to take my mother’s restaurant when she died ten years ago. It was not that I hated my job or that this business was a lucrative one, but it had always been my mother’s meaning of life to which she devoted all her time and energy. It would be such a shame to end it or hand it over to others. With my dad suffering from severe back pain, it seemed I was destined to wear the apron.

“From Hong Kong?” I deliver the bowl of wonton noodles to the Cantonese-speaking middle-aged woman. A whole bowl of noodles, two cups of tea and ten wontons later, I know she is also a Hong Konger and she is planning to move here. Seriously? From Hong Kong to this place with prevalent discrimination and violence? If I had the choice, I would book the air ticket and fly back to Hong Kong tonight. “Hong Kong is not what it used to be anymore,” in the woman’s words “Chaos and riots. Those teenagers.” “Really? It is that serious?”

I still read news from Hong Kong, so I know there was some occupying or something going on, but I have never realized it is something so radical that it has forced people out of their homes. From the woman’s mouth, I also know how these movements have shattered the economy of Hong Kong. How dare those self-centred people who have destroyed my home! Where has my beautiful Hong Kong, where everyone worked hard to earn money as if that was the only purpose of life and no one cared about politics, gone? If I were to return to my home, what would be left there?

I don’t know whether this encounter with the lady is a blessing or curse, but at least she pays for the noodles. I stare at the empty bowl. Ten have gone. And what now?