I was at a hawker centre having my lunch and I saw an old lady being helped by a maid (or “domestic worker”, if you need to use 5 syllables to be politically correct, or a “foreign domestic worker”, if you want to use the official oxymoronic term, or a “helper”, if you like euphemism).
The maid helped the old lady to a table (the old lady was walking slowly), and then helped her make her way towards the hawker stalls. At the coffee stall, the old lady placed her order, and then moved onto the noodle stall, and placed her order.
Then the maid helped her back to the table (they had placed an umbrella there to “chope” the table).
The old lady sat down with a sigh of relief, and the maid stood back, leaning on the pillar/column next to the table.
The coffee stall proprietor brought a hot cup of coffee or tea (I couldn’t tell), and placed it in front of the old lady, and she paid for the drink. The maid then decided that she would sit at the table (It was an empty table with two seats and space for wheelchair users).
And I was thinking, the old lady could have bought the maid a drink.
Of course I do not know her situation. Maybe all she can afford is a 60 cents cup of Teh-O, and a bowl of noodles. Buying drinks for her maid would have bust her budget. Or maybe she had previously bought drinks for the maid and the maid has since told her that she really doesn’t like the drinks offered. Or the maid knows how constrained the old lady’s budget is and has considerately told the old lady that she doesn’t need a drink.
The point is, I REALLY DON’T KNOW.
All I saw was what I saw, and that is all I know.
But juxtapose this against the story about the poor food provided to foreign workers (especially in construction) and I think, we should treat our maids (and foreign workers) with a little more humanity.
I don’t know why, but the story about the poor food provided to foreign workers rouse me to anger more than any other stories of injustice done to foreign workers – being exploited by employment agents, having their already meagre salary deducted for trivials, not being paid on time or at all, having to fight for their wages, injuries in the course of their work.
Yes, all these were injustices, unfair. But life is not fair. Anyone who tells you different, is trying to sell you something.
Being fed adequately and properly, that is basic human decency!
Back to the maid.
It struck me that that was probably how many (if not most) people treat their maids. I think if I had seen the old lady buy her maid a drink, it would have struck me as remarkable. And I would have applauded the old lady for her basic human decency.
And that is how far we have fallen: that we get applauded for doing the decent thing.