life rattle show no. 1180
Presented on Sunday, NOVEMBER 27, 2011
Hosted by Laurie Kallis
Kwai Li reading her stories
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.
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.