The woman I saw was about 80-year-old. She was rummaging through the rubbish bin behind her in Lorong 37 Geylang. She was taking out the neatly tied-up trash bags from the bin. She laid them on the floor and then untied them one by one. It seemed like she was looking for something. (Hmm... could she have lost one of her contact lenses? Nah, silly me, it can't possibly be that, can it?)
At first, I thought that she was looking for some old but still useful stuff that she could re-sell at Sungei Road for some money. Oh man, how wrong I was!
I took a glance at the shop which generated the rubbish. It was a coffeeshop that sold Teochew porridge. At that moment, a coffeeshop worker came out and deposited yet another trash bag into the bin. Then horror struck me! I realised that the old lady was probably looking for some food to satisfy her hunger, the most basic human need. (You certainly don't need renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow to tell you that, do you?)
To the old lady, any discarded food would do. However, I figure that Maslow would probably have listed her hierarchy of
(1) Surplus food which could not be sold;
(2) Leftovers of customers who ordered too much food; and
(3) Food that has gone bad (and unfit for human consumption).
I could not bear to see what the old lady's "choice" of dinner was. (I am aware that my use of the word "choice" here is insensitive and maybe even cruel because the old lady really had no choice at all in such dire circumstances.) It was indeed a very sad and depressing sight. I quickly took the above photo and hurriedly continued with my life. I was rushing home to pick up my wife and then together, go and pick up my younger son who was attending badminton lesson at Tao Nan School. In my haste, I have forgotten to give the woman a little money to buy a decent meal. Damn, I should have done that! Now my conscience is pricking me.
I wonder if this old lady got any social assistance from the authorities. If not, why not? Maybe the authorities didn't know she existed? Now that I have a photo of how she looks like and where she hangs around, hopefully the authorities could locate her more easily and render her some assistance. One more thing - did the old lady know that she could have claimed the GST Offset Package? Damn, I should have asked her myself!
So no matter what the official statistics say, there are still people in Singapore who live way below the poverty line - people who fall between the cracks. I believe that most of these people are old and unemployed. Unlike the old lady, some of them may even be too sick to go out to rummage through rubbish bins. Hence, the old lady may still be luckier than some other people.
Finally, I hope that no one will waste food after reading this article. It is also a timely reminder for us to spend our money wisely and save early for our retirement.