life rattle show no. 1180

Presented on Sunday, NOVEMBER 27, 2011


Hosted by Laurie Kallis


Kwai Li reading her stories
"A Fish Who Invited Itself As Dinner"
"My Brother's Wedding Feast"
"Visiting Relatives"

tonight's Show

Tonight, on Life Rattle Number 1180, we feature three Life Rattle Classics written and read by Kwai Li.

Kwai Li, born in 1950, the youngest of nine children, grew up in Chattawalla Gully, a Chinese ghetto in Calcutta, India, where Li’s parents moved to from a village in southern China in the 1920s. Li attended Chinese school in Calcutta until she was fourteen, then finished high school at an English school when she was 20.
Two years later Li’s parents arranged their daughter’s marriage to a Chinese man living in Toronto. Li communicated with her future husband by letter for six months before she came to Canada to marry him as a letter bride. The marriage did not work out. Li left after six months. The friends she made at work helped her through this rough period as she reorganized her life.
In 1978, Li married her current husband. She took night courses toward her Certified General Accountancy, which she completed in 1988, then, in 1989, decided to work only part time so that she could enrol at the University of Toronto, where she earned her BA and later her MA. Kwai Li currently lives in Mississauga, travels extensively, and writes.

With her writing, Kwai Li creates a richly detailed tapestry. She deftly captures the sights, smells and flavours of the cultural blend unique to the Hakka Chinese community in Calcutta.

Her first story this evening, "A Fish Who Invited Itself As Dinner," set in Chattawalla Gully, is a wild, comic piece that catches the absurd humour in what could otherwise be a distressing situation.

Tonight's second story, “My Brother’s Wedding Feast,” brings us on a rickshaw ride to Bo Bazaar, where we visit the fruit and vegetable stalls and hear the chaotic voices competing vendors. Once the shopping is done, we return to the courtyard of a housing block where Li, and her younger brother, Foch, perch on a window sill, sample pilfered fish balls and curried chicken, and watch as recruited family members prepare a feast for their older brother’s wedding the next day.

Tonight's final story, with the deceptively bland title "Visiting Relatives," takes us past an emperor’s favourite fat concubine, to Aunty Ho’s clatter at the mah-jong table, to orange chicken feet at the Jade Chinese Restaurant for a merciless conversation infused with human hatred.