Year of the Dog 2018

Today is the 2nd day of CNY. It’s also exactly one year after I joined this company having returned my taxi as a hirer. Last February , I was still facing an uncertain future without any confirmation of a stable job. Now, things look promising for me with a stable secure job.

I could even go on working beyond the company’s official retirement age at 55 yrs till 65 yrs on annual contract subject to medical fitness. When I turn 55 this Aug, I could either go on with annual renewal contract or I could opt for the “flexi-scheme” meaning I get paid whenever I report for work. I think this is the only company in the world where as long as one reports back to work once in 6 months under the flexi-scheme, one could still keep the job and remain on the payroll!

Even though I had to work on CNY, I still feel grateful that I’ve got a well paid job at my age. We know that it’s quite difficult to get a decent job once you are in your 40s, let alone when I joined this company at age 54. Most of my M/sian colleagues have gone back so we had to stand in for them. We’ve no complts cuz we also get additional incentives for working during this festive period.

Not only we had quite an extra monetary reward for working during this festive season, we were also given KFC meals, drinks and yes angpao in the form of Mac vouchers for each and every staff. Our supervisors even forked out their own pocket money to buy us 2 toto tickets placed inside angpao for every one of us! Hopefully, one of us will strike the jackpot so that we could have more free makan.

Such is the kind of environment I’m working now where our efforts are much appreciated. Surprisingly, there is not much MC during this period. Only a handful of MCs. Chinese or non-Chinese, we all look forward to working during this festive period. Certain jobs like those in the essential services such as transport services including my job still need to be manned round the clock 24/7. As part of the job description, we understand what we are in for when we take on the job. It is expected of us.

Compared to my previous taxi driver job, there are good and bad. After a year on the job, more or less I’m set to the routine of a salaried job. But still there are times when I miss my previous job as a taxi driver. Even though there is an assurance of a regular income and its fringe benefits that come along with the stability of this job, I still feel that it’s rather restricted and confined. My current job is too specialised compared to the colourful life of a taxi driver.

As a taxi driver, the whole island is my playground. I’m free to roam to every corner of the island. Imagine zipping around the island in a taxi for more than 10 hrs a day making a living on the roads. The things I’ve seen and the number of passengers I interacted surely are much more interesting than any other jobs. It’s a breathtaking experience lacking in my current job.

I could even say that as a taxi driver, I was more in tuned with pulse of the country in terms of the state of the economy and a cross section of our society. Whatever happens or any latest developments, taxi drivers are the first to know. Whenever a new road or super highway is open, taxi drivers are the first to try out. When there is a new building or shopping mall opening, taxi drivers will be the first to see when we fetch and send pax there. Goodies bags are even given to encourage taxi drivers to cruise in when new establishments especially hotels are open for business.

To bring the logic further, any new policy or rules that the govt introduced, taxi drivers will have the immediate first hand raw feedback from the public when they interact with passengers. As such, I could say that taxi drivers are the barometer of a society. We are more in-tuned with the general sentiments of the public including foreigners whether tourists or expatriates on how they perceive us as Singaporeans and our country.

That is why I say taxi driving is a career with many exhilarating experiences. Whether taxi driving is a viable career or not – that’s a different matter.

Anyway, it took me quite some time to adjust to my current job after the switch from taxi driving. But the allure and pull of driving taxi never fades. I still miss driving taxi. Maybe when my 3 year contract is due, I may consider switching over to taxi again. I could still drive taxi if I opt for the flexi scheme. By then, I won’t know what could have happened to the taxi industry. Already in one year, there is so much changes in the taxi industry with the invasion of 3rd party apps without any taxi fleet hardware moving in with cut throat competition and wantonly slaughtering their way thus disrupting the otherwise well regulated predictable taxi industry reserved for locals only.

Anyway, it’s still early for me to make the decision on whether to go back to driving taxi. Most probably I’ll drive taxi when I reach the mandatory retirement age of 65. Taxi drivers subject to medical checkup could drive till 75 yrs. Don’t you think that driving taxi at age 65 is so much better than collecting cardboards or clearing dirty oily plates at Food Courts?

_____________________________________

As in all the previous 8 yrs, yesterday morning on the first day of Chinese New Year (CNY), my good old friend Datuk Freddie personally delivered more than 10 pieces of medium size rabbit fish to my humble residence. This is the 9th consecutive year that he has faithfully done so. This time round, I was not at home to receive him due to work. I was on night shift yet to report off duty.

My mother on my behalf received the gift of fish from Freddie which meant a lot for the Chinese as it symbolises abundance and prosperity [年年有余(鱼)]. I told my mother to give him a red packet meant for his daughter. I ever told him that I would continue giving red packet to his grown up adult daughter until she’s married. I also asked my mother to hand over 2 books – The Chinaman by Stephen Leather and Norwegian Wood by Maruki Murakami. Much to my surprise, Freddie reciprocated with a big red packet for my mother! Link

We were so busy that we could hardly meet up so the books were put on hold for quite some time even though I’ve finished reading them. I usually pass over to him books I’ve read. I hope he’s finished reading the 1,000 page “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts – that’s the last book I gave him. Link

Over the 9-year span – from Feb 2010 till Feb 2018 that my faithful friend Freddie has consistently delivered rabbit fish aka CNY fish, many things have happened not to mention that we have aged over the years and his brand new luxurious BMW 5 series COE also about to expire! Man and machine also grow old and aged in this mortal world. Nothing is permanent in this transient existence. But I wish our beautiful island city state will defy this logic and remain much longer wistfully lasting forever in eternity.

Just to mention some – I’ve changed jobs thrice, many friends were made and lost with some having departed to the netherworld. Our children have also grown up. His 2 children having graduated to be a specialist doctor consultant and an accountant whilst mine about to sacrifice 2 of his best years for the country.

Notwithstanding these changes in our lives, our friendship has grown and bonded through the years. The Chinese saying “路遥知马力,日久见人心” truly describes our special friendship. Link

This brand new Year of the Dog hopefully will be a much better than last year’s Rooster. It is going to be my next milestone in life and I’m looking forward to it. May the Year of the Dog bring us all luck, prosperity and happiness in this uncertain and turmoil world.

PS: Update from Freddie.

I believe this could b a commemorative note. I asked many of my friends n it seems was not reported in the press. There were also unable to change for it with the banks.

☝️ That’s the piece of note given to my mother in the red packet.

Read related articles below.

https://gintai.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/the-fish-connoisseur/

https://gintai.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/will-traditional-taxi-become-extinct/

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Unputdownable Chinaman by Stephen Leather and lousy Jackie Chan’s Foreigner

After finishing a boring mediocre Ken Follet “On Wings of Eagles “ published in 1983, I got started with Stephen Leather “The Chinaman.” It’s a much better thriller than “On Wings of Eagles.” “The Chinaman “ is tight, fast faced and straight to the point. Unlike “On Wings of Eagles “, “The Chinaman” is only slightly more than 300 pages, not drudging or confusing with lots of padding on an otherwise thin uninteresting plot in the case of “Eagles.” “The Chinaman” is basically about IRA- Irish Republican Army and DIY bomb making!

When I was about to finish reading “The Chinaman “, I casually mentioned to my colleague about the story line of the thriller. Straightaway, she said that it’s made into a movie with old man Jackie Chan as “The Chinaman” or rather “The Foreigner” in the movie. I wasn’t aware of that when Sultana strongly recommended that I should read this novel during my last visit there. It’s really worth it. Link

My colleague, Miss Tan an avid movie buff, about 30 yrs younger than me suggested that I should watch the movie “The Foreigner”, which is based on the same story line as in “The Chinaman.” I don’t really watch TV or movies at all. She wirelessly sent me an application known as “Cartoon HD” where one could download tons of free movies to watch!

I was amazed by this discovery. No wonder people don’t read novels nowadays with tons of free available online movies! To read a novel, it takes me about a week of on and off reading. But it only takes about an hour to watch a movie. It speaks a lot of a novel compressed into an hour of visual images instead of reading it thru trying to create your own images in your mind’s imagination.

Upon my colleague’s suggestion, I decided to download and watch the movie, “The Foreigner” on my Asus tablet. From the start it’s a disappointment! That’s why I never like to watch movies adapted from novels. I decided to fast forward towards the end to figure out how the plot ended. True enough more disappointments! It took me barely 20 mins to finish the movie by fast forwarding to the end.

In the novel, the chinaman’s wife and daughter were in a shopping mall in the heart of London. It describes in details how they go about shopping in the crowded shopping mall ie picking up items and looking at price tags, changing their minds and getting excited over new items on display with a tired shabbily dressed old ugly lady tottering over a young lovely gaiety young lady etc. They are the wife and daughter of the chinaman.

In the midst of the shoppers, suddenly one brand new big motorcycle just parked outside the shopping mall with the rider wearing riding jacket and full faced helmet walking briskly through the mall exiting the other end. Moments later, a powerful explosion from the motorcycle went off ripping thru the shopping mall resulting in more than 10 casualties and many injured.

Completely different from the novel, “The Chinaman” or rather “The Foreigner” in the movie played by Jackie Chan sent his daughter to the shopping mall. The daughter dropped off and entered the mall with Jackie Chan trying to park his car just outside the mall resulting in a minor accident cuz another car was also trying to park at the same lot. When they came out of the cars to check, the bomb from a nearby motorcycle went off.

Interestingly, only Jackie Chan managed to survive with uncountable bruises and cuts all over his “handsome” face and complete body. The other driver who had an accident with Jackie’s car was dead but Jackie the chinaman managed to survive the powerful explosion right in front of his nose, looking for his only daughter. The camera then shows Jackie holding tightly to his dead daughter, albeit complete body with no disfigurations or missing limbs sobbing and crying! Incredible lah! Lol.

In the novel, uniform police officers on rounds had to inform the chinaman at his “Double Happiness” Chinese takeaway stall the bad news that his wife and daughter were killed in a senseless explosion at a shopping mall.

Indeed, stark differences on the opening scene in the novel and movie! There are even more stark differences along the way except that both share similar plot and story line. The IRA claimed responsibility for the bombing. There were many more subsequent bombings by a renegade unit of the IRA not sanctioned by the leadership.

The “chinaman” just to side track is not a chinaman at all. He’s actually a Vietnamese. Born in Vietnam as a Vietnamese skilled in lethal combat killing & assassination, expert bomb maker and lived in the deep tunnels during the Vietnam war. He fought for the Americans against the Vietcong but ended up as boat people and eventually as British citizen living in London earning his living running a Chinese takeaway stall instead of Vietnamese food cuz Londoners still prefer Chinese cuisine.

No wonder Jackie Chan chose to name his movie, “The Foreigner” instead of “The Chinaman” even though it’s an adaptation from the novel.

The ending part in the novel had the chinaman killed together with the three terrorists in a small flat when Anti Terrorism Unit commandos stormed in. The chinaman was there to seek revenge. The timing was just right when the chinaman entered the flat pretending to deliver takeaway armed with a false replica rifle with the commandos rushing in for the kill. Their instruction is to eliminate all and finish the job there and then.

Quote,

“The Colonel’s voice spoke in his left ear. ‘The plane has gone down. We assume all lives lost. Operation is discontinued. No loose ends. I repeat, no loose ends.” Pg 323

Whereas in the movie, Jackie playing the chinaman appeared macam like Rambo shooting all the three terrorists with his guns. Wonder where he got his guns from? The entire action packed killing and cowboy trigger happy style belongs to Jackie Chan, the one man show screen hero with those anti terror specialist commandos doing nothing! Not a single shot was fired by them! WTF? Lol.

In the novel, the plane exploded in mid air when the reporter unknowingly carried a laptop with an IED in the battery compartment. Whereas, the police officer in the movie managed to track the reporter in the Gate Hold room, (about to board the plane) seized the laptop and throw it away to the aerobridge where it exploded.

Yup, Jackie Chan as the hero in “The Foreigner” didn’t die in the end but went back to his Chinese takeaway stall. But “The Chinaman” died a lonely pitiful death as a nobody without anybody knowing the truth. He died together as one of the terrorists in the flat. Unlucky fellow happened to be at the scene when those anti terror commandos strike! I guess it’s one of the perks if you direct your own scripted movie to make yourself a hero instead of ending up as a nobody. Lol!

Another interesting trait of the chinaman is that he keeps smiling and being polite throughout the novel even though he’s heartbroken with the sudden innocent death of his wife and daughter as he relentlessly and tenaciously sought to find out who in the IRA are responsible.

The writer in his so many comments and side notes had one that caught my attention. It sums up what I’m trying to say.

“She (bomb maker) didn’t die straightaway, they never did. In books they often said that people who were shot died before they hit the ground. It never happened that way, Joker (Commandos Team Leader) knew. Joker had killed people in Belfast, in the Falklands, in the Middle East, and once in Spain, and he’d yet to see anyone die straightaway, no matter where they were shot. If the bullet went through the heart or in the lungs then the brain kept sending out messages for up to a minute or so before their eyes glazed over and they finally died. If they were shot in the head and the brains were splattered over the floor, then the heart continued to pump and the limbs twitch for a while until they realised that it was all over. That’s what it was like in real life. Not many people knew the difference between death in books and movies and death in real life. But Joker knew.

When the bullet tore through her back and punched a ragged hole in her chest, her arms flailed out and she grunted. Some time after that she died in a pool of blood, her arms and legs drumming against the floor, saliva dripping from her and watch while she died, he stood with his back to her, looking out over the river as he waited for the banging and wheezing to stop. Slow deaths always embarrassed him.” Pages 323, 324.

Nothing beats the graphic imagination of reading than watching that graphic scene. No movie however great the director could replicate the powerful imagery sketched out by the writer! Therein lies the difference between reading a well written novel and watching the movie adaptation.

Read the book review here.

Click here to read more book reviews. 

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Greetings from retired Train Captain Che Mat

Last Sun I published retired “Train Captain Che Mat’s Heart-wrenching Note” Link on my blog with a short write-up. That note could have been his last farewell message to all his family, relatives, friends and colleagues as he was due for a major heart by-pass operation the next day. He was sickly and he knew that his life was hanging precariously on the balance which could tip either way.

Exactly one week later, Che Mat is well and good. He’s going home today! What a relief!

Just like all those who know Che Mat, I was worried and anxious whether he could pull thru that traumatic and life threatening major operation. On the eve of the operation, I text Che Mat to drop me a message after the operation once he’s conscious. I waited anxiously for 3 days before our indefatigable Che Mat messaged on Thur that he’s out of ICU, transferred to a normal ward. Indeed, the operation was a tremendous success. Che Mat will be going home today.

Frankly, when I heard from him that he was about to go for the major heart by-pass operation I was quite worried. I was worried cuz he’s already 70 years. The older you are, the chances of a successful operation are reduced correspondingly. That’s a fact. Like so many of his friends, I cheered him on with words of encouragement assuring him of our first class medical facilities able to perform miracles!

Indeed, the NUS medical team has done a remarkable job saving Che Mat’s life – a 70 year old patient. Notwithstanding the cutting edge medical facilities in NUH, we found our trust in divine providence to be a source of immense comfort and hopes when our prayers were duly answered. That’s the power of combined prayers!

Wonder no more why all our major heads of religion denominations pray at our MRT train network every now and then. For without their combined prayers, more might have been killed on the tracks, more ponding or langgar cases!

I could even say that nearly 14,000 prayers (based on my blog viewership figures) have managed to invoke the pantheon’s compassion and benevolence to grant Che Mat a reprieve. Now that he’s earned it, I’m sure he will live till a ripe old age.

Thus, just yesterday, Che Mat beseeched me to write an after note to thank each and everyone for their prayers and well wishes.

For someone who had the rare opportunity to have turned around at the gate of the netherworld, the perspectives, attitudes, mindset etc in life hitherto will have a complete turnabout! Henceforth, Che Mat is given a fresh leaf to start his life again. I’m sure he’ll treasure every moment of his life!

Nothing better describes Che Mat’s present state of mood than this apt Chinese saying, “真正的鬼门关走了一圈。。。你们有没有过如此惊险的经历?”

Che Mat fought his last life threatening battle and won. I wish him a fulfilling and rewarding journey on the final lap of his life. May all the gods in the firmament grant him that wish! All the best to you Che Mat!

PS: This blog post is published with Che Mat’s permission.

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Heart wrenching note from retired Train Captain Che Mat aka Ahmad Awang

To all my friends on Facebook/WhatsApp and other media of communication, I am now lying on a hospital bed celebrating my 70th birthday due to blockages in my three arteries. It’s so sad that I had to reach out to all of you under such unfortunate circumstances. I hope you all lend me your ears and hear me out possibly could be my final message unless inshallah I manage to pull through after tomorrow.

Ballooning is not possible because of the severity of the blockages and a triple bypass is the only best option, as strongly recommended by my heart surgeon.

I was under close medical supervision for the last sixteen years until I got discharged four years ago with a clean bill of health. I don’t know what went wrong now?

l didn’t take a grain of rice for the last 14 years as most of friends are well aware. Ironically, l am strict on my food intake regime and yet, this dreaded ailment could happen to my well being. I am not asking for sympathy but, this is a lesson for everyone to know and share. That no matter how much precaution you undertake, something along the way could possibly go wrong without you even realising it.

Apparently, you could appear healthy leading an active lifestyle in sports or other activities  etc but without you even knowing it, unconsciously right down inside your body blood vessels, plagues start building up slowly until it reaches to a critical level, then suddenly you realise something is wrong with your life hanging precariously. By then it’s already too late.

The damage has been done and it’s irreversible. Blame it on yourself for being complacent or lackadaisical mindset on your food diet. That is what exactly happened to me now. I’ve inadvertently joined more than 20 of my ex-colleagues who also suffered the same fate as me. What a sorrow! At the final lap of my life towards the finishing line, I’ll have to suffer this unfortunate painful traumatic heart bypass operation.

Anyway, l shall take this oppurtunity to inform you all that l will undergo bypass surgery on 20/11/17(Mon) @0800 hrs at Ops Theatre Level 2, NUH by Heart Surgeon Dr Kang and his team of Doctors. Dr Kang is an experienced skilful heart specialist having done bypass surgery for the past 8 years.

Barring any unforeseen circumstance such as complications arising from kidney failure, stroke or diabetic interference which only account between 3% to 5% of past cases, I’m in good hands. Furthermore, heart bypass cost is so much cheaper and reliable than ballooning or stent insertion.

Immediately after the heart bypass surgery, I will be transfered to ICU Ward 20 level 2 to recuperate from this critical devastating operation lasting 4 hours, assuming there’s no complication.

In view of above circumstances, should I not survive this major operation despite all your sincere prayers and well wishes, I take this final opportunity to seek your forgiveness from the bottom of my heart.

To all my buddies / colleagues / friends / brothers in the SAF, JTC, SMRT, Mendaki Sense, Cleaning Express Pte Ltd at Scotts Square and Dulwich College, I seek your forbearance for any misgivings, rudeness in speech, negative in body language or anything that may offend you physically, mentally or spiritually with or without any ill intent. As we’ve known each other since young till now at this senior age, we should clear all our misgivings by now and renew our bonds and friendships on a fresh leaf!

Should I owe you any money, please claim from my children and siblings. But as far as I know I do not owe anybody any single cent till this very moment. Most likely it’s the other way round!

Anyway, I Halalkan Hutang Puitang Itu, but in Allah Swt Mahkamah di Akhirat, l cannot say anything. It’s between you and your Creator.

That’s all I have to say in my this final farewell note. Everyone has to face death in whatever circumstances – be it sickness, accident, disaster or old age etc . For the latter, it’s a bonus and a life well lived.

Your fate or death is already written the day you came to this world. When, where or how are all pre destined by the almighty Allah. I came into this world with nothing and I will return also with nothing.

Good bye my friends. You will remember my name now. But with the passing of time, I’ll just be a passing memory. You will go along with your daily routine as though nothing matters. Sure, my family will miss me for some time and after that, my photo will be archived in the family album.

When there’s life, there will be death! When there’s birth, there will also be rebirth. That’s the story that goes on and on in every endless cycle of life and death!

Last but not least, I sincerely thank you all for taking your precious time to read this short note. I apologise for the bad English. Do pray for me. It costs nothing. Your good deed shall be rewarded!

By God’s Will. I love you all.

Allahuma Sali Ala Mohammed Wa Ali Mohammed.

Amin.

Throughout my 18 years in SMRT, I’d known Che Mat. Even after I left the company, I still remain in constant touch with my ex-colleagues including Che Mat. He retired at 62 years after 22 years as a Train Captain – the mandatory retirement age then.

Even though we were at different crew stations on different lines, we managed to catch up and berbual-bual whenever we met during breaks at Jurong crew stn. Che Mat reported to Jurong crew stn whilst I to Tanah Merah. He was on the NS line whereas I was on the EW line.

Che Mat may be 15 years my senior but we share a common interest in gadgets. In the late 80s and early 90s especially during the pre Android and IOS days, when Palm OS ruled the earth, Che Mat, late Ahmad Mon Link and myself would discuss about Palm OS software and its latest developments. We were always comparing notes, exchanging information via “beaming” to each other’s Palm the latest software or hacks acquired!

Che Mat is one of the few orang tua in syn with the latest mobile apps and gadgets in the market. Just like us, he also spent a fortune on the latest gadgets. I still remember Che Mat proudly demonstrating to us his latest acquisition, the Nokia Communicator costing a bomb – more than his pay daa! Yet, he still owned another highly prized Handspring Prism (with color which was a novelty then) running on the latest Palm OS. Ah, those were the days lah! Only ancients like us in that age group will understand what I’m taking about.

CCL Train Controller Rahim with Retired Train Captain Che Mat in NUH

☝️CCL Train Controller Norman with Retired Train Captain Che Mat in NUH

Maybe, due to my unexpected visit to Che Mat when he warded in NUH for some intestinal and stomach ailments during the early days when I came to know him that cemented our strong friendship bond. Obviously, he was touched when I visited him unexpectedly by riding my motorcycle all the way from Pasir Ris to NUH to pay him a surprise visit!

My impression of Che Mat is an irascible old man, capable of deep and warm friendship with a down to earth practical attitude. Incidentally, some of my best friends in my previous company are Malays ie Che Mat, late Ahmad Mon, Basri, Norman, Anwarruddin, late Dr Dos  Link etc etc. We got along well as colleagues and friends.

The other special characteristic about Che Mat is that he is a walking Wikipedia of all the past, present Train Captains. He keeps track of their careers (promotions) and also their expiry dates : whether resignation, termination or CFF (Complete For Filing) – euphemism for departure to the netherworld!

Two days ago, Che Mat suddenly messaged me that he is warded in NUH and going for his triple heart bypass. Naturally, I got worried and pray for him. I told him that I will pray to Lord Buddha to bless and protect him ensuring that the major operation will be a success. I also told him that I’ve known at least 4 or 5 of my friends in Elias Mall neighbourhood who have gone thru the same operation with resounding success leading a normal life.

I believe all of us will agree that our medical healthcare is the best in the region albeit costly. But then what is the use of cheap medical facilities if they are not world class able to save lives? In my previous life, I know that lots of rich from neighbouring countries even from as far as Dubai in the Middle East come to our tiny country to seek medical treatment.

That fact clearly highlights our cutting edge in healthcare which I must say have not gone down in the direction of our train network! Hopefully, it shall remain so and not follow the rolling downhill stock making us a laughing stock as butts of joke for the whole world.

I appeal to all the friends of Che Mat to take this opportunity using the power of prayers to wish him a successful operation tomorrow. I have faith in our impeccable medical institutions and I believe Che Mat will survive and pull through with many more rewarding years to live till a ripe old age! All the best to you Che Mat. May all the gods bless and protect him.

Updated on 22/11/17 @2030 hrs. 

Che Mat’s operation is successful! Well done Medical Team of NUH! Thank you all for your prayers.

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Merits of HDB 2 room flexi scheme

Victor’s cosy living room ☝️

Not long ago, I visited Victor’s 2-room flat opposite Pasir Ris MRT & White Sands next to the MRT viaduct and TPE. He was kind enough to invite me over to his new place even though I’ve barely known him thru Wilson.

Victor aged about 67 yrs, used to work as a Regional Sales Manager. He’s now a semi retired weekend taxi driver. On weekdays, he pursues his own interests with more than an hour of daily morning brisk walking in the early hours at Pasir Ris beach to kick off his day. 

He’s thinking of giving up his weekend job to go on full retirement since he’s getting a decent monthly payout from his CPF. He says it’s enough for him since he doesn’t smoke or drink. He’s a widower with a married daughter giving him monthly allowance for his living expenses. As such, he need not have to work at all.

Victor used to live in a 4-room flat opposite Downtown East. He was living alone in that flat for almost 8 yrs after his daughter got married off. He didn’t like to rent out the spare rooms to live with strangers. So he decided to sell it and opted for the 2-room flexi scheme. This flexi scheme replaces the studio apartment scheme for the elderly. HDB, like all other govt depts will never admit their mistakes. Instead, it says the studio apartment scheme for the elderly was discontinued due to “low take up rate”.


According to Victor, only citizens above 55 yrs qualify for the 2 room flexi scheme. HDB assumes that you will live till 100 yrs. The lease sold is based on your age on blocks of 5 yrs capped at 45 yrs. If you are 65 yrs, the lease shall be 35 yrs and so on. You must pay in full without any loan given. It cannot be sold in the open market. Don’t ever think of making any money out of it.

I asked Victor the same 2 questions he asked HDB regarding this scheme. What if he were to live beyond 100 yrs? Will the HDB take over the flat? What if he were to expire before the end of the lease? Victor told me that HDB assured him he could continue living in the flat for the rest of his life and not be evicted. As for the payment beyond the contractual lease, it shall be worked out by then.

In the event that he departs suddenly for the netherworld and can’t complete the full lease, the balance shall be refunded pro rated to his next of kin.

Victor bought the brand new 2 room flat (45 sq metre) at only $83K on a 35 yr lease. Yup, HDB sold the flat to him for a song if you compare the same on the open market. My colleague recently bought a 2 room resale flat at Buangkok for $243K. Another colleague bought an old 3 room flat which is more than 50 yrs old at Marsiling Drive opposite the Market & Hawker Centre at $245K. That’s how costly our flats have become.

When I sold my new generation 4-room flat in Hougang at $250K 10 yrs ago, I incurred a loss of 16K. It was bought at $266K in the open market. The agent told me it’s no loss considering the fact that I lived in the flat for nearly 10 yrs before selling it off. If we move further back in time, my parents paid only $101K for their 4 room A model flat in 1994 – 23 yrs ago bought directly from HDB.

Maybe, due to the current high housing costs, the govt introduced the studio apartment for the elderly and subsequently the 2-room flexi scheme. This is to help retirees “monetise” their fully paid flats. Retirees like Victor do not need to live in such a big flat once their children got married and set up their own separate homes.

I think the 2 room flexi scheme is an attractive option for citizens above 55 yrs. Victor is so happy staying in his flat with all the convenience of amenities. His block of flats is a mix of other types of flats and families without the unpleasant stigma of living in a block of studio apartments.


One major reason for the failure of studio apartments is they are lump together in a block specially reserved for them which is akin to old folks home. Imagine going back seeing funerals at the void deck every now and then. Who wants to be reminded of one’s impending dateline in this mortal world?

Suffice to say that our friend Victor is happy with an ideal home. With a big 24 hr supermarket and coffeeshop below his flat, 7 mins walking distance to the MRT station and beautiful beach a stone throw away, amongst the many amenities, what more can he ask for?

At the end of my house visit, I wish Victor all the best in his new home. How I wish I could be in his shoes in the near future.

Below are photos taken at HDB Hub sample set up of 2 room flat.

PS: This blog post is published with permission and endorsed by Victor.

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