Rag & Bone Gentleman, Jalan Bunga Rampai

I was driving along Jalan Bunga Rampai yesterday when I saw this elderly gentleman struggling to push his three-wheeler across the narrow road. He was obviously a karang guni (rag and bone) man.

I was in the car with a companion. We looked at each other and the same thought struck. Why? When he saw my car, he stopped, waiting for me to turn right before he proceeded. Instead, I motioned for him to continue. As he passed by, I spontaneously opened my window, gave him a big smile and said, “hello” and motioned if he needed help. He smiled a big smile back.

Then he hesitated and said “bo lui,” in Hokkien. No money. He sheepishly continued to speak. My companion was Chinese and indicated that he was saying he had no money to eat. We instinctively knew he was telling the truth. After all, we approached him first, he was actually trying to eke out an honest living and he asked in a manner that was painfully reluctant.

We gave him enough money for two meals. He smiled. We bade him farewell. Moments like these, I really, really wished I could speak his language.

After we left, my companion who was not having a great day said, “I feel so much better.” I agreed.

Later, I reflected, that what we felt was the pleasure of the Lord. Nothing satisfies more.


Earlier that day, we were eating porridge in Chinatown when we saw an elderly Chinese lady labouring to walk up to the coffeeshop to have lunch. Each step she took was a struggle. No one helped her. We went up to her, showed her to a table and asked her what she wanted. We ordered and paid for her fish porridge and kopi-o. She insisted on paying and also insisted on buying us drinks. We politely refused to take her money. She initially looked confused, almost suspicious. I don’t blame her. There are cases of the elderly being taken advantage of.

But then she decided we were ok. She accepted, smiled and thanked us. We all patted each other on the shoulder (a hug would have been weird) and left.

I’ve learned something. Observe, look people in the eye, smile, engage. It’s almost always a win-win way to live life.

Additional Note:

I found this gentleman to be well-groomed (look at his hair) and despite his reluctance to ask for money, full of character and dignity. I wonder if any advertising guys reading this would consider casting him for an ad/brochure/other that needed an older gentleman. I’ll be happy to drive there and scout for him (with a Hokkien speaker, of course).


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