The Day I Saw Need at the Supermarket

Seeing that this Saturday is the World Day of Social Justice, and in light of the current debate on a certain plan to recruit 1.5 million foreign laborers into Malaysia, I thought sharing this post would be timely. The encounter below happened in Singapore and was recorded in late 2015.

Disclaimer: This post does not mean that I endorse the government’s plan. I suspect they’re doing it for ulterior motives and we should critique it wisely. But I hope that this would help put a face to the foreign workers already in our neighborhood.

It was Monday afternoon and I was buying groceries for the week.

Happily I carried my basket of greens and meat to the counter. As the cashier scanned and bagged the items, I looked at the SG50 cash vouchers inside my purse, wondering if I should use them. The bill came up to $43.75. My fingers grabbed $40 worth of vouchers and passed it to the cashier. I fished in my purse for cash to pay the balance and looked up. That’s when I saw it.

As the cashier laid the vouchers out to verify them, a pair of eyes were staring at them. They belonged to the customer behind me – a foreigner, probably a Bangladeshi. He was obviously a blue collar worker. His blue polo shirt was faded, his jeans worn, and his slippers and feet dusty. And he looked tired. In pure awe and hunger, he looked at my vouchers, his own hand clinging to crumpled $2 notes ready to pay for his one carton of eggs.

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