This is Mr Seah. And I’ve been visiting him almost every Thursday for close to a year.
Initially, he was apprehensive and wary during my first couple of visits, and we would only speak briefly via the metal grill. He seemed socially withdrawn. There was a sense of resignation in the way he spoke, and his eyes were filled with nothing but despair.
After a dozen visits, he slowly opened up and my visits became the length of two cigarettes at the corridor outside his home.
Fast forward to today, he invites me into his home each time I visit. We do not have particularly enriching conversations just yet. But I guess it’s rather significant progress nonetheless.
Mr Seah is the Singaporean archetype of the “Grumpy Old Uncle” who believes that the world is against him. His bleak outlook isn’t entirely unwarranted and I can understand why he holds such a belief.
He lives in the living room of his sister’s home. His sister is the only family he has left, but their relationship is strained. He was once happily married with two kids. However, due to an unfortunate incident, he is now divorced and estranged from his two kids who are in their twenties.
To make matters worse, about a decade ago, he suffered a stroke and his health deteriorated drastically. As a result, he hasn’t been able to work since. He finds himself giddy and exhausted easily. Even going out for a walk can be arduous for him, as such, he coops himself at home. He spends most of his time lying on his bed.
Plain bread is his daily staple and he enjoys eating them without the crust. One of the few remaining topics, he speaks spiritedly about is winning the lottery. He has told me many times that if he wins, he’ll give some of his earnings so I can settle down soon.
Also, Mr Seah has a penchant for vices. I often remind him to drink and smoke less but he’ll retort with “if I can’t drink and smoke, then there is nothing left for me to enjoy in this world”.