Tupi bought lunch for an old man collecting cans and card boards. The old man rubbed Tupi's head and Tupi closed his eyes.
"How did this happen?" Tupi asked.
"I used to be in construction, I paint and do tiling for kitchen and bathrooms." The old man said.
"With so many new projects, don't you get more business?" Tupi asked.
"How to get Garmen contract? You know the HDB gates, all go to one company only, Garmen call for tender, all bluff one. They give to their own relatives and friends, high price low quality also get job. Sometimes, no experience also get job, then they find sub-con and squeeze us. Many people kenna burn, and sub-con take all the risk and go bust, main con need connection and make all the money." The old man complained. "Then you work for some of these people, they also squeeze your salary. $5,000 project, they pay you only $3,000 which just covers cost. Otherwise, they say hire bangla lor, 100 men job, they can bring in 500 men, then collect money from the snakehead for each person coming to Singapore. Just the kickback earn until siao already."
"Wow, I did not know that." Tupi said.
"Aiya, complain also no use, the garmen people and the main con so close, sometime minister also can own construction company and ownself do upgrade with ownself company." The old man said. "Politics smelly lah."
"What about doing skills training and get another job?" Tupi asked.
"You think free meh?" The old man said. "You pay and go useless course, then get cert that no one want. Where got job? The company that train you make money only lah."
Tupi was quite surprised on what he heard. "So, why are you collecting cardboard now?"
"You think money drop from sky. Everyday no need eat meh?" The old man said. "Collect can and cardboard at least no need beg, full cart sell already can eat at hawker center."
Tupi did not have much of a response. "Where do you live?"
"I have a 2 room flat in Yishun." The old man said. "Sold off my 4 room flat in Bukit Merah and used all savings to pay for my wife's medical bill. She died and still have to pay bill. After that, cannot afford flat in open market, stayed in relative place, different place every week, for few years, then finally get the new flat in Yishun. 70 years old liao still paying for flat every month."
It seemed like the old man had a lot of complains. He kept talking through lunch and Tupi gave him his ears and listened.
Tupi learned a lot today, and had a different perspective after talking to the old man. It was all worth it.