By Qasimi Redha

As Singaporeans, we live in a diverse society with different races, cultures and religions. However, truth be told, we rarely interact with those that live around us — our neighbours of diverse backgrounds. For most of us, our interactions with our neighbours are limited to not much else other than the occasional nod and “hello” at the lift lobby.

However, the story is different for Abdullah Abdul Rahman, 37, who has forged a close relationship with his neighbours over the years.

Diana, a retiree laughs as she tells The Pride: “Abdullah is very good. All the roses that he gave me bloomed so nicely and made me so happy. Whenever I see the flowers bloom, I think of him because he was the one who gave me all the flowers.”

Mary, who lives next door to Abdullah, also agrees that he is a very good person.

Chinese New Year
Diana teaching Abdullah some Chinese New Year wishes. Image source: Our Grandfather Story

Even those that just met him are charmed by his personality and friendliness.

In a video by Our Grandfather Story, shot in partnership with Singapore Kindness Movement, Jane, a friend of Diana, says: “This is my first time meeting Abdullah. I live on the seventh floor and today I came down to [tour] the fourth floor with Diana. I’m happy to have met Abdullah. I think I’m very lucky.”

Says Abdullah, “I have been interacting with my neighbours for the past three years but now our bond is closer than ever.”

Abdullah used to live with his parents and brother at their Tampines flat but both his father and mother have passed away in recent years.

It all started a year ago after Abdullah returned home after spending a month at his sister’s place after his father’s passing.

He realised that the floor outside his unit was very clean and found out that his neighbours had helped to sweep it for him. In return, he helped them put up Chinese New Year decorations and they all celebrated the occasion together.

Our Grandfather Story
Abdullah setting up Chinese New Year decorations. Image source: Our Grandfather Story

“I don’t believe that our race should get in the way of us being close and celebrating each other’s festivals. There’s no point in reciting the (Singapore) Pledge if we do not incorporate it into our lifestyle,” says Abdullah.

Abdullah interacts with his neighbours every day and would constantly check up on them.

He explains: “Since they are more elderly, I go to their homes and visit them personally. That way, I can help them with anything since I am physically there.”

Above and beyond

For Abdullah, helping his neighbours comes naturally as he believes it is his duty to look out for them — even when he’s not at his best.

“I just came back from a throat surgery but that wouldn’t stop me from helping my neighbours out. Even if I am sick, unless I can’t walk on my own, I will still continue to help them out.” says the 37-year-old.

With Chinese New Year just around the corner, Abdullah spent the last few weeks helping his neighbours put up the decorations along the corridor.

“It is difficult for the seniors to put up the decorations on their own. Other than those that they can place at the door, they need help to put up decorations that require climbing or bending over constantly. Personally, it also makes me happy to be able to spend quality time with them.”

Our Grandfather Story
Setting up Chinese New Year decorations has become a time for bonding between the neighbours. Image source: Our Grandfather Story

And his care is reciprocated. Says Diana: “If I have a son like him, my house will be decorated very nicely”.

Listening to them, you can hear the joy in their voices when they talk about how Abdullah helps to brighten their day.

And he responds with a playfulness that shows the bond between the neighbours.

Says Abdullah: “I feel appreciated when they are happy with me being around. It’s not easy to gain their trust, you see. Their children do come to visit them during the weekends, but other than that, at least somebody is there to cheer them up and interact with them during the week.”

Building bonds with neighbours

Our Grandfather Story
Sending everyone well wishes in the Year of the Tiger. Image source: Our Grandfather Story

Abdullah believes that forming close bonds with neighbours has many benefits, such as having someone nearby to talk to or offer help.

“They are the first group of people besides your family members that will be able to help you if anything were to happen. For those that aren’t close to their neighbours, it is time for them to build the relationship, regardless of where they live, be it HDB, landed property or staying in a condo.”

Most of us tend to be hesitant about approaching our neighbours, perhaps afraid that we would make a fool out of ourselves. But there are many ways to interact or strike up a conversation with our neighbours, other than the usual hi and bye.

Suggests Abdullah: “Look for something in common between you and your neighbours and start a conversation about that. For example, for me, my neighbours like to water their plants so that’s where I start to mingle and spark a conversation. If your neighbours are younger, then you can start by asking about school or work, that kind of thing you know?”

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However, the key element to forming a close relationship with your neighbours is respect.

“Respect your neighbours and understand their culture and religion. Respect is the most important thing if you want to interact with others, not just our seniors, but to everyone that you meet.”

If you know of another well-decorated corridor or you’d like to spruce up your surroundings for Chinese New Year, register to participate in the HoodChampions Chinese New Year Corridor Decoration Competition and stand to win shopping vouchers and a goodie bag that includes a limited edition Singa plushie! Competition closes Feb 28.

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