Friday, June 10, 2005

He Ain't Heavy, But He's Not My Brother

On the way to lunch, I witnessed something quite sad yesterday.

I was walking along a row of shops to the food centre at Bishan St 22 (near Whitley Secondary School) when I saw a little girl, definitely not older than nursery-going age, walking in front of me. She was carrying a plastic bag with a bottle of mineral water. Then she dropped the bottle. She hurriedly picked it up and tried to put it back into the plastic bag, and at the same time struggled to keep up with her maid who was walking a few metres in front of her. The maid was carrying her school bag and some groceries, and was totally oblivious to her struggles. I followed them for a distance of a few shops to see if the maid would notice the problem the little girl was facing; but not once did she turn around to check. Then we came to coffee shop which was quite crowded. They got separated briefly and still the maid did not turn around. Finally, they came to the small road which led to the carpark. The maid stopped, but still she did not turn around. Then she took out a umbrella, opened it just when the little girl caught up. Then she took the girl’s hand mechanically and walked into the sun sheltering only herself with the umbrella.

It occurred to me then that this pitiful scene would be repeated day in day out; all over the island of Singapore.

It’s so sad. Many of our young couples go to work and leave their children in the hands of uncaring maids such as this one. And God knows what kind of treatment these maids mete out to our children while no one is looking.

I used to enjoy Neil Humphrey’s column in the Today. But I resent the numerous occasions when he took swipes at Singaporean employers about the way we treat our maids. While I agree that employers who treat their maids like slaves or lower class people deserved to be condemned, I cannot help detecting the judgmental tone in Mr Humphrey’s articles. He seems to be telling us, “unlike you uncivilised Singaporeans, we Ang Mor’s respect human rights”.