MAY 13 — After more than a month of being alone at home, I now have company. My brother and housemates are back so it is no longer my dog, my cats and my loneliness.
I can hear the clinking of cups downstairs, the flick of a light switch and the soft patter of footsteps. The highway is once again bustling and my days are now filled with the constant noise of cars and bikes on the road.
It is nice to have people around again; some days the silence filled the empty spaces of my house like an invisible smog, oppressive and heavy.
Things are not, however, back to normal. Things will never be back to normal.
The past few months have exposed much — our insecurities, the fragility of our facades, the inadequacies of our government.
Many of us learned that we were not as prepared for the unexpected as we thought. So many things we took for granted in the past now look like quaint relics.
A friend tweeted his disappointment at his favourite burger joint being available, and just as quickly, unavailable for delivery.
“You need to be a little more kiamsap in times like these,” I said.
“I thought I was! I didn’t order because I wanted to finish up the food at home first.”
I explained to him gently that I meant he should have seized the opportunity to take the burger he missed so much because didn’t we learn how quickly our little pleasures could disappear out of reach?
He ordered a burger today.
More ephemeral than missed burgers, I’d think, is income for day workers.
A sad-eyed man walked by my house yesterday and offered to cut the grass, so my brother paid him for the work and as an extra tip gave him all the fruit in our fridge, courtesy of a recent media gift basket.
I hope the basket of apples and oranges sweetened his day a little because life is bitter for many in his shoes.
Every day on Facebook I see a new request for aid; mothers asking for diapers and milk, out-of-work breadwinners pleading for some way to make a living.
In a kongsi deep in Serdang, a bunch of labourers wept when aid was finally delivered to them by kind Samaritans. They’d begged various agencies previously but received no help or answer.
All these stories are more than sad. They reveal the shortcomings of our current economy.
Food should be a basic right. No one should have to be forced to work to feed themselves, because what happens when the work dries up? When someone falls ill? When a global pandemic sweeps the world and shuts it down?
I cannot pretend there is that much of a gulf between the desperate grasscutter and me. That luck wasn’t part of the reason why I can stay at home and work while he canvasses for jobs.
Maybe now more people will see that it makes sense to build a society where we don’t leave foreign workers abandoned in the woods begging for food.
Building the world around the needs of the rich and powerful means that when it all falls apart, only the privileged will be left while the rest scramble for crumbs.
Maybe the world has always been broken. It’s just we’re only seeing it now and maybe it took a pandemic to get us all to see.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.