A Tiger In The Heart of Chinatown
The Original Shop of Chop Wah On
Mr. Tong playing with Margaret the tigress
A Tiger In Chinatown : When The Truth Was So Hard To Believe.
(Background : In the 1960’s, besides running a medicated oil and balm shop, our father, Mr. Tong Seng Mun (TSM) was also a wildlife animal dealer. He traded in all sorts of animals ranging from monkeys, pythons, birds, fish, elephants, giraffes, rhinoceros etc. He bought a Sumatran tiger cub from an animal dealer and kept it as a pet in the shop. Her name was Margaret. She was very tame and in the day-time usually spent her time lying under the writing table in the shop.
TSM had a brother-in-law, Yim Ning Hong (YNH) who had a printing press in Segamat. At that time because of taxation it was cheaper to buy printing ink and paper from Singapore. So every month NYH will have printing ink and paper which he bought from suppliers, delivered to the shop at Pagoda Street, so that he can then bring them back to Segamat)
One day, a delivery man, Ahmad brought a carton of printing ink and a few rims of paper to the shop. He was told to place them on the writing table. While doing so, Ahmad accidentally stepped on one of the front paws of Margaret. As a reflect action, Margaret nipped at Ahmad’s foot. Ahmad felt a sharp pain and bent down to see what bit him. To his shock and horror, he found himself staring at the two bright burning eyes of Margaret, the tigress. He screamed and momentarily lost consciousness.
When he regained consciousness, TSM gave Ahmad some money and told him to go to the Accident and Emergency Department of Singapore General Hospital to see a doctor. Ahmad said he had to call his office to tell his Manager, Mr. Lee before going to SGH.
Ahmad :” Hello, Mr. Lee, Ahmad here. I am going to SGH to see doctor.”
Mr. Lee : “Hi Ahmad, why need to go SGH. Go other clinic cannot meh ?”
Ahmad :” Tak boleh, Boss. Serious sakit”.
Mr. Lee : “What’s sakit ?”
Ahmad :” Bitten by tiger”.
Mr. Lee :” You bitten by tiger ? Where ? In Chinatown ? Who are you trying to bluff ? Next time you want to ponteng(skive from work), please think of a better lie to tell me. You think I am 3 years old ? Bodoh !”
Ahmad :” Mr. Lee, I not bluffing you. You come see for yourself. Anyway I tell you first. I am now going to SGH”.
At SGH A&E Department:
Doctor :” Ok, tell me what’s wrong with you. Bitten by anjing/dog ? Must be quite big one. Wound quite deep”.
Ahmad : “Doctor, not anjing, Tiger. Harimau bite”
Doctor :” You think I am stupid. Tiger bite you, you still can come see me. Where is the tiger ?”
Ahmad : “Real lah Doctor. Tiger bite. In Chinatown. Pagoda Street. Go see for yourself”.
Later in the evening, Ahmad’s Manager Mr. Lee visited Chop Wah On at Pagoda Street
Mr. Lee :” Excuse me, my delivery man Ahmad came this afternoon to deliver printing ink and paper .Later he called me to say he had to go SGH A&E Dept because he was bitten by a tiger in this shop. This fellow always tells me all sorts of excuses and lies. How can there be a tiger in Chinatown ? I never believe him. Tomorrow when he comes to the office I am going to give him a good scolding for bluffing Where got such thing, right ? A tiger in Chinatown. Big bluff. Think he can bluff me so easily. This useless fellow cannot be trusted.”
TSM :” Yes, your man came this afternoon. He stepped on my tiger’s front paw. She nipped at his foot. I told him to go SGH A&E because could be more serious than dog bite. See, she is under the writing table.” Come, Margaret, come. Good girl.”
Mr. Lee :” Erh, I see Wow, Real tiger. Erh don’t bring her so near. Scare kenang bitten like Ahmad .Thank you for showing me. Bye”.
Shortly after Mr. Lee left, another man came into the shop.
‘Hi, I am Dr. Chan from SGH. This afternoon. a Malay fellow came . Told me he was bitten by a tiger. Here in Chinatown. I told him he must be either crazy or making up a hig story. How can he still come to see me if he was bitten by a tiger, right ? He would be dead. Where got such thing ? He is probably a bit gila (crazy). I just wanted to prove that he was lying. Probably bitten by a dog, told me it was a tiger”.
TSM : “No, no, he was not bluffing. This afternoon he got bitten by my tiger cub, Margaret. I told him to go SGH. Hope bite not serious and that he is ok now. A while ago his Manager came. I told him the same thing. True. He was bitten by Margaret,”Come!” here’s my favourite pet, Margaret”.
Dr. Chan : “If I did’nt see with my own eyes I won’t have believed it. Must tell my wife and children about it when I get home. Thanks for showing me”.