Mr M, 47, was a former senior sales and marketing manager at an electronics MNC for nine years before he was retrenched in 2009. Married with a wife and twin teenage sons, he tried his hand at being a financial advisor for a year before deciding to become a taxi driver. He has been running his taxi service since 2011. He survived a heart-attack in late 2012 and now has four stents in his heart. His philosophy on life is now to live well, stay healthy and to share his real-life experiences. In his latest post on Taxi Talk, he shares his encounters with six mothers and their moving life stories.
Given my outgoing personality and personal motto “Driving is my business and communication is my hobby”, I proactively interact with all types of customers daily. In this week – the 5th installment of Taxi Talk and in conjunction with Mothers' Day, I would like to pay tribute to an important person in our lives – mother.
1. Mdm Teoh
Mdm Teoh, aged 75 years old, is my regular. I nicknamed her the “2-4-6 morning lady”. I pick her up every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday early morning at Marine Parade. She is a National Kidney Foundation (NKF) dialysis patient. I drive her to the NKF dialysis centre at Tampines St 91 on those days. She has been on dialysis for the last 10 years.
She shared that in her early years, she and her husband worked at Tanjong Rhu hawker centre selling her “zi-char” meaning a la carte dishes for the last 30 over years. However, her husband was irresponsible and a die-hard gambler, and on many occasions had put her family at risk. He was often harassed by loan sharks, owing debts amounting to tens of thousands, which was eventually paid up by her. Her husband would leave his family behind to gamble all day while she would slog day and night. Eventually, her husband died in his fifties, leaving her solely to man the “zi-char” stall. Luckily, she could whip dishes fast and the food tasted good, so she gained a lot of repeat customers.
She single-handedly brought up her children of five: three boys and two girls. She even managed to send two of them to university education, as she was thrifty and would scrimp for every meal to ensure her family survived. Now, her children are successful in their chosen careers.
Despite her age and her illness, she has remained strong. Initially, she refused to use a wheelchair until her legs became weaker last month, but now she does and her children have hired a maid to take care of her daily needs.
In a loud crisp voice, she usually talks about her past, her kakis (friends) at NKF, neighbours, family, and her difficulties of bringing up her children and the joy of her grand children. She always reminds me to always put family at the centre of everything, the importance of good education, honesty and filial piety . During her free time, she plays mahjong with her neighbours so as to keep her mind alert. She yearns for great-grand children, hoping that one of her grandchildren can find a girl friend soon, get hitched then marry and to give birth thereafter.
2. Mdm Hong
Mdm Hong, aged 65 years old, is married with three children and five grand children. During her early years, she did not receive much education since as eldest she had to help to take care of her family of eight – doing household chores, washing, cooking and looking after her siblings. Life was tough then.
Eventually, at the tender age of twenty years old, she was married to a businessman who opened his department store in Macpherson Estate during the early '70s.
Life was tough in the beginning as she had to work day to night and raise her children at the same time. She also had a fierce and dominating mother-in-law then. She related to me that she and her husband had worked hard for her children’ future as good education is a means against poverty. She enrolled her children in premier schools and inculcated good values and upbringing. Now, her children are successful with the eldest son a developer and property investor and the daughter a teacher. Her second son died during an army incident, after which she fell into depression and it took many years for her to overcome the loss. She recovered through her faith in religion and support from family members.
Now, she and her husband are retired, happily looking after their grandchildren and doing regular charity work in the temple. Occasionally, they travel to Hainan island in China to do charity work there where they came from before they migrated to Singapore. The couple have been happily married for at least 40 years and are looking forward to their jubilee of 50 years. Now, they are living together with her son’s family at his four-storey home at Katong.
3. Mrs Ong
Mrs Ong, aged 55 years old, is married with two children and three grand children. She has worked very hard to become what she is today, being a nursing administrator in a healthcare organisation. She is also a past Presidents’ Award winner too. She is friendly, generous, kind and soft spoken.
As she was sharing her story in my taxi, I could feel her voice become weaker and wavering as she revealed that despite her success in her work, she had lost her long-time supportive husband, who was a police officer. He suffered from diabetes and had lost his legs and passed away three years ago. She related that her husband would wait for her to be back home to have their meals together even at eleven o’clock in the evening. He was loving towards her and family.
Thereafter, unfortunately, she contracted breast cancer. Thankfully, she fought hard and won the battle by the removal of one of the affected breasts and chemotherapy. She also sought a combination of eastern and western medication for her recovery and now lives to share her testimony. She was lucky to have a filial daughter who had taken work-off to look after her and cook for her during her recuperation and recovery period.
She was always generous to her family, buying her siblings gifts and taking them and their immediate families out for dinner during major birthdays, Mothers’ Day, etc. She is a strong believer of “family unity” and has been a pillar of strength to her family.
In recent years, she has become a grandmother of three, including a set of twins – boy and girl. She attributes her success to her family’s love, care and support.
4. Mrs Tang
Mrs Tang, aged 57 years old, is a single mother with a twenty-something daughter. She had a difficult marriage and was eventually divorced due to major differences. She single-handedly brought up her only daughter, playing the dual role of both father and mother.
She teared as she shared her stories of coping after a broken marriage, overcoming the stigma of being a single mother in the society, the lack of a support group, her struggle against all odds in her work, and those who looked down on her due to her failed marriage. However, it was her siblings and family which she found comfort in as they were very supportive and encouraging.
Later, she revealed that it was her courage and positive mind-set of putting “her daughter first in her mind” that drove her to be a successful senior staff nurse. Recently, she received a long service award – 30 years, together with her twin identical sister in the same profession. She has also received many awards for courageousness, courtesy and leadership.
Recently, she had knee replacement surgery in one of her legs and full recovery shall take between four and six months. She is now recovering well through physiotherapy. I can see her pain when she boards my taxi for her monthly therapy session. I was told that many senior citizens whose cartilages had worn out or had been damaged will find it difficult to walk as one ages. Knee replacement through a surgery implant of two-piece metal joints, which may amount to at least $10K, is recommended to enable one to lead a better life-style.
5. Mrs Lim
Mrs Lim, in her 40s, is married with two boys – aged 10 and 8. The youngest has dyslexia. She boarded my taxi during one morning rush hour as the family had overslept and missed the regular bus transport.
When the family boarded my taxi at Hougang, she recognised me because of the music which I played. She was a repeat customer and had taken my taxi during one of her trips to city. As I drove, I noticed the younger boy was very chatty and talked about radio programmes which he listens to… FM 95.0, out of curiosity I decided to switch to same channel as his.
Then, Mrs Lim related to me that this younger boy, Isaac was diagnosed with dyslexia (a form of learning disability). She shared her challenges of looking after him and had enrolled him in a specialised school in the Ang Mo Kio (AMK) area. His case was detected early. She sacrificed and quit her job to be a full-time house wife and look after her children diligently.
She also revealed that sometimes her kid would make a scene in the taxi. I assured her not to worry as I may have a way to deal with children, so I posed some questions to Isaac to get his attention on what he likeed and his ambition when he goes up. Apparently, he likes music and is good at drawing.
Now, Mrs Lim has her own network support group with like-minded mothers, sharing their woes and challenges in managing a kid with dyslexia. She recognized the up-hill task ahead and was determined to ensure her son, Isaac, could continue to live and learn to lead a normal life as possible.
6. Mdm Lee
Mdm Lee, 69 years old, is a kidney dialysis patient who became my regular after one week. I started the regular pickups about two months ago. She is my “2-4-6 evening Madam”. Her son, Mr Ray, would send her to Chinatown's Kidney Dialysis Foundation during noon time and pick her during late afternoon. They would then await for my regular taxi pickup in the evening rush hour every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Mdm Lee has been a dialysis patient for the last 16 years. Sessions can be very difficult as she has to lie down for at least four hours to have her blood “washed/cleansed”, a needle has to be poked into her hand every two days. Sometimes, it would bleed. Her hands are the testimonies of the many needle poking marks. I find her very brave and courageous, though she would look frail and tired after a dialysis session, she would always give me a smile and thank me for picking her on the regular basis. I would reciprocate her smile and enquire into her well being for the day, encouraging her to stay strong and eat well.
What keeps her going is her son. She revealed that she want to see her son happily married with kids.
Mr Ray works part-time in a department store near their home at Telok Blangah. He is a very filial son, who rain or shine would accompany his mum, ensuring that she is always safe and sound, well taken care of.
Recently, Mdm Leong had handwritten an article titled “Psalms of David” of her Christian faith and gave me a copy. I have since laminated it as a souvenir.
Finally, I would like to take this time to thank my lovely wife, Mrs M, for being such a wonderful wife, my pillar of support in the highs and lows of my career, never despising me for being a taxi driver. Nonetheless, she always reminds me of my commitment to pick my regulars on time and be courteous and to drive safely at all times. I thank her from the bottom of my heart and will always cherish her for taking care of the family, household and our twin teenage boys.
Hence, my warmest best wishes for the above mothers’ and to all mothers’ in the world:”A Happy Mothers’ Day !”
God bless all mothers.