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an interesting anecdote from china

an interesting anecdote from china


an interesting anecdote which underlines an unusual chinese piece of attitude towards life.

pallavi and her husband julio were tenants of mr. wu, the landlord. they were often treated to dinner by wu. as pallavi entered her fifth year in china, wu invited them to another dinner. here is how she describes the events that followed.

“i quickly agreed to dinner, but in doing so had ulterior motive. without exception, our landlord had, on previous occasions, picked up the tab. this did not reflect his generosity as much as it did our lack of skill in the popular chinese dining contest of who can pay the bill first.

this was duel the losing of which brought much loss of face to the defeated party and we had an abysmal record with the wu. here. finally, was a chance at redemption.

’you are in for a special treat tonight’, grinned mrs wu ghoulishly. ’it is not just lungs but kidneys and liver and all mixed up in a broth of stock and flavoured with sichuan chillies’. she proceeded to ladle out a particularly large helping of grey, quivering meat. and so the meal went on. mixed innards were followed by bull frog on the bones.

allowing the landlord to choose the restaurant and dishes were part of our strategy. we would lull him into thinking that he was the acknowledged host for the night and then after we had eaten our fill, julio will excuse himself to go to the loo, and make instead for the cashier where he will sneakily pay the bill.

all was proceeding according to plan when half way the meal, mr wu swallowed a morsel of frog the wrong way down and went into frightening convulsions, clutching desperately at his throat as he gagged on a piece of amphibian cartilage. mr wu broke away and went dashing out of the room. we were prevented from following by mrs wu who assured us that there was nothing to worry about. ’old wu is tough’, she said, ’he will be fine’

a few minutes later, mr wu appeared, a bit red in the face but obviously recovered. brushing aside our solicitous enquiries, he again tucked into the pig lungs with gusto. half an hour on, julio slipped off as planned and made his way to the cashier for the bill. ’what bill,’ said the cashier, ’but that was taken care of by the old man you are eating with half an hour ago’.

vanquished by wily wu once again, there was little for us to do. this was the last time we had the opportunity before we left china.“


(smoke and mirrors – pallavi iyer – fourth estate) 

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