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Some of us might have had this experience: Leaving the home and forgetting to wear a mask.

That was what happened to a woman this year when she absent-mindedly boarded a bus without a mask. Horrified, she turned to alight, only for the bus captain to call out to her and offered her his spare disposable mask.

The commuter, Mei Fong, said it turned an embarrassing moment into a “wonderful Saturday morning” thanks to the bus captain’s helpfulness.

The bus captain of Service 979, Kesavan Krishnan, was one of the record number of 568 service staff in the transport industry who were recognised for their exemplary acts of kindness and service at the 22nd National Kindness Awards — Transport Gold ceremony, held yesterday.

The hybrid ceremony was held at the Ngee Ann Auditorium in the Asian Civilisations Museum and saw 30 Outstanding Award winners and 7 Caring Commuter Award winners. The remaining award winners attended the ceremony virtually.

It is part of the inaugural Caring Commuter Week that was launched last Saturday by President Halimah Yaacob.

Public transport remains a key aspect of our daily lives. Last year, there was an average of five million passengers a day using public transport in Singapore, the lowest in 11 years due to Covid-19.

During the pandemic, tempers frayed and occasionally, we would see a spat go viral on social media. However, there are many more unseen acts of kindness that people don’t talk about. Thankfully, not all go unnoticed.

“Today, we are celebrating yet another year of exemplary work by transport industry members. Aside from ensuring our journeys are safe and pleasant, today’s winners have gone above and beyond by exhibiting graciousness and kindness despite the challenges,” said Dr William Wan, General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, at the awards.

He added that good deeds and everyday acts of kindness usually go unnoticed, and this is especially true for those working in the transport service industry.

However, when these acts of goodwill are recognised, they act as an example and inspiration for others to continue the cycle of kindness.

Public Transport Workers Singapore
Minister for Transport and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, Mr S Iswaran giving his speech at the Transport Gold Awards 2021. Image source: Singapore Kindness Movement

Guest-of-honour, Minister for Transport and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, Mr S Iswaran, said: “Lending a helping hand, without hesitation, no matter how big or small the deed, makes a difference and leaves an indelible positive imprint on our society.

“Kindness inspires kindness, in a virtuous cycle of consideration and giving. That is perhaps the most treasured and lasting impact of the actions of our awardees, and that of many others like them amongst us.”

Keen eyes and kind heart

Public Transport Workers Singapore
(From left) Singa the Lion, Minister for Transport and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, Mr S Iswaran, SMRT’s Kesavan Krishnan and Dr William Wan, General Secretary of Singapore Kindness Movement. Image source: Singapore Kindness Movement

Like SMRT bus captain Kesavan, who received an Outstanding Award. He was honoured not just for his daily doses of kindness, but also for his exemplary action during one of his bus journeys.

When Kesavan was operating Service 975 in April earlier this year, a commuter fell while alighting. Concerned for his well-being, Mr Kesavan immediately attended to the passenger. When the elderly man assured him that he was okay, Kesavan helped him to rest at the seats at the bus stop. He also reported the incident to his headquarters.

Half an hour later, Kesavan was driving back on the return route when he noticed the commuter still sitting at the bus stop. He stopped the bus and went to check on him. Seeing that he was still in pain, he called an ambulance and stayed with him until it arrived ten minutes later.

Kesavan’s observant and caring nature was paramount in ensuring his commuter’s safety. And he was aided also by the cooperative commuters on his vehicle as they were willing to board the next available bus as he waited with the injured man.

Quick reactions and quiet patience

Public Transport Workers Singapore
(From left) Singa the Lion, Mr S Iswaran, Zuraidah Ghani from ComfortDelGro Engineering and Dr William Wan. Image source: Singapore Kindness Movement

Not all transport heroes work on the frontlines, though.

A cabby was refuelling his taxi when it suddenly began to roll backwards. He shouted for help and full-time cashier Zuraidah Ghani, who was on duty, immediately rushed to his aid. She managed to yank open the taxi door and pull the handbrake, which brought the taxi to a stop.

Her swift action not only saved the cabby from injury, but also stopped the taxi from hurting others and damaging property.

When the incident happened, Zuraidah’s first instinct wasn’t for her own safety, but to save the cabby uncle from getting injured and the people within the area.

She believes that it is her duty to ensure the safety of those who visit the fuel kiosks.

When ComfortDelgro Engineering set up the Pandan Self-Service Fuel Kiosk in April this year, Zuraidah quickly mastered the processes and guided her colleagues and cabbies patiently through the process.

This mix of heroic selflessness and quiet patience helped her to receive an Outstanding Award.

Acts of kindness no matter rain or shine

Cabby Lam Tze Yuen, who won an Outstanding award, is always ready to lend a helping hand, even at his own expense.

It was raining heavily on New Year’s Day when Lam did a roadside pick-up. He could have easily stayed in his taxi to avoid getting wet but he got out to open the door for his passengers so that they would avoid getting rained on.

When asked as to why he did it, Lam explained that he treats every passenger, no matter the status, just like a friend. He wants them to enjoy the journey without being uncomfortable. To him, getting wet is not a concern at all.

In his commendation letter, one of the passengers said: “The cabby not only opened the door for us in the rain, but also made sure to ask if the climate control settings were comfortable for us, confirmed our preferred route, and thanked us for being patient due to heavy traffic. Cabby Lam should be the benchmark for all drivers in making the customer feel comfortable throughout the journey.”

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Lam told The Pride that when his passengers are happy, he would also feel the same way.

On another occasion, he picked up a couple and noticed the husband walking with some difficulty. He offered to assist the passenger, who managed to board the taxi on his own.

During the journey, Lam gave the couple some sweets. When they arrived at their destination, he got out of his taxi to offer the husband a helping hand to alight.

The couple was so moved that the wife later called in to commend him. She said: “We’re very thankful to have met someone who went above and beyond to provide good service!”

Tunnel vision for kindness

Caring Commuter Award Singapore Kindness Movement
(From left) Dr William Wan, Singa the Lion, Mr S Iswaran, Caring Commuter Award winner Thirunavukkarasu Srinivasan. Image source: Singapore Kindness Movement

When it comes to public transportation, kindness is not limited to just those who work in the industry. Even commuters play a big role.

In the early morning of Aug 10, Thirunavukkarasu Srinivasa was on his way home on the train after finishing his night shift when he heard a commotion and noticed a woman assisting an elderly man on an electric wheelchair to disembark at Lavender MRT station.

Realising that the wheelchair was stuck in the gap between the train and the platform, Thiru did not think twice before getting up to provide assistance.

“At that moment, I could only see the panic in their eyes and my first reaction was to provide them with a helping hand. There was nothing else in my mind,” he said.

Initially, Thiru had difficulties trying to push the wheelchair from inside the train carriage as it was too heavy. He then exited and tried to pull the wheelchair onto the platform. Just as the train doors were about to close, he managed to free the wheelchair from the gap.

He guided the elderly man to the lift before proceeding to inform station staff.

In his haste to help the elderly commuter, he had left all his belongings on the train that had left! Every good deed deserves another, and Thiru managed to retrieve all his belongings, thanks to another unknown caring commuter who returned them to the staff at the next station.

Kindness is for everyone

Public Transport Workers Singapore
Dr Wan speaking at the Transport Gold Awards. Image source: Singapore Kindness Movement

In his speech during the awards ceremony, Dr Wan shared a conversation he had in a carpool interview for the Traffic Police virtual show called ‘Use Your RoadSense’.

He said that everyone plays a crucial role in ensuring our roads are safe and pleasant.

Dr Wan said: “The majority think that motorists are the ones who carry the greater responsibility for ensuring the safety of our roads. However, pedestrians, too, share an equal role to play. Besides adhering to road safety and regulations, pedestrians can also do their part by refraining from using their phones when crossing the road.”

Whether by a motorist, pedestrian or commuter, a simple thank-you gesture can instantly brighten up someone’s day: It could be a pedestrian waving to a motorist who allows them to pass, or a commuter giving up their seat to someone else who needs it more.

No act of kindness is too small.

“Our daily choices can create a greater impact on our society. With a strong sense of altruism, we can help to reinforce the strength of our transport system.” said Dr Wan

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