I was enjoying my ‘turtle soup’ at Jln Berseh Hawker Centre few days ago. I used to go there for my meals after loitering around Sim Lim Sq, Fu Lu Shou and Rochor Centre. I am also a regular visitor to the Waterloo Temple.
Before taking the train back, I usually end up at Jln Berseh Hawker Centre for my meal. Few days back, I was there. This time, I was disturbed by an old lady carrying a big bag of tissue paper.
The tired old lady was ambling from table to table in the hawker centre pleading with customers to buy her tissue paper. ‘Three for a dollar, pls buy lah!’ When she came to my table, I just pointed my chin to that one dollar coin on the table. I was still eating my meal with my hands on the bowl and chopsticks.
She was so grateful and pleased with me cuz I already ‘standby’ for her to come to my table. She told me she had not eaten since morning. ‘I’m very tired,’ she mumbled. Before I could reply, she just slipped off to another table. She didn’t wait for my response. She was not expecting it. My reply to her was of no consequent. It didn’t matter at all.
After I finished my meal walking away from my table, I saw that lady still trudging from from table to table on the basement. I was on the upper floor.
Wearing two or three layers of clothing – a cotton tattered knitted overcoat with disheveled hair and a confused look. She ought to be sick or not feeling well. Who else would be wearing such thick clothing in such sweltering heat under a midday sun? After all, they say “Only mad dog and Englishman go under the midday sun!” A pitiful sight to behold.
It’s not an uncommon sight. It’s all over the place either at the MRT stations, walkways, coffee shops or hawker centers.
My pocket tissue at ‘three for a dollar’ is usually purchased from those old folks. My supply of pocket tissue came from them. Whenever they come to me I’ll buy from them. Sometimes I’ll buy double meaning $2 for 6 packets. I was surprised when I was given an extra packet! See how cute those old folks can be! Or maybe they do have feelings after all. You help them and with appreciation they reciprocate with an extra packet as token.
Yes those old folks are now neglected and left behind by our society to fend for themselves do have feelings indeed. They have spent their youth and energy helping to build this little piece of rock devoid of natural resources now end up selling tissue paper walking the streets. They have brought up a generation of citizens yet they are not rewarded nor given their dues.
Maybe it’s due to their unfilial children whom themselves can’t even make ends meet? If their children are well off earning good income, surely they won’t end up thus. For who would want their own parents to walk the streets selling tissue paper if given a choice? Not me.
I hope I will not have to sell tissue paper like those old folks when my time comes. ‘The wheel of life’ is turning so relentlessly fast that I fear when I’m old and weak and no longer able to work, do I have to sell tissue paper to buy a meal to last me a day?
Incidentally, it reminds me of an sms addressed to me from my ex-colleague Che Mat years ago before he retired as a Train Officer.
“When you langgar tiang;
When sadness fills your heart &
When tears flow in your eyes,
Just let me know
Becuz I want to be there for you.
I’m selling TISSUE.
BUY 1 GET 1 FREE !“