Saini, 70, believes wholeheartedly in working and warns: “Don’t stay at home, very boring. You don’t talk to others … like going to die.” The grandfather of seven used to stay at home until his wife urged him to do something. On his nephew’s suggestion, he applied to SMRT last year. “I thought that my education was not high, why would they hire me?” But they did – and he became a service ambassador at Toa Payoh MRT, where he works for four hours Mondays to Fridays at the train platform. There, he guides people to the trains, and helps those who are sick and blind.
He said of his job: “I get to meet different people including the public.” He added proudly that he has not applied for sick leave since he started working. And when he is not working, he watches TV, takes naps, goes jalan-jalan (walking) all over, and travels occasionally with his family (he recently came back from Bandung).
He gave us a glimpse of his past. He was working at a Japanese import and export company for 38 years after his PSLE. “My parents couldn’t afford to send me for further studies.” He said at that time in 1961, while he was married, he was earning $80 per month, a figure that would be unfathomable in today’s context. When he was asked to retire at 55, his pay had increased to $2,500. Even after, he still worked, taking on odd jobs like driving part-time and selling food at a factory canteen. Somehow even with what he had, he kept a tight leash on his finances, adding: “My wife calls me stingy”. But after awhile, he decided to stay at home and do housework, and that was till his SMRT gig came up.
He hopes to continue working as long as he can – “If SMRT will accept me, I will work as long as I can. I don’t mind whatever pay, as I just want a job. My house and car are settled, and I have no loans. My children pay my utilities bill. As long as I have money to eat my nasi lemak for breakfast, I am happy. I am not a big eater!”
Before going back on the train platform, he shared these pieces of advice: “Don’t be a kapo (busy-body). And, small problems don’t make them bigger.” Good advice for a man who keeps his life simple and is satisfied with what he has.