Warm, charming and determined to meet life’s challenges, Victoria vendor was a genuine pleasure to be around.
Remembering Sang Hussain
In 2015, I met with Sang Hussain over coffee near his Megaphone sales location in James Bay, Victoria. Between sips of his usual coffee of choice – a milky-sweet triple-triple — we got to talking about
his experience as a vendor. He told me sometimes people would try to give him money and not take the magazine.
“When I give them the magazine they say, 'oh, no thank you. You keep it.’ And
I say back to them, ‘no, please take it. Go read the magazine. It’s a good product. You should read it and come back, so you can tell me which is your favourite article’.”
He chuckled. Sang worked hard, and he was proud of his work. He was charismatic, too. His warmth and genuine nature made him easy to be around and won him many fans.
Over these last few weeks in the wake of his passing, I’ve spoken with Sang’s friends and people in the community who knew him and found one word scattered through our conversations: Charm.
Sang was charming. He was confident, hard working, unafraid to ask for what he needed or share what he thought, but in all things gracious, warm and charming. He was a genuine pleasure to be around and his presence warmed people.
“When he approaches somebody, they listen,” his support worker Bradley says, adding Sang had a way about him that made it easy to be around him, to want to support his work and to share a laugh or a story.
Sang loved people and thrived on conversation and connection. Not
long before he died, he had been in hospital. Just a few days after he was released, he called his friend Sandy at the Daily Dose Society to ask for a ride to his Megaphone sales location through their Wheels for Recovery program.
Sandy mentioned she thought maybe he should rest more. It was January, it was cold outside and he was still recovering from his time in the hospital.
But he was determined, she says. He told her it made him crazy to be cooped up inside and he’d had enough. It made him happy to be out in the world, talking with his customers and selling the magazine, so that’s where he wanted to be.
She remembers his outfit that day: new, clean and pressed beige pants, a cozy cream-coloured cable knit sweater, his bulky warm jacket and a big smile. He looked debonair, she says, and he had no intention of staying home.
Sang always had a story to share, often about his family in Afghanistan, or his time living in Montreal. He spoke of his desire to visit his family in his hometown of Balkhab in northern Afghanistan and his frustration around being unable to return for his mother’s funeral. He had been interested in raising funds to send home to his village, where he said there were no good medical resources. He’d been happy in the last year to have connected over the Internet more regularly with family back home.
Sang initially left his home in Afghanistan in the late 1970s because he did not want to be forced into military service there. He said goodbye to his mother, father, two brothers and three sisters, along with aunts, uncles, cousins and lifelong friends, and left the country, first to Pakistan, then to India, before arriving in Montreal in 1983 and claiming refugee status. He had $50 to his name and very little knowledge of English.
Sang described those years as very hard, though he had fond memories of that time, too. He recalled living in a single room with five or six other people, all of them poor. The language barrier made finding work, along with daily life, difficult. As time went on, though, he met other people from Afghanistan and they all helped each other out. He met a woman who would be his common-law wife for the next 20 years.
He eventually found work in Alberta, in a factory. Around that time, he stepped on a nail and with the chaos around him, did not think too much of it. His foot developed an infection, which he treated, but not before it became serious. The infection spread to the bone, causing him severe pain that made walking and standing difficult. He had his leg amputated in 2015. Since then, it had been a challenge for him to get around the city, but he never let that hold him back.
“He never let his disability stop him from doing things he wanted to do,” his friend Sandy says.
She remembers his determination and charm in how he’d get where he needed to go, even if it meant a relay of several different people helping push his wheelchair along, for just one block each.
That determination and dedication made Sang an excellent vendor. He was proud of his Megaphone sales and was good at his job. When he started with Megaphone about four years ago, he quickly became one of our top- selling vendors in Victoria, gaining fans and customers and becoming a well-loved part of the James Bay community where he sold.
We’ll remember and miss Sang’s charm, his warmth, his determination and his love for people.
“Always wanting to engage with people, that’s where he drew his power from. That’s why he was so good,” Sandy says. “He used his people-loving quality to shine and to put a smile on people’s face. It was always pleasant to be with Sang.”
Editor's note: Sang Hussain passed away at his home in Victoria on Jan. 23, 2018.