Mother’s memorial and modern madam


It’s been a few days since full moon. But people here in HCMC still burn incense and ceremonial money for the dead, most particularly, for deceased mothers. Meanwhile, there is a class of women entrepreneurs who don’t mind drink you under the table, drive to work and in every aspect, personify the softer side of Saigon.

There is a list of richest women published yearly, from real estate to private university, and everything in between.

So, it’s either the upper crust, or those who sell lottery tickets in the rain.

Vietnamese lit often depicts mothers as stern but strong : handling everything in the back room, yet giving credits to their husbands, who mainly serve as greeters. We got the Trung sisters, and Ms Trieu who fought the Chinese invaders.

A new class of single moms have emerged to shoulder all burdens of modern life.

I took my mom’s picture back in the mid-80’s. So it was a bit of a surprise to see the miniature version placed in the back of Van Hanh Temple in Dalat.

I looked twice to find her name plate. She was and in spirit still is my mother, yet known as a teacher to others. She taught me life lessons e.g. be considerate always, put others’ need before your own, and never forget where you came from.

I used to stop by her assisted living apartment to visit, just to find a full meal waiting for me. Today’s equivalent of a Sheraton buffet.

Modernity is pressed for time. And traditional bon vivant is the sacrificial lamb. Burger and drink, want fries with it?

With its current rate, we might see not only the living but also the dead here end up with fast food.  For now, everyone still use ceremonial money and toss rice into the air, to be in harmony with the spirits world. Peace in this life and the next.

Anyone who knows a little bit about history of Vietnam, wouldn’t say it’s a machismo culture.

Watch out for Tiger mom here. Single-handedly, they once did what the whole Trans-Pact Partnership could barely reach an agreement i.e. how to contain and eject unwanted invaders.

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