One early morning at Sun Plaza, a young woman asked Mr Seah: “Why are you here everyday?”
Mr Seah chuckled. “Then why are you here everyday?”
“I’m here for work!”, the woman replied, somewhat incredulously.
The man raised his brows. “So what do you think I’m doing here?”
For 13 years, no one took his place. Four days every week, Mr Seah arrives at his usual spot outside Sembawang MRT Station. There, on his wheelchair, he waits for the morning rush.
A rush, indeed. Hoards and hoards of able-bodied people, fit, fast, and ready for the future. Many pass him by without a second look. Some slow down, others stare. Few people stop to buy his goods – 3 packets of tissue for a dollar.
The man won’t be selling tissue now if the accident didn’t happen, more than 20 years ago.
Mr Seah was only 39 when a huge, 1.5-ton machine crushed his body. The machine would have fallen on his head and killed him instantly, if not for friends who shouted out nearby.
Illiterate and paralysed, Mr Seah nearly died from an overdose of thirty sleeping pills. He recovered with a fierce determination to survive on his own.
“Why do pigs die? Because humans feed them! Humans do everything for them. They’ve lost their ability to survive.”
Mr Seah earns a meagre income from his sales. On good days, he may get twenty to thirty dollars. On lousy days, he’ll be lucky to have a dollar in his pocket. People stare at him wondering if he’s a fake, and one even through the tissue packets onto his face. But there are also kind people who greet him every morning, and stuff a dollar, five dollars, ten dollars into his hands without taking anything in return.
“There are lots of bad people, but lots of good people, too.”
Mr Seah never blamed anyone, or asked for help from others. He learned to clean himself, cook for himself, and do his own housework. Despite being handicapped, he frequently helps his elderly neighbours to repair their wheelchairs.
“I’m still young”, Mr Seah beamed. “I’m only 62!”
He refused to think too far ahead. Strolling among the lush pots of pomegranate he planted himself, Mr Seah understands exactly how unpredictable life can be.
“I can’t read, and I can’t write. But I can talk to you today. Maybe tomorrow, my heart stops beating, but why think so far? No joy! Take it easy. One day at a time.”
He leaned back on his wheelchair and smiled.
“I’m very happy now. I am independent, and I am alive. This is enough for me.”