Some of you who come by often know how I love to photograph senior citizens when I go out on these photo walks with my friend. When I first came to Hong Kong (20 years ago!), I was surprised to see senior citizens mopping the floors at fast food restaurants, collecting carton boxes from the streets… I could not picture my grandparents having to do that. I had naively thought that all senior citizens are comfortably taken care of by their families. (Yes, I realize now that I’ve led quite a sheltered life growing up.)
This shot above was taken at noon, presumably one of the busiest times of the day for this tiny corner shop that sells rice noodles and congee, as there were plenty of people waiting to be seated or waiting for their take-out orders. This old man was on his feet the whole time we were there. He was in charge of making the steamed rice noodles (河粉, ho fun). He was slightly stooped, fingers arthritic, yet he was efficiently turning over sheet after sheet of steaming hot rice noodles, cutting them up, and putting them on a plate to pass on to the server.
I’d stood there fascinated by what he was doing, but I also wondered about his family. Does he have family or is he on his own? Could he be part of the family that owns that place or is he an employee? Why is he still working at his age? What he does, while not exactly back-breaking, is not a walk in the park either. Standing in front of the hot steam, leaning over to spread the sheets of noodle evenly over the cooling rack for long stretches. Working quickly to fulfill orders. I am hoping that his family of co-workers appreciates him, appreciates what he does. I am praying that if he doesn’t have family of his own, that maybe he can look to the regulars at this small roadside shop, –the ones who address him as ‘Ah Pak’ (uncle), –to be his family. Of sorts.
(Edit: It turns out the man owns the place. I just found out from a friend who used to live around that area and who used to visit the shop.)