Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lever Scale 2

Lever Scale 2
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The time was not right for renting farmland because a sugar company monopolized it. It paid to grow sugar. The tenant rice farmers at Weili didn't want to plant sugarcane for the simple reason that the company was exploiting them. The company, on the other hand, raised the rents that the landlords collected from their tenants. Mindful only of their interests, the landlords then ignored the pains of their tenants, of course, and re-leased the land to the sugar company after ending the rice farmers' tenancy. Even those not-so-greedy landlords who would lease their land for rice-farming demanded a raise of the rental prices to the level the sugar company had set. As a result, De-san couldn't lease even one single acre of rice paddies in his home village. Should he work for the sugar company, he would have to work like an ox or a horse, and his mother didn't like it at all. So all he could do was to stay at home, waiting for a chance to get some work on the few remaining small rice farms. Because he was strong and could work hard, he would be able to have work every day. He could now labor less but earn more than as a rice farm chore-boy. He began to gradually save some money, thanks in part to his mother's frugality. Time flies like an arrow. Three years easily passed. When he reached the age of 18, the only important thing his mother thought she had left undone was to get him to take a wife. She knew she had enough money saved, through her hard work and frugal housekeeping keeping, for her son to get married. So De-san married a farmer's daughter in Weili. It was very fortunate of the family to have a bride who soon became a hard worker and her husband's partner at work. She worked like a man. And there were a number of good rice harvests at their village. The family had no hard time making a living.

De-san's mother had a grandson when the rice farm pieceworker was 21 years old. She was contented. She was able to let go of her sense of responsibility, because she had already discharged her duty as a mother. But 20 years of hardship made it impossible for her to sustain her meager, overworked body any longer. As her sense of responsibility was let go, her mind lost the strain; and the demon of ill health took advantage of her weak moments to get her. She lay on her sick bed for days and then went back to Heaven fully contented and seemingly happy. De-san's stepfather, with whom he had only a relationship in name, left the family after his mother's death. They became utter strangers again.

Poor De-san. His happiness was lost along with his beloved mother who was dead.

In the year following his mother's death, De-san had a daughter. Without her mother-in-law at home, his wife had to take care of the baby girl and her son herself, unable to go out to work together with her husband. The income of the family was then reduced by half. One result was that De-san was compelled to work twice as hard to make ends meet. Such a hard life lasted four years. Overwork eroded his health, making him disease-prone.

The Lai He Fiction serialization, is sponsored by the Council for Hakka Affairs, is provided by the Central News Agency

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