Ah Fun (亚芬)The Girl Who Won’t Take Red Bean Soup 红豆汤

The Merdeka Bridge was constructed in the early 1950’s. At that time there were rumours  swirling in the whole of Singapore that at the base of every column of the bridge to be built, the severed head of a child had to be placed there  to placate the spirit of the bridge and to ensure its stability. However  ridiculous the rumour may appear, it had its fair share of believers, especially among the Chinese community living in Chinatown. Stories of lost children were spread among many. As with most rumours, the more they were spread, the more “real” they appeared.

Around that time, Ah Fun( 亚芬) the cousin of the Writer could not be found a short while after her mother brought her  to our shop at No. 67, Pagoda Street. Her mother and all friends and relatives fanned out to the various parts of Chinatown to search for her.

At that time, the  Sago Street, Smith Street and Trengganu Street area in Chinatown was an open wet market. There were vegetable stalls, fish stalls and live chicken stalls and many others. To provide water for the chicken stalls to clean the slaughtered chickens, these stalls used hose reels  to convey water from the shops to the stalls, straddling over the drains and cutting across the road surface, thus creating an inch-high barrier.

As the search for Ah Fun dragged on, everyone got frantic and panicky. Fear gripped all at the thought of Ah Fun being used as a sacrifice for Merdeka Bridge, especially Ah Fun’s mother who blamed herself for not keeping a constant eye on her own daughter. She ran helter skelter around the entire Chinatown wet market, calling out aloud for Ah Fun. When she arrived at the chicken stalls, she was not able to bring herself to step over the inch-high hose-reel . Frozen and paralysed by fear and trauma, she stood there unable to move until another relative found her and helped raised her feet above the inch-high barrier.

A few stalls further up the street, chatter about a lost girl being found could be heard. It grew louder  as more joined in the conversation. Yes, a little girl had been found. A kind  hawker stall owner had  found a little  girl  wondering around her stall. Not sure what to do, she got the little lost girl to sit by her stall and gave her a bowl of red bean soup to calm her down. The little girl was weeping and in fear – incessantly asking for her mother in between her sobs.

Yes! the little lost girl was Ah Fun. Her mother suddenly found new strength and vigour when she saw a vague image of Ah Fun at a distance. She ran forward to carry Ah Fun in her arms and thanked the stall owner profusely.

Perhaps, red bean soup reminded Ah Fun of the time she was lost. Since then, she would not take red bean soup.

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