Out of curiosity. I didn’t get her name but she told me her story.
She is a 72 year old lady with an exaggerated curved back that reminded me of Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She would probably as tall as I am but the age and her years on this earth has made her petite. She was busy clearing and wiping the food court tables, that’s why I was hesitant to disturb her for a chat, just to satisfy my query and curiosity. I was shy to approach her but I thought, I don’t visit Singapore everyday, and I should seize the moment.
I have asked a lot of people why there are a lot of old workers in Singapore. A lot of them gave me fruitful information but none of them are Singaporeans and non of the are as old as the workers that I saw. I think I know already the answer but something is missing. It does not satisfy my curiosity. It doesn’t put the period to the answers of my many Whys. I want to hear it personally from the mouth of an old Singaporean worker.
So, I pretended to help them and chuck the rubbish to their wheeled bin. She smiled at me and said thank you. I wanted to say you’re welcome but I just smiled back. Inside of my head her questions running around, pushing myself to open my mouth.
Why do you work so hard, go on for a holiday! I jokingly said. In Singapore, you work until you can’t anymore. She said with a smile. How about pension? She said it is not enough. She works 6 days a week. Tuesday is her only day off. That’s 8 hours a day, and only at 2 pm she will have her lunch.I did ask her if she has children to support her, she has one child but has a family already. What her daughter earns is enough for her own family.
I actually adore her. She is hardworking. You would observe how she works. Some workers are not that keen doing their tasks but she, has an eagle eye to every dirty table.
My feelings are sitting on a fence. Do I need to feel bad at her because she’s already old and still working or should I be amazed because she is old but can still live independently. She can work, not relying to anyone but herself, functioning, has a couple of good reasons to wake up and get off from bed in the morning, a good reason to live and something to look forward to.
Maybe I was greatly influenced by the culture in Philippines. That once you become a senior citizen, you retire from your work, receive pension and enjoy the rest of your years ahead. Somewhat placid. Maybe I was not used to see old people work because honestly, we, Filipinos would baby our oldies. Most probably because we have close family ties and looking after them is a way to show love and respect.
I can’t say which situation of the older generation is better since people have different cultures, countries and situations. I feel fortunate that I asked the old lady as she allowed me to get to know Singapore deeper and more intimate in a very remarkable way.
Your world should not stop even if you’re old.