Know your hood: Lascar Row (aka Cat Street)
Have you ever wondered how “Upper Lascar Row” got its name, yes I am talking about the street running parallel to Hollywood Road along which one can find several shops selling souvenirs and antiques (not the authentic ones but very quirky and fun stuff to deck up your corner table!). I was doing some reading and found a fascinating story behind the name.
The road derives its name from its early inhabitants, Indian police officers! The word, Lascar traces its roots to the Hindi word, Lashkar which means soldier.
Many many years ago, when India was still under British rule (and so also HK), the Britishers brought Indian militaries to HK and they worked in HK’s police force. A dormitory was built for the Indian police at the now Lower Lascar Row.
The story goes that a wealthy HK businessman, Tam Sam Choi took along with him several Indian police officers to fight a civil conflict in his hometown in Guangdong, China. The businessman and his Indian troop lost, and several Indian police officers lost their lives in the conflict. Their families requested the HK government to support them. The government got hold of the wealthy businessman for payback time! As his way of supporting the families who lost their husbands/sons in the conflict, he built a street at the south of Lascar Row for the widows of the officers. Thus, came into being Upper Lascar Row and the original Lascar Row was called Lower Lascar Row. In Cantonese, Upper Lascar Row is “mo lo” which is derived from the Portuguese word, Moor. It is used in HK to refer to people of South Asian descent.
In Pic: The colours of Lascar Row. Pavitra Sudhindran
The widows of the police officers sold groceries on this street. Indian sailors brought antiques and groceries from across the world and these items were also sold on this street. This brings us to another name for this street, Cat Street! In Cantonese, stolen goods are called “Rats” and the people who buy them, Cats and hence the nickname, Cat Street!
Today, Cat Street has quite a few shops selling souvenirs, vintage items and antiques.
In Pic: Typical antiques/souvenir shop at the Cat Street. Pavitra Sudhindran