Filmmaker Gary Chong on the struggles of a chicken rice hawker…

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Copy pasted post from Facebook Account of Gary Chong.

It is Day 11 of the Malaysian Movement Control Order (MCO) due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and I have a tale to tell. A tale unfortunately not borne out of fiction, but firmly rooted in a sobering reality.

This morning I experienced first hand, a distinct sector of society which has slipped under the radar. Or at least which has brought me to my knees in re-evaluating my role as a citizen in my community.

And that sector is our local neighbourhood coffee shop hawker and gerai makan.

11am: As the head of the household, I made my way out for a grocery run (as is what is allowed within MCO rules)

While driving, I passed one of my favourite local hawker coffee shops and unexpectedly saw that 3 hawker stalls were open. It was ages since I had a good greasy chicken rice meal so I proceeded to order from the chicken rice seller, 3 packets of chicken rice.

While going about his usual way of preparation, he started lamenting that his daily sales now is only around RM140 but he has to open shop from 7am-11pm.

To put it in a nutshell, He has to work 16 hours to just sell Chicken Rice and survive between rm100-180 a day. He continued that if business went on for 2 more weeks like this, he would go out of business.

His next response shocked me. He begged me to come back and buy from him for dinner…in which he then gave me extra meat in my packets, in the hopes that would seal the deal and I would come back that night.

It was at that moment I realized that yes, all sectors are hit badly because of this MCO (which is unavoidable and IMHO, a necessary long term manoeuvre) but the really small coffeeshop hawkers and gerais are at the most vulnerable.
I began a conversation with him and a few things which he pointed out, emphasized his hardship.

  1. He couldn’t go and register himself on an ecommerce site or platform due to him being illiterate and having near zero technological knowledge.
  2. He said he considered house delivery but delivery fees were at a minimum of RM5 so he couldn’t afford it and no customer would be willing to pay a jump of 200% for chicken rice.
  3. He heard from people about the recent Economic stimulus and although he qualifies for some of the incentives, many hawkers like him, are not willing to contact the IRB due to various reasons because of a checkered past (perhaps certain troubled run-ins with the law) and warranted/unwarranted fear towards the government.
  4. Why did he have to remain open instead of staying home and waiting for this MCO to end? His response was akin to a traditional malay saying “kais pagi makan pagi, kais petang, makan petang”

I tried to persuade him to let me assist him financially or at least help him with some of the technology woes he had, but he kept deflecting and saying that my patronage of his business is good enough for him.

When he said that, I felt a wave of emotion sweep over me. One not just of guilt, but of shame because of my ignorance.

You see, my family and I have been very comfortable for the past 11 days, utilizing convenient delivery services such as Grab Food and FoodPanda everyday since MCO day 1.
We even enjoyed the occasional bout of home cooking and it was laughter around the house, while at the exact same time, there was an Uncle sitting in his chicken rice stall waiting 16 hours for a mere 10 customers per day.

8pm: I came back that night, bought half a chicken and slipped him an extra big note into his money tray without him noticing to try and appease my guilt but I think that is why I am compelled to write this.

For those of us who fall within the same scenario, where we are comfortable within our four walls , indulging in the diverse offerings of Grabfood/Foodpanda or even have been cooking at home the whole time during the MCO and trying out new bold recipes,
perhaps it is time to play our roles as citizens of our local communities, where we can show some love to our local hawkers who are stuck with no choice,
by helping them through this time of crisis by making it a point to “Tarpao” and “Bungkus” from them, besides also saying a prayer for them, because once this MCO ends, it would be a sad day for our community when we have to start having conversations as to whatever happened to our favourite chicken rice hawker stall down the street.

For those who already have been buying from your local hawkers, I applaud you 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

For the rest of us, perhaps we could practice these steps:

  1. As a family, pick out your regular hawker stall around your neighbourhood.
  2. Get your head of the household to swing by and check whether they are open during one of his/her grocery runs.
  3. If they are open, drop by and buy some breakfast, lunch, dinner.
  4. Give them a little bit of encouragement by having some small talk or conversation with them to brighten up their day.

supportyourlocalhawker

supportyourlocalgerai

I did not upload a picture or information of the real chicken rice hawker stall or the owner’s face due to his request, in which he only asked me to share his plight and the plight of other hawkers like him to let the world know the seriousness of this situation on ground

Your single action today, albeit how small your takeaway order might be, will be able to alter the course of destiny for each of these hawkers who in this period of distress, need us to show our solidarity as Rakyat Malaysia and practice the evergreen and holy virtue of “Loving Your Neighbour”.

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