And so our prodigal son.. (nah. We just couldn’t do it. Sorry!)
And so the village idiot has returned to Singapore from his visit to Malaysia where he met some regional activists, or so he claimed. It wasn’t. It was just a symposium on the internet. But Roy Ngerng would not be Roy Ngerng if he didn’t try to spin everything to make himself look good. Seriously, he should try make-up next time. It works just as well. That is, if he hasn’t tried it yet. But we digress.
And as usual, he has a story to tell. This time, he decides to tell it via The Real Singapore instead of his own website. Perhaps his website has gotten very little traffic lately. It is depressing to talk to oneself when no one is listening. So off he went to a rubbish dump hoping that at least the vermins would listen to him.
From that long disjointed tale, one paragraph caught our attention:
‘I just came back from Malaysia and I do not see any elderly Malaysians working as cleaners in their food courts. The cleaning is done by young Malaysians, and who perform their jobs with dignity. If Malaysia is a less rich country than Singapore, why is it that Malaysia can allow its elderly not to have to work in menial jobs and why is it that there older Singaporeans here are still not protected?’
All our lives we have been searching for paradise on earth. Utopia. Shangri-la, where the elderly need not sweat, and the young are happy to work as cleaners. And lo and behold, it actually exists! Right across the causeway! According to Roy.
So we hopped onto bus 170. We decided not to use the car because we do have a few qualms against the government. Paying the causeway toll is one of them. Nope. We were not about to give the greedy PAP government our money. RETURN OUR TOLL! Ooo that feels nice. We can be rebels too.
Clearing the immigration checkpoints took us about 15 minutes. And from the Malaysian CIQ, we walked for 5 minutes to City Square, a relatively new shopping mall not unlike the malls you’d find in Singapore. As we entered the cavernous mall we saw in a corner, hunched over a pail of water, an old lady of about 65, mopping the floor. But, but, but according to Roy, in Malaysia the elderly do not have to do menial work. Perhaps she could be a Singaporean working in Malaysia because of the better returns on her EPF and the minimum wage. We have to talk to her, we said to ourselves.
As it turns out, she is a Malaysian. A widow whose husband passed away two years back and now suffering from diabetes, she needs to work to take care of her three young grandchildren and for her medical expenses. His son, the father of the three children, has been in jail for the past four years and is not expected to be out anytime soon. Her daughter-in-law meanwhile has not been seen or heard for one year presumably running away with her Pakistani lover. The old lady has 2 other children but they are all married and are staying in other parts of Malaysia with problems of their own.
After doing some window shopping, we went to the toilet to do, well, toilet stuff. And we found a young man, about 25, cleaning one of the toilet stalls. He didn’t look local so we asked him where he came from. Bangladesh was the reply.
But Roy did mention that he did not see any elderly working as cleaners in the food courts. Aah perhaps therein lies the difference. So we went to the rooftop to the food court. It didn’t take us long to see, as you must have guessed it, an elderly cleaning the tables. We didn’t feel like talking to her because by that time, we were deeply disappointed.
If you thought that we made up the stories above, well, we are not good at story-telling. You could just hop onto bus 170 or 950 or drive and pay the toll (RETURN OUR TOLL!) and see for yourself.
We had come to Malaysia to experience Utopia as implied by Roy. But all we saw was just an ordinary place, much like any other places in the world. There weren’t any singing cherubs or satiated angels. Just ordinary people doing ordinary things for whatever reasons.
And then it dawned upon us.
Roy Ngerng lied. Again.