Monday 1 April 2013

An Extraordinary Taxi Driver - Ah Lam

Ah Lam - an extraordinary taxi driver
Remember Ah Lam -my taxi buddy- whose taxi was hijacked at the Budget Terminal by a PRC, who then crashed and killed an Indian male cleaner there. (Link).

A year had passed since that tragic incident and what has happened to the people who were involved?. Well, that PRC is still held in remand at The Institute of Mental Health in Bungkok View for observation and a trial had yet to convene. Ah Lam continues with his taxi driving for a living. And the Indian family continues with their lives without a father in J.B. (Update : 16/04/2013 - The PRC had been sentenced to 25 months jail)

In my previous post, I wrote briefly about Ah Lam's humble character but now, I would like to share with you a few things that Ah Lam did, as a taxi driver that makes him the most remarkably kind taxi driver I ever known personally. In my opinion, his simple acts of kindness were most heart warming, inspiring and amazing.

Once, at the beginning of his morning shift, he took an Indian lady from Woodland Estate to Tekka Market in Little India. On reaching the destination, the lady discovered that she had no wallet, cash, credit cards or any valuables, except her cellphone, with her. She was supposed to do her weekend grocery shopping at the market.

Without her asking for help, Ah Lam voluntarily lend her $200 on the spot, so that she could continue her shopping without interruption. He then waited an hour for her to finish her shopping and drove her home eventually. Ah Lam was not worried that with the unsolicited loan of $200, the lady could absconded at first opportunity and abused his kindness and trust in her. She did not, luckily. She honored her obligations and also wrote to Comfort relating Ah Lam's exceptional act of kindness and generosity. Comfort subsequently rewarded Ah Lam with a $50 shopping voucher and featured his story in their newsletter.

Honestly, I could not imagine myself doing what Ah Lam did. I would probably ask the lady to credit the unpaid fare to my bank account later, at her convenience and asked her to get her family members for help. After all, this is Singapore, a small city state of 700 sq. km with world class transport facilities. Quick help is only a phone call away. I'm a decent taxi driver but frankly, I lack Ah Lam's exceptional heart of kindness and generosity in this instance. I'll never give a loan of $200 to a complete stranger, albeit a passenger.

On another occasion, around noon, Ah Lam picked an old lady in her early eighties, sitting alone at a deserted bus stop in Upper Thomson Road. She was dressed in a dark blue shanfu cloths, her hair gathered into a tight bunch at the back of her head, like my late grandmother. She had a walking cane with her and looked frail with a hunched back. She was probably waiting for her bus and did not flag for a taxi.

Nonetheless, on seeing the old lady alone at an empty bus stop, Ah Lam kindheartedly stopped to ask whether she needed help or a free taxi ride home. Most drivers would surely drive pass her without a second look. Not Ah Lam. It turned out that she was abandoned by an earlier taxi driver, as she could not clearly tell the driver her destinations. Unlike the earlier heartless taxi driver, Ah Lam, with a heart of gold, took the feeble and hungry old lady to lunch at a nearby coffee shop and tried to gather as much information about her background and history as possible, so that he could send her home safely. Unfortunately, she had no documents whatsoever with her and could not provide much help. She was dazed and lost in her own world all the time. It soon became apparent that she was a clear case of an old lady suffering from dementia.

Now, what should Ah Lam do? Call the police to take over?. Yes, most taxi drivers and myself would certainly do that!. No, Ah Lam didn't call the police. Instead, he took the old lady to his house in Tampines and decided to spend the rest of his day investigating the old lady actual place of residence!. Wasn't that the dumbest thing to do?. Not to Ah Lam, the man with an extraordinary kind heart.

I asked him why he didn't call the police for help. He explained that the police would not be able the provide the comfort of a home, while they investigate the case. The old lady would also be subjected to unnecessary stress from bureaucratic protocol and could end up in the Institute of Mental Health, like the PRC. Only Ah Lam, with almost divine compassion, would sincerely think of the welfare of the old lady first and place himself in her shoes empathetically.

To cut a long story short, Ah Lam made a few phone calls to all the nursing & old folks homes within 5 kilometers radius of Upper Thomson Road. As luck would have it, Ju Eng Home for Senior Citizen at Jalan Kayu had a missing patient that fits the old lady description. Within an hour, the old lady was reunited with her familiar caregivers at the home.

My daughter had a preview of this story and remarked that it's boring and she could have written the same during her primary school essay assignment. She also questioned the authenticity of the story and wondered whether it was an exaggeration of Ah Lam's character. I reassured her to trust Dad's integrity, like her faith in God.

More importantly, I stressed to my daughter that the moral of this story is there are still a few rare and extraordinary kind people in the mist of our materialistic society. We should find inspirations and emulate the exemplary attributes of their wonderful character, least we are no better than animals without souls. A kind deed a day, makes our misery goes away.
         Acts of Kindness that would make you cry


Singapore Man of Leisure said...

Thank you James,

It's an inspiring post!

We do need a little more love, a bit more compassion, and more kindness in our world.

Be less smart; less calculating; less in a hurry; less what's in it for me?

I can do more. Shame on me.


Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this great piece of story of this great, generous, extremely kind man, Mr ah lam.

We can be more like this man, this whorled would be a better place to live in.

Anonymous said...

Yes! When we balanced our head and heart, the true compassion would certainly radiates to the world around us. I believe Ah Lam is enjoying his world of a giving heart, a remarkable MAN! A great time to read this story!

Anonymous said...

Really extraordinary, but again I think Ah Lam daily target is not to make as much as he can, but drive at his own pace, be on a lookout, always willing to lend a helping hand to others.

However there's always dishonest people around, ready to take advantage where possible, and thats why, most will just avoid trouble and move on as per normal

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Hi, Anon,

Thanks for your comments.

In fact, Ah Lam is a very hardworking man. He seldom takes breaks at coffee shop and always eat breads in his taxi with water while behind the wheel.

James Lim

Unknown said...

Stories like this from fellow Singaporeans about other Singaporeans that make me feel enlightened and at same time hopeful that such acts of kindness can exists in our fast paced society. I feel bad knowing I would not measure up to such level of compassion, but strive someday to be so.

zeroflame said...

Thanks for sharing James.

I do believe Ah Lam exist in everybody. Just that we are afraid to be taken advantage of.

The world will be a better place with more Ah Lam around :)

Gary Goh said...

Thanks James for sharing Ah lam's story, otherwise it would have gone unnoticed :) Indeed if more people share such heart-warming encouraging story of kindness like you, Singapore would be a better place :) The realities of modern living can be cruel (esply for cabbies), encouraging stories can certainly lift our hearts to continue to have hope :) Do continue to encourage us through your experience k? God bless you.

Unknown said...

WOW ! It is really heartwarming to read about Mr Ah Lam. I will share this story on my FB and hope many other drivers ( cabbies or not) will try to help the elderly too. Thank you so much!

bell said...

pls don't discriminate against is set against serene surroundings.

Riya Gupta said...
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