By Max Ang
Since an unfortunate incident at work injured his right middle finger, Mohammad Salauddin Abdul Awal has been unable to work. Without income, where will he find accommodation?
Salauddin suffered the accident turning a bolt while fitting pipes at a shipyard. He informed his supervisor of his injury and was attended to by a doctor. He is not allowed to work till he has recovered, but it’s a long six months before his next medical review. The joint is now stiff.
Not long after the accident, he came under some pressure to go back home before his treatment is completed. Salauddin tells TWC2 his supervisor suggested to him: “Can call home, I give some medicine, you go back country, country feel okay, call me then I see how.” The message was clear to him: he should accept repatriation without full treatment in Singapore, and try again after recovery to see if he still has a job.
Feeling helpless and afraid of being forcibly repatriated against his will, Salauddin left his dormitory and began a life of a vagrant. He roamed the streets in the day and slept at void decks at night. At times, he sought refuge in mosques, which offered him showers and warm meals. That such a life was tough and uncomfortable would be an understatement.
Yet, when asked about his injury and predicament, Salauddin smiles and claims that his “heart is okay”. However, he does miss his family back home. Now that he is unable to work to send money back home, he worries if “father and mother can eat or not”. As parents, they are saddened by his injury and hope that it will heal.
Despite being homeless and injured, his ability to maintain a cheerful disposition is one to be applauded.
A silver lining appeared when a friend saw him at a void deck one day and enquired into his circumstances. Learning that he had nowhere to stay, this friend, a foreign worker too, offered to share his bedspace with Salauddin. It’s not even a room, just a bunk in a crowded tenement. The friend has a night shift job, and so sleeps in the day. Salauddin gets to sleep at night. It is a tricky stunt — the two of them must avoid being caught by the landlord who might not be happy with the arrangement — and so, Salauddin has to stay away during the day, wandering around aimlessly. But at least for now, he is assured of a place to lay his head each night.
Ellen G White, author and co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, once wrote, “True generosity is too frequently eaten up by prosperity and riches.” Here in the glittering streets of wealthy Singapore, men like Salauddin wander homeless. It took someone with the humblest of means, a foreign worker near the bottom of our pay scales, to offer a helping hand.