Viet Nam News
HCM CITY — Some people have a job, others have a calling. Nguyễn Văn Chúc has a calling.
When the 60-year-old fisherman from HCM City’s Bình Thanh District isn’t working by transporting goods and passengers he fishes out drowning and dead people from the Sài Gòn River, a river he lives on in a boat.
When he was eight years old, Chúc followed his father rowing up the Sài Gòn River to catch fish. On one occasion, someone hired his father to search the river for a missing relative.
He was so scared when he saw his first dead body that he pretended to be ill so his father could not ask him to go the next time. However, after learning how meaningful the work was, he has never dodged and gradually grew accustomed to it.
“It’s God’s will that right after I got married, my wife and I decided to settle under the Bình Lợi Bridge. Many people come here to commit suicide due to problems like broken hearts and financial struggles,” Chúc recalled.
Nguyễn Thị Hinh, Chúc’s wife, said she was nervous the first time she saw a person jump into the river to attempt suicide. Seeing her husband row towards the victim and save him gave her great joy.
Now Hinh often goes with her husband to fish out the dieing and the dead.
“I can perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation better than my husband,” she said proudly.
“Whether it’s day or night, sunshine or rain, whenever we hear the splash of something falling into the river, we quickly start the engine and rush off to save them,” Chúc was quoted by Vietnam Television as saying.
If the victim was unconscious, he would perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation to save him. If there was no sign of life, he would inform police.
They also take rotting bodies floating down the river ashore without hesitation.
Chúc said that helping the dead find a grave to rest in is the right thing, adding that many Vietnamese shy away from taking dead body into their boats for fear of bad luck.
“I’m Catholic. I’m not superstitious. However, my family usually gets bigger harvests, even twice or triple the amounts we catch normally after we have taken many dead bodies out of the river, ” he said.
As many as 300 people have been rescued by the couple over the past forty years. But one incident from nine years ago is seared into Chúc’s memory.
“Someone called me when they saw a body floating down the river. However, after pulling it closer, we saw a child tied with a rope to the body of a woman. I could not help but cry for the little child,” he said.
“This was the first time he cried and cried for a long time. Even though we have rescued hundreds of people, he didn’t shed any tears even when his father died,” Hinh said.
Life has never been easy for the couple.
Because they were so poor, all of their five daughters had to drop out of school in the ninth grade.
As they live on a boat, the couple have to tie their feet to their children at night, lest they hall into the river while they sleep.
In the past, Chúc’s family made their living on fishing on the river but now due to water pollution, fish are scare. He survived on money earned from transporting goods and passengers along the river.
Some of those Chuc saved come back to visit him, encouraging him to keep going with his work. Recently, on the occasion of Lunar New Year Festival, a pregnant woman, who was rescued by Chúc, took her son to his house. A boy who attempted to commit suicide even invited Chúc to visit him in Hà Nội to express his gratitude to him.
In recognition of his good deeds, local authorities have granted him certificates of merit and provided some financial support.
When asked what he wants most out of life, Chúc said he hoped to have a piece of land where he could build a house and live in peace, making a living selling lottery tickets.
But he admitted there’s a long way to go for his dream to become true. — VNS