Musings: Flea Market Fraternity


img_2110“Watch out for him. He just got discharged from the mental hospital,” said a white-haired, wrinkled man in a black polo shirt, as he dragged his wares around in a rusty shopping cart.

Plastic toys, old VCDs and antique rings — a pile of carefully-foraged treasure.

He was referring to the younger vendor grinning widely at me in earnest. Aside from the fact that he kept speaking in a confounding loop, he seemed otherwise perfectly ordinary. I’d spent the last five minutes struggling to understand him, as he spoke perfect Mandarin but yet made absolutely no sense to me. It’s a completely new encounter. To hear carefully chosen words and such sincere enthusiasm combine to form a code I could not decipher.


He was not the only one who’d just been released from institutional care. 74-year-old Mr Ng had attempted suicide just weeks ago, after Parkinsons’ disease left him bedridden for months. Miraculously, his condition took a…

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