I have been to Sanghai many times before, however this time it is much different. I am probably more excited as this is my first business trip, all expenses paid by the university. I am here to represent my university in one of the Education fairs. We are expecting a good turnout of students. Chinese are giving a tough competition to Indians for the numero uno spot of largest number of international students in the UK.
Upon arriving at the airport I rushed through immigration to collect my baggage. And to my worst surprise I found one of my bags missing and this is the bag which had all the broachers, leaflets, information concerning the university and the courses it offers. I went ballistic and argued a lot with the Airline’s ground staff. However only thing they could do is apologise and pay me compensation. But I knew there is no compensation for this loss. My mind was going berserk trying to identify how to face the students and how to generate business for my university. I could download forms and some information from the web but not all and it will take a minimum of 48 hrs for any courier to reach Sanghai from London. And the show is tomorrow.
On my way to hotel I got more frustrated running these negative thoughts in my head. I checked in the hotel, took a shower and went to bed to relive my jet lag. I woke up it was around 10PM at night & decided to go out for my dinner.
I love the local Chinese restaurants. After having walked for nearly 20 minutes I came across a Cantonese restaurant by the name of ‘Red Dragon’. I walked in and pulled over a chair next to the window. The waiter a young, 20 something guy came rushing in to serve me. I decided to order a Carrot & Bamboo root soup and ‘Fried fish with peas’. The former was in the menu however I could not find the later and this guy hardly speaks or understands English. He called another elderly person to mediate between us. This person is probably in his early 60’s with a pale face walked rather slowly towards the table. With a bright smile in his face and with a Chinese accent queried and I placed the order with him.
He later served the order to me with an equally bright smile. In spite of his frail frame, pale face and limping legs I found him quite fascinating. Knowing that I might need his help, he hovered around my table, occasionally passing orders to others to clean or serve. After my dinner I asked for a glass of Chinese bear and he obliged.
There is something uncanny about him, he appeared so focussed and determined to give everyone the best possible service. I could not resist myself from having a chat with this enthusiastic old man.
I asked: ‘Would you mind if I ask you a personal question’ Please go ahead came the reply I: ‘Is there something wrong with your leg?’ He: ‘Yes! I lost my left leg in a brutal accident’ I: ‘Oh I am so sorry for that, but how did this happen?’ He: ‘It’s a long story, do you have time?’ Ideally I wanted to go to hotel early and start preparing for tomorrow; however something inside me kept my legs unmoved and I nodded in agreement.
He started “My name is Lie Chun and I lived in a town on the China, Tibet border. I had a glass moulding plant and was one of the famous, respected people in that town. I had about 170 employees and we were doing great business. I also had a lovely family: my wife, two daughters and a son. My eldest daughter was married and the other two were helping me in business. We were a happy bunch.”
He suddenly paused for a while and his radiant smile vanished as he continued with a grave tone “During 2007 there was a huge protest by the Tibetians world over against the Chinese in the wake up Olympic games. The Chinese army decided to take on them & destroy their movement. They came all loaded with weapons to our town which borders Tibet.
Most of our town suffered due to this clash between Chinese soldiers and Tibetian protestors. My factory was bombed and destroyed; even my home was not spared. During one such clash my home was put on fire and apart from me my whole family perished. And I landed myself in hospital with a burnt face and leg. Doctors said they have to amputee the leg to keep me alive. We had no option but to go by their decision.
I regained my consciousness after a week of operation. Every one of my relatives including my eldest daughter and son-in-law thought I would perish. I would not be able to tolerate the shock.” As he was describing these things his tone has receded and tears filled his eyes. And I could not resist a few drops coming out my eyes listening to the life history of this stranger.
After a pause for a brief period he continued, “It took me 3 month to get out hospital bed and walk with this prosthetic leg”. I then moved with my eldest daughter & son-in-law to Sanghai and opened this restaurant. I do not like sitting idle so I decided to join him. I started coming regularly to restaurant and started to take active interest in this.
Now my son-in-law and daughter are focusing on expanding this business. And this year we have been awarded the best small restaurant in Sanghai by the association. My daughter & son-in-law asked me to collect the prize and there were 400 people in attendance who clapped while I was receiving the award. That is probably the proudest moment of my life.
As he was describing this, his mood has elevated to the next level and I saw that habitual bright smile on his face. Towards the end of our conversation he philosophically said a line and that etched a deeper line in my heart & soul. He said, “when the snow storm hits a mountain, the climber has two choices: climb hard towards the summit or give up and wait for the ultimatum. I chose to climb hard & fast”.
I walked out of the restaurant giving a profound thanks to this old man for teaching such a valuable lesson. I would always remember this. I got myself ready for the next morning, prepared a PPT to show to prospective students, downloaded materials from the net and walked with a lot of confidence into the Education show. I gave my best and managed to create a fantastic reputation for my university.
Upon reaching university in London after a gap of 4 days I came to know that around 37 students have applied to the university after visiting the show. This in itself is a record and I was being congratulated from all corners; where as the bottom of my heart I was passing all those to the old man who taught me an unforgettable lesson. “Every one of us goes through challenging times and your decision at those times will shape the quality of your life”.