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I learned about trust from the yau char kwai uncle that sells hot oil sticks near Nan King Kopitiam.
Which is weird, because I was always thought to believe that teachers are those people in our classrooms or lecture halls. And that they had this stereotypical look about them: Glasses, stern face, always ready to scold you when you write 13 x 12 = 137 instead of, well, whatever the right answer is.
If I woke up early enough, I would visit this char kwai stall on Saturday mornings to buy two types of kuihs. One was the regular oil stick and the other would be generously coated in sesame seeds.
There would be two uncles working there. One would be moulding dough into elongated strips and slathering half of it with generous toppings. The other uncle would dunk the sticky mixture into hot piping oil.
If you don’t stop yourself, you can get caught in a trance while staring at the dough floating on the surface of the hot oil. From a musty white, limp, play-doh like texture it plumps up like a blowfish to form a crispy, golden crust.
And, when you bite into it the hard shell breaks and gives way to cloud-like air pockets. What an experience.
Once the sticks are fried they are dumped on a wire rack.
And whoever wants to buy it, grabs a tong and puts it in a plastic bag.
There is a sign in faded writing that says ‘1 PIECE= RM1.20’.
Depending on how many pieces you buy, you calculate the sum in your head and you put your money in a cut-up plastic bottle.
If you do not have the exact change, you reach into the pile of ringgits and coins and grab your balance.
These uncles entrust their hard work, their sweat, their aching fingers from shaping dough and their burn marks from splattering oil to everyday people who want to enjoy some char kwai.
I hope their trust is exchanged with honesty and that people do not abuse it by paying less or taking extra change.
I hope to trust people more and to be more like my teachers, the you char kwai uncles.
Cover image sourced from u/joshuaongks/Reddit. The copyright of this piece belongs to the author of this literary work.
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