moments · thoughts

The man at the hawker centre

It was 8.30pm yesterday evening.

At the hawker centre, a man held tightly onto a large plastic bag containing empty drink cans. The chinese man looked weather-beaten and was dressed simply in t-shirt and bermudas. His feet were slipper-clad. He clutched his plastic bag in one hand and in the other, was a plate of rice with curry sauce and a few pieces of meat/vegetables (I couldn’t make it out). He looked relieved to be finally sitting down to have his dinner.

It was a fleeting moment but I couldn’t help but wonder:

How much is he going to earn from that plastic bag of drink cans?
How long did he take to collect that bag of drink cans?
Does he have a day job?
Was that the first meal of the day?
Is he eating economy rice because he likes it or because it’s the only thing he can afford?

We rarely bat an eyelid when ordering food at the hawker centre. We  buy the latest gadgets or handbags just because we can. It saddens me that in cosmopolitan Singapore where crazy-expensive cars are the norm and our Ministers are paid obscene amounts of money, we easily forget that in the very same society, we have people trying to make ends meet.

By trying to sell drink cans that we toss out without a second thought.
By collecting old newspapers that we spend 10 minutes (or less) reading.
By collecting cardboard boxes that we discard after removing our gleaming new electronic gadget.

In our quest to be the biggest, fastest, best-est, quickest, largest, most efficient, country in the world, what about the rest who are also citizens of the country but are crying out for a means to a better life?

I do not have answers but I do wish something more can be done to help those who have been left behind in the rat race.

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3 thoughts on “The man at the hawker centre

  1. I know. I can’t bear the sight of old people selling tissue in hawker centres also. Breaks my heart to imagine that if we hadn’t been born into the more fortunate segment of society, it could jolly well be my parents who are out there pacing the floors of hot, humid hawker centres selling packet after packet of tissue. I always end up buying more tissue even before I’m through using what I have. It was Dan who taught me that I should buy tissue from these old folks instead of from Watsons or NTUC, cos it makes a difference to them.

    1. I think I’m too cynical. I always wonder how many of these tissue paper sellers genuinely need help and how many are here from across the borders on a social visit pass.

  2. I am extremely uncomfortable with the increasing income gap in our country. still awaiting the outcome of the ministerial salary review and wondering why it is taking soooooo long.

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