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By My Side


Rui En (Zhang Yu Hang), Elvin Ng (Chen Bu Qun), Terence Cao (Zi Xing/Zi Jian), Chen Hanwei (Chen Bu Fan), Zoe Tay (Lin Xinya), Chen Tian Wen (Andy), Ong Ai Leng (Cecelia), Zhu Hou Ren (Lin Chun Xiao), Zhu Yu Yue (Wang Chiu Ye), Vina Lim (Chen Tian Tian), Ye Shipin (Black Horse), Brandon Wong (Grey Dog)

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Simple, Yet Blissful Days of the Past

Chen Bufan’s family of 5 [wife (Xinya), daughter (Tiantian), and his parents-in-law] live happily in a 4-room HDB flat. A man with no unsavoury habits, Bufan’s biggest pastime is fishing which he does every weekend in the company of friends like Ma Shiyou (nicknamed Black Horse), Gao Liguo (nicknamed Grey Hound), and Bai Maolin (nicknamed White Fur).

Bufan dotes on his only child most, as he loves children by nature. Though immensely disappointed at Xinya’s refusal to bear him another child following childbirth trauma from delivering Tiantian, he hides his emotions well. He respects Xinya’s aversion of sex, and it is Xinya’s own mother who constantly reminds her not to neglect her husband’s physiological needs. Her heart is set at ease by her husband’s assurance that he is not horny, as Black Horse is.

Aids creeps up stealthily…

Bufan suspects that he has contracted aids after listening to a CDC talk, and is tested positive. The HIV strains have lain dormant in him for years and its source – the sole fling he ever had abroad.

The report shocks him, and he shuts out everything the doctor says afterwards. Dazed, he wanders aimlessly until Tiantian finds her father in the streets, drenched by the rain. She leads her Dad home and dries him to keep him warm. She is appalled to find tears in his eyes.

Bufan is petrified about possibly infecting Xinya and Tiantian and contemplates seeking CDC’s help but is incapacitated by his apprehensiveness. He gets to know Zhang Yuhang, a social-service volunteer who encourages him to come clean with his wife so he can seek her forgiveness and send his family for HIV tests too. After much emotional struggle, he still fails to pluck up his courage.

The Innocent Victims…

Hesitant, apprehensive and unable to face up with the disease, the despondent Bufan can only confide incessantly in Yuhang. He tries to avoid facing up with reality and when Xinya tries to get intimate with him, he escapes. Xinya starts to wonder if her mother had been right about his infidelity, which leaves him speechless. Thinking that he had indeed been unfaithful, the aggrieved Xinya presses him for an absolute answer, which Bufan can’t provide. This casts a shadow over their marriage.

The youthful and pretty Yuhang is a dynamic girl bursting with life and passion. She encourages Bufan to face up to reality instead of wallowing in self-pity and becoming angst-ridden. Bufan retorts that he had strayed but once whereas his friend is a frequent philanderer. The heavens are unfair to stricken him with this illness.

Bufan’s accusation that Yuhang doesn’t know how he feels is unfounded as being an aids sufferer herself, Yuhang can empathise with him. In fact, she is even more impeccant victim, having contracted it from her only boyfriend, who had been cheating on her. Embittered, she had confided in her closest friends only to be distanced by them because they are afraid of contact with her. Infuriated further, she tells her relatives and friends of her condition (plus joined organisation) in a futile attempt to challenge society. Sadly, she receives the same treatment. Ascertaining society’s rejection of aids patients, she converts her anger into motivation and channels her energy into helping the unfortunate sufferers. Through helping others, she sees resilience of the human spirit and the value of genuine love that survives adversity.

Her boyfriend died of aids, having despaired and become morose because of the disease. Yuhang, on the contrary, becomes more enthusiastic about living. She tells Bufan that aids is not a terminal illness and can be kept under control with the right medication, further encouraging her to come clean with his family and seek their understanding and support. Bufan procrastinates, however.

Buqun believes that his brother has succumbed to a moment’s folly and looks Yuhang up to urge her not to break his brother’s family up. He realises Yuhang is his ex-classmate. Yuhang is at a lost for words and can only tactfully turn him away. This deepens Buqun’s misunderstanding.

Little Tiantian overhears her mum mentioning divorce and innocently looks Yuhang up to ask her to back off. She injures herself and is rushed to the hospital by Yuhang. Bufan tells the doctor the truth about his condition and upon checking Tiantian, is relieved that she is HIV negative.

Knowing he can’t hide the truth any longer, Bufan tells Xinya his condition and his worry that she might have contracted the disease as well. Xinya is stunned and her world crumbles. She cannot accept the horrifying fact and goes for a HIV check at Bufan’s insistence. Thankfully, she is HIV negative, but the relief does nothing to alleviate the bitterness of her husband’s betrayal.

The Enigmatic Yuhang…

Buqun finds himself irresistibly attracted to Yuhang, and falls head over heals for her. Yuhang is neither friendly nor aloof to him, but as an aids sufferer, doesn’t wish to be romantically involved. She refrains from seeing him.

A chance encounter at a Red Ribbon volunteer activity lets Buqun see Yuhang’s selflessness in caring for the aids patients and is deeply moved. He enthusiastically participates in social work to get closer to Yuhang. Strangely, Yuhang’s inexhaustible warmth and passion towards the aids patients aren’t extended to him. And she keeps an arm’s length where he’s concerned. Buqun increasingly feels that Yuhang harbours a secret and the more he wants to unravel it, the further she runs away.

Through ex-classmates, all Buqun gathers is that Yuhang had a boyfriend with whom she shared a deep and intimate relationship, and that he died 2 years back. Buqun wishfully thinks that Yuhang is not willing to accept a new love as she is emotionally hurt by her boyfriend’s death, but this doesn’t explain Yuhang’s affinity towards Bufan. Unable to contain his perplexity, he questions Yuhang only to incur her wrath. Buqun also questions Bufan about this relationship with Yuhang, which the latter vehemently denies. But Bufan does give Buqun an ambiguous response, that he is in touch with Yuhang because a friend has aids. Buqun believes in what Bufan says, and the latter encourages the former to pursue Yuhang as she’s a nice girl.

The passionate Buqun relentlessly and overwhelmingly courts Yuhang, almost throwing her off balance. She is moved, but rationally tells herself that she must observe professional ethics. Besides, she is in no position to fall in love again. She directly and resolutely rejects Buqun’s advances, but he is not disheartened as he believes that he will touch her heart one day.

The Power of Kinship

The one hardest hit by this reality is Buqun and he pieces up the sequence of events to finally understand what is going on, that everything had been sparked by Bufan’s illness. He reaches out to Bufan’s family in times of tribulation, hoping to lift them out of the abyss but inexperienced, he botches things up instead. He approaches Yuhang for help in dealing with the situation and the 2 get closer because of it. Regardless, Yuhang remains cold to Buqun and he attempts to force her to leave the past behind only to be successful in antagonising her further. Dejected, he goes abroad for a short trip and without him around, Yuhang starts to miss him. She realises that she has unknowingly fallen for him. This is against both her professional and personal principles, however, and her dormant heart is once again disturbed.

A drained Xinya and an increasingly withdrawn Tiantian… How can the depressed Bufan face up with these challenges? Would the bond between members of the family become stronger through adversity or would the ties not stand the test? Will they overcome all obstacles? Will Yuhang ever tell Buqun the truth about her condition? Will Buqun be able to accept this fact?

Perhaps the social stigma shouldered by aids patients can never be fully alleviated, nor can the public quell their fears to whole-heartedly embrace them, but as their family, the least one can do, would be to stick by the sufferers through weal and woe. The unconditional support, genuine love and concern, and acceptance by family members are the greatest strength that the sufferers can ever seek and it is this strength that allows them to hold their heads up high and continue down the paths of their lives.

Source: MediaCorp


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Channel 8

By My Side

(Year 2008)

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Last modified on 15 December 2009