For an hour, we talked about work and family. Mr Tay was the perfect gentleman, serving me hot tea and piling my plate with tasty morsels, ensuring that I was well-fed. Inside, I was almost dying of suspense, what was he up to? Another indecent proposal coming up? I know these typical Chinese towkays (bosses). They have a little bit of money, they would turn to keeping mistresses.
Finally, Mr Tay pushed a white envelope across the table to me. I looked at the envelope suspiciously, not touching it, and then at him for an explanation.
Pic taken 3 mths before the lunch wif Mr Tay.
"Open it." He coaxed.
I opened the envelope and drew out a cheque. It had his signature and there was no amount written on it. I put it back and pushed the envelope back to him. I could feel the anger rising within me. I was expecting shit.
"I came to know of your cash flow problem from XX, I don't know how much you need. You just write down the amount and can cash it anytime."
"I'll write a million dollars."
"hahaha..... the cheque will bounce! I don't have so much in my account."
"Why are you helping me? What do you want in return?"
"I'm just helping a youngster stand up. No motive." When he leaned forward to make his point, I involuntarily placed my hands on my lap. I anticipated him to grab my hand as most men would do during such talks. He sensed my cautious approach, smiled and leaned back to his seat.
"Young lady, remember this, Today you receive help from me, another day you will help someone else. In times of difficulty, if someone offers you help, take it. It's a loan, you have to pay me back when you have the means. Don't worry, I'm not a loanshark, there's no interest."
I couldn't believe my ears. Is there such a good deal in this world? I was skeptical, I didn't touch the envelope. Before we left the restaurant, Mr Tay took the envelope and shove it into my hands.
I didn't cash the cheque. In fact, after thinking it over, I wrote 'CANCELLED' across it. I was not going to owe anyone a favour nor be indebted to anyone. Instead I approached my debtors and pleaded with them to help me by paying me earlier.
A week later, Mr Tay called to ask why I didn't cash his cheque. I told him I can settle my own problem. He sighed and remarked that I'm stubborn like a bull. An hour later, a Bank Manager called to offer me a loan, Mr Tay had offered to be the guarantor. It was tremendous relief for me. When I saw the money in my account, I broke down and cried.
I didn't get to see Mr Tay often after that. He was always travelling. Twice he sent his secretary to give me some boxes of herbal medicine from China. There was the same white envelope each time. Inside was a note with 4 Chinese characters :" 照顾身体" (Take care of your health).
We did meet twice in the association's premise but we only had a brief chat. I was very grateful to him and touched by his gestures. He never asked anything from me in return for his help. I'll never get the answer to this question which I am dying to know,"Why me?"
Mr Tay passed away in November 2005 during a business trip in China. He died of a heart attack, aged 59. I laminated his cheque and kept it in my safe-deposit box.