Bảy Hiền – đại điền chủ được đặt tên một ngã tư ở Sài Gòn

Giàu nứt đố đổ vách, song ông Bảy Hiền luôn chia sẻ với người nghèo, tên tuổi ông được gắn liền với một ngã tư và vùng đất ở quận Tân Bình ngày nay.

Ngã tư Bảy Hiền (quận Tân Bình, TP HCM) là nút giao thông quan trọng ở cửa ngõ Tây Bắc thành phố. Từ đây, người dân có thể đi về trung tâm Sài Gòn qua đường Cách mạng tháng Tám; qua chợ Lớn, quận 8 bằng ngã Lý Thường Kiệt; lên sân bay Tân Sơn Nhất bằng đường Hoàng Văn Thụ hay về Hóc Môn, Củ Chi theo hướng Trường Chinh…

Những năm gần đây, do mật độ dân số tăng lên, khu vực ngã tư Bảy Hiền thường xuyên kẹt xe giờ tan tầm. Ngoài là nút giao thông, tên gọi Bảy Hiền còn dành chung cho khu vực dân cư rộng lớn thuộc quận Tân Bình.

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Ngã 4 Bảy Hiền xưa và nay cùng góc chụp từ bệnh viện Thống Nhất (xưa là bệnh viện Vì Dân). Ảnh: S.H

Tại căn nhà số 4, đường Trường Chinh (ngay sát ngã tư Bảy Hiền) có ngôi nhà của ông Trần Văn Đức. Ông lão 88 tuổi này là cháu nội họ của ông Trần Văn Hiền (Bảy Hiền) – người được tên cho ngã tư này.

Tuổi cao nhưng ông Đức trông vẫn khỏe mạnh, minh mẫn. Thường ngày, ông trông quán nước giải khát nhỏ trước nhà của gia đình. “Ngày xưa, lúc tôi tầm bốn, năm tuổi hay lon ton chạy theo ông nội đi chơi. Ông nội của tôi thứ mười, là em ruột của ông Bảy Hiền (tên Hiền, sinh thứ 7) sống chung nhà tại khu vực ngã tư này”, ông Đức kể.

Ông cụ cho biết gia đình từ thời ông cố đã sống ở đây, ngót nghét phải 6 thế hệ nên tính ra gia đình có chừng 120-150 năm sinh cơ lập nghiệp ở mảnh đất này.

Về tên gọi ngã tư Bảy Hiền, ông Đức cho biết, hồi ông Bảy còn sống là một điền chủ giàu có. Đất đai của ông trải rộng khắp khu vực Trường Chinh, Cộng Hòa, Bàu Cát… ngày nay. Với khối tài sản khổng lồ, ông Bảy cũng xây một căn biệt thự cột ximăng, trong nhà cột gỗ lớn, nền lót gạch Tàu.

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Khu nghĩa trang Pháp cạnh ngã tư Bảy Hiền nay là trung tâm triển lãm và nhà văn hóa quận Tân Bình. Ảnh: Tư liệu

Ông Bảy Hiền giàu có nhưng không khoa trương, coi khinh người nghèo mà ngược lại vợ chồng ông hay chia sẻ với người dân bằng nhiều cách. Một lần, nhân dân miền Nam lâm cảnh đói kém vì mất mùa, ông Bảy Hiền đăng báo sẽ bố thí tiền xu, lúa gạo cho bà con Sài Gòn – Gia Định trong một tuần lễ. Dân chúng nhiều địa phương khác nghe tin đều lặn lội tìm đến.

“Trong buổi sáng đầu tiên phát chẩn, mọi người đến quá đông, chen lấn nhau khiến cho hai đứa con nít bị chết ngạt giữa đám đông. Từ đó ông Bảy Hiền không mở phát chẩn như vậy nữa. Sau này, hễ có người khó khăn tìm đến ông đều bố thí cho”, ông Đức kể.

Tiếng lành đồn ra, mọi người truyền tai nhau về một người đàn ông nhân đức hay “phát chẩn”, giúp người nghèo. Hàng nghìn người tìm đến và ông Bảy đều ra tay cứu giúp.

Dần dà, khu vực ngã tư – nơi có nhà của ông – được người dân đặt là ngã tư Bảy Hiền, theo tên người đàn ông nhân đức. Khi chết, ông được chôn cất tại khu vực Lăng Cha Cả cùng vợ mình. Sau này, khu vực nghĩa trang bị giải tỏa, người nhà ông Bảy Hiền có lấy hài cốt đưa về thờ tại chùa Vạn Thọ trên đường Nguyễn Văn Nguyễn (phường Tân Định, quận 1).

Ông Bảy mất rồi, những người trong nhà cũng không giúp được dân nghèo như trước nữa vì gia sản khánh kiệt. Con cháu ông Bảy sau đó bán hết đất đai còn lại, vào trung tâm Sài Gòn sinh sống.

Còn căn nhà ông Trần Văn Đức đang ở hiện nay là nhà của ông cố để lại, ông và gia đình sinh sống tiếp ở ngã tư Bảy Hiền cho đến ngày nay.

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Khu dân cư và bệnh viện Vì Dân lúc đã xây xong quanh khu ngã tư Bảy Hiền. Ảnh:Tư liệu

Về khu vực ngã tư Bảy Hiền, trước năm 1954, nơi này vẫn còn là vùng ngoại ô của Sài Gòn, bao gồm một đồn điền cao su và những cánh đồng lúa chạy theo con đường lên Tây Ninh. Một số gia đình sinh sống bằng nghề làm ruộng và chăn nuôi ngựa.

Khoảng năm 1960, theo thống kê hộ tịch ngày đó, Bảy Hiền có hơn 4.000 dân sinh sống, hình thành một khu dân cư mới. Người ở đây chủ yếu là từ Quảng Nam vào lập nghiệp, họ hình thành nên làng nghề dệt vải nổi tiếng tại đây.

Trung tâm triển lãm Tân Bình và nhà thi đấu hiện nay vốn là nghĩa trang rộng lớn, chôn cất lính Pháp tử trận. Khu vực bệnh viện Thống Nhất trước năm 1954 cũng là đồn phòng thủ nhưng đến thời Nguyễn Văn Thiệu thì được vợ ông bà Nguyễn Mai Anh đứng ra quyên góp tiền xây bệnh viện Vì Dân.

Về tên gọi Bảy Hiền, theo Lê Minh Quốc trong sách “Người Quảng Nam” có cách lý giải khác đôi chút so với những gì ông Trần Văn Đức kể. Theo nhà văn này, ông Bảy Hiền là tên của ông già bán cà phê “cóc” sinh thứ Bảy, tên Hiền. Người này cũng cai quản các đồn điền cao su của Nam Phương hoàng hậu, tức Nguyễn Hữu Thị Lan – phu nhân vua Bảo Đại.

Còn nhà văn Sơn Nam thì cho rằng, Bảy Hiền một ông chủ giàu có chuyên đứng bán cỏ cho ngựa kéo xe ở khu vực ngã tư này trong giai đoạn năm 1930 nên tên ông gắn liền với nơi làm nghề.

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