(Last week I tried my hand at writing a short story, encouraged by an old colleague. A real life story. Many liked it. Confined at home, this is another attempt. A tiny story. If you like it, you too can share such stories…)

Wang meili. He could be in his late 70s. An old man with a shrunken but smiling face. The owner of a shop at Hong Kong Macaw Ferry Terminal, he was selling sundry stuff, ranging from clothes to shoes and bags and normal souvenirs.

I was alone in Hong Kong for some work and wanted to make a day trip to Macaw over the weekend, just for fun. Many, many years ago.

The shoo was not crowded. A nice leather bag caught my attention. I asked him its price. It was too expensive for me but I wanted to have it.  I started bargaining — bargaining hard.

He was not coming down much but the smile never left his face; he was not irritated. After sometime, I gave up as I did not want to miss my ferry.

I hired a hand-pulled rickshaw for the full day at Macaw. The rickshaw puller was taking me too all the places and explaining things in detail. We had lunch together. It was a nice day in Macau. I felt happy and tipped the rickshaw puller well.

It was late evening. My ferry anchored at the Hong Kong terminal.

I searched for the shop. To my relief, it was still open with no customer around. Once again, I walked in. The bag was still there, unsold. I got very excited. I had a chance, I thought. And, I started bargaining again. I wanted to grab it.

The man was not reacting. He stuck to his morning price offer but was listening to me with patience. All the while, the smile never left his face.

Then, he offered me a cookie to eat. After I finished eating that, he put his arm around me with affection, and told me: “Gentleman: You can’t have this bag because you don’t have the money to buy it.”

What’s the big deal, I thought.

He continued: “What does this mean? You don’t deserve it. Come back one day when you deserve it and take it from me. I may not have the same bag on that day but there could even better and more expensive ones that you’d pick up. Remember, everything has a price tag attached. You must earn this bag. Don’t be a beggar.”

I left the place quietly with probably the greatest lesson in life. It’s no philosophy.

From him, I learnt what is self respect.

I have been to the Ferry Terminal once more, a few years back, but could not find him. I located the shop. Wang meili’s son was managing it.

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