Originally blogged on August 25, 2001
“Lima puluh sen…”
That’s what I heard the kid said when I turned and saw him standing right next to my table, when I was taking my lunch at a mamak restaurant in JB today. “Gosh, doesn’t this kid seem too young for this?…”. It’s not that I haven’t seen kids like this one, hanging around coffee shops, asking for money, I always believed it was their parents who taught them to do this. This one is the youngest I’ve seen so far. “4 or 5 years old?” I thought.
I asked if it was his parents who told him to do this. He shook his head, and said something which I could hardly understand. I guessed neither he could understand what I was saying too. I gestured to him that I was not going to give him money, but I would be glad to have him to join me for lunch. He said he wasn’t hungry, I said I’ll buy him a drink, he then asked for lime juice, excitedly. So I got the mamak to bring over a glass of lime juice.
The juice came, the kid gulped it down like he hadn’t been drinking since he was born. I asked where his dad was, he said he’s working, in the factory. Mom also working, in the factory. Then I asked why didn’t he go to school. He said “demam (fever)”. I said kids should go to school, and it’s not good to go around and ask for money like that.
I noticed the ring on his finger, I asked who gave him that.
That explained everything.
After he finished his lime juice, I took out two dollars, I looked at him, I said he has to promise me that he will go home immediately if I were to give him the money. He noded obsequiously. Before this day, two dollars meant a bowl of mee rebus, or a game of Time Crisis at game arcade, or half an hour at internet cafe. When I saw the joy in the boy’s expression after I gave him the money, I realised the was more of what two dollars can do.
The nasi ayam madu I was having had suddenly become exceptionally delicious.