A recent visit to Hong Kong had some valuable lessons for us. These were lessons about trust and humanism. The famous poet from Hong Kong, Agnes Lam, has talked about Hong Kong where the young take care of the old.
The city, though at first sight appeared only high tech and soulless, turned out to have a heart and soul of its own. We realised that when we hopped into the cab that would take us to Hong Kong University. I was confused as to whether the non-English speaking cab driver really understood our destination.When I asked the lady at the counter where the cab driver was taking us, she answered that we must learn to trust.
It came as a shock because all my life in various towns and cities in India, I have been trying to learn to distrust cabbies and strangers. This was the lesson we learnt time and again --- whether we got lost on the roads or needed to communicate with non-English speaking people.
Another important lesson we learnt was how to bridge the gap between messiness and elegance --- the world of nature and technology.
Technology such as cars, buses and trams and the high-rise buildings did not impinge on the natural beauty of the city. The sailing of ferries across Victoria Harbour; its pure water reflecting lights from the dizzyingly high skyscrapers at night symbolised a unique harmony between man and nature.
The market is also a unique combination of messiness and elegance where street shops run by native Chinese run alongside grand malls.
For Indians like us, the messy side was just as attractive as the elegant side. The lady who was waiting for us at the restaurant made us feel at home with her charming manners as a hostess.
But the greatest lesson we learnt was that it’s not technology alone that makes a city world class; it is technology tempered with tolerance and peaceful co-existence that makes a city great.