“WON’T YOU BE MISSING HONG KONG?”

Or “How do you feel about leaving HK/returning to Bangalore?”

I’m asked these questions with increasing frequency and risk a deluge in the dozen days ahead and perhaps beyond. So here goes with some answers:

Despite having spent more than 16 years in the city, I’m a foreigner in Hong Kong, whose authorities, political groups – especially the powerful pro-Beijing ones – and a lot of society make it clear we’re here at their sufferance: All foreigners, from domestic workers on strict contracts with no maximum working hours, to billionaires who each pay tens of millions in taxes.

To be sure, in HK, Foreigners do not suffer physical attacks or threats. European or North American style hostility isn’t at work here, NOR European/NAmerican style acceptance. Hong Kong society – most of it – leaves us severely alone. Hong Kong officials and society spokespersons for long pretended that racism did not exist.  Cultural differences, they like to call it. And the Race Discrimination Ordinance adopted after decades of lobbying, is a highly watered down version of other similar laws – Disability Discrimination Ordinance, Sex Discrimination Ordinance and Family Status Discrimination Ordinance.

Not to worry, we have plenty of racism in India, along with

Hot off the mobile phone of my friend TIM SOLLIS. Hong Kong seems to be saying: “How clean is my inequality!”

casteism, religious fanaticism, regionalism et al, not to speak of class conflict. I have several identities, each of which makes me a member of a minority – a South Indian, someone whose mother tongue is not quite Tamil and not quite Kannada, a non-native speaker of Hindi (which ought to have been a minority  North Indian language but has been thrust on all Indians through official diktat, helped along by the predominance of the Bombay film industry) and a Hindu-born atheist (there are tens of millions of us and our numbers are growing, I like to think, but we’ll remain a minority for a while to come).  Not to mention the castes and sub-castes, that not only divide us, but fragment us.

But I dearly hope we remain fragmented, though not on caste lines. India’s diversity is a great guarantor of our democracy. Attempts to foist a majoritarian Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan nationalism ought to be and will be resisted.

Back to Hong Kong: I’ll miss my large number of acquaintances – many are now among my dearest of friends – most in human rights, humanitarian and academic outfits. Not only shared political inclinations: these are wonderful, warm-hearted people.

Many great friends to (re)connect with in Bangalore and the rest of India: Again, mostly in the media, NGOs and related areas.

Hong Kong’s  journalism scene is shrinking. When I moved to HK in late 1994, the golden age of its English language media was peaking, to mix metaphors. Three English language broadsheets – South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Standard and Eastern Express – as well as Far Eastern Economic Review and Asiaweek provided good reading fodder and employed hundreds of hacks. Only the SCMP remains now, a ghost of its former self.

In India, the newspaper industry is still growing, but most are identical to each other, obsessing mindlessly over film stars and the game of cricket.

It’s convenient living in Hong Kong. Good transport and libraries and from an Indian perspective, water and electricity supply can be taken for granted. In Bangalore, we had that until two decades ago. Now, incomes have risen but the city has gone to seed. As footpaths (pavements/sidewalks) have been eroded, pedestrians have nowhere to go. Drivers of cars drive us mad by blaring horns. I’m for non-violence but have almost got into fights with Bangalore’s horn-blaring car drivers in the past and might need to tone my muscles hence forward.

In HK, the government is of the technocrats, for the tycoons and by the Beijing bosses. Monopolies, duopolies and oligopolies rule. In India, there still is a semblance of competition in many sectors but if mom’n’pop shops give way to the Walmarts of this world, who knows what’s in store.

Talking of mom’n’pops, in HK, there are still many retail goods and services they offer outside of the big grocery duopoly while competing with the latter in many other commodities. And many such shops, to my great delight, have resident cats. It’s heartwarming to come across these regal felines sometimes ensconced at the entrance, nonchalantly surveying their domain. But more on the cats of Hong Kong in a future blog, as well as of cats, dogs, donkeys, cows, goats and other non-human plus human dramatis personae in the Indian street.

Watch this space.

About walkerjay

The author, N. Jayaram, a journalist now based in Bangalore after more than 23 years in East Asia (mainly Hong Kong and Beijing) and 11 years in New Delhi, was with the Press Trust of India news agency for 15 years and Agence France-Presse for 11 years and is currently engaged in editing and translating for NGOs and academic institutions.
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18 Responses to “WON’T YOU BE MISSING HONG KONG?”

  1. Pamposh says:

    Great read. Keep us posted from Bangalore too.

  2. Setlur says:

    Excellent. I never really see any move as leaving something “behind” but think instead of the new comforts I will acquire. The world.is a very tiny village indeed and countries are mere suburbs.

  3. Brad Lee says:

    A well-written and thoughtful piece whose ideas transcend borders and oceans, and force some of us in third countries to ponder our own situations. Thanks and safe journey.

  4. Judy Woo says:

    I consider HK my second hometown since I was born in Victoria, British Columbia. I really enjoyed your blog because I ponder about how Hong Kong is going to be since China’s regime are always in there in some way or form.

    • walkerjay says:

      Many thanks Judy Woo. I’d meant to reply in Feb but got busy with pre-departure chores. You might have noted that the June 4 candlelit vigil and the July 1 rally had greatly increased participation. The people of HK are not going to sit quietly and watch the farce. My respect for them keeps rising.

  5. penguinchan says:

    You might not miss Hk, but we’ll miss you.

  6. Jaded of Jor Bagh says:

    Go Well, Jay! You will be welcomed in India by some jaded former-Hong Kong-dwelling old hacks so we hope you’ll feel at home. Looking forward to welcoming you in the capital soon.

  7. Leela Keshav says:

    I am surprised to read your blog. We are all here to welcome you in Bangalore. Shall we paint the city in red!

  8. Indirani says:

    Best Wishes, Jayaram, and welcome home! Am pleased to read a sober, balanced piece on the subject :). I am sure, in the days to come, you will discover in Namma Bengaluru much that is new (including its name), and much that is comforting and familiar – enough to fill your blogs – so an old fellow Bangalorean now looks to revisiting the place through your blogs!

    • walkerjay says:

      Indirani, the wholly uncalled for, illogical and plain stupid change of the English spelling of the city’s name is the subject of a blog to posted in due course.

  9. Mohan Ram NK says:

    Is all black? Forget white, there must be at least some gray, some where in Hong Kong. Every Indian, who went in search of green pastures crossing the seas, finds the smell of back waters foul, stink on the eve of their return from other land to mother land. If at all, there are a couple of good people – might be problem in counting – some good things also exist along with them. It is people who makes cities, countries and nations. People like us, with lot of disabilities, who could not cross seas, thinks everything beyond the seas is green.

    If there is any barter system, I dont mind filling-up our Comrade Jairam’s place in Hong Knog and can make Bangalore relieved !!!

    Bangalore welcomes good old cynic.

    • walkerjay says:

      Mohanram, You will see that I make positive comments abt HK too up there. Plus, another blog to come, almost fully written in my head, is tentatively entitled “What I LIKE about Hong Kong”.

  10. dear Jay, we will miss you very very much. though we are no longer living in hk, the thought of not seeing you there when we visit is scary. of coz, that gives us a good reason to go to South India.

    best wishes and a lot of luck!
    staphany

  11. Pingback: Hong Kong, India: Farewell to Hong Kong · Global Voices

  12. Ashok says:

    Very well said! I missed your farewell party as I was not in HK but would definitely see you in BANGALORE which I have plans to visit in very near future.

  13. Pingback: Hong Kong, India: Viszlát, Hongkong! · Global Voices Magyarul

  14. shovonc says:

    Hi there! Checked out an old one. Thanks for ‘cultural differences’. Will come in handy. And does Aflatoon know that you’re dissing Hindi?

  15. walkerjay says:

    Let’s say there’s considerable coolth on Afloobhai’s part over my anti-Hindi, pro-English (to oversimplify my stance) scribblings. Afloobhai and his brother Nachiketa, by the way, both have excellent command of English. Naturally!

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