Last Monday, on the second day of Phase 2 Heightened Alert, I visited Jalan Besar to find a new fan blade for a standing fan that one of my daughters had broken. As I needed to buy something from Sim Lim Tower, I took the broken blade along with me, hoping to find a fix.

Little did I know that I would receive an unexpected act of kindness that day.

I’d worked in the Jalan Besar area 30 years ago and remembered that there were lots of small hardware shops selling unusual things so I thought that I would have no problem finding a fan blade. However, after walking around for almost an hour, I found out that these shops were no longer around – they have now been taken over by lighting appliance shops or pubs.

I was ready to give up and go home because I didn’t find anything.

Then, I spotted a tiny shop (I didn’t notice the name) on Townsend Road behind Jalan Berseh Food Centre. It was a very old-fashioned hardware store that sold fans, lighting and other knick knacks and appliances. Seeing it made me feel like it was like going back in time to the late 70s, early 80s.

I walked to the shop and noticed there was a rope across the entrance so people couldn’t enter, possibly due to the Covid situation. After being greeted by a woman (at a safe distance!), I explained my predicament and showed her the broken blade. Out of nowhere, a man who looked to be in his 60s came out.

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He asked to see the blade and then disappeared into the shop. He came back with a new blade but it did not look the same as what I had in my hand. We compared the two blades and he said that it might work.

I agreed to take it and asked him how much it was.

He replied: “I’m not sure if it will work so you just take it. If it does, that’s great. If it doesn’t, just throw it away or bring it back the next time you are passing by.”

I was surprised and said: “Are you sure?”

He told me that he had taken the blade off a fan that someone had brought in for repair.

He said: “It didn’t cost me anything, so why should I charge you for it?”

That really touched me because I’m not from Singapore, although I’ve lived here for 35 years. I’m 65 this year. The view that many foreigners get from some Singaporeans is that we are competing for their jobs.

But this elderly man was so refreshing, so different. I have met many people like that in my years in Singapore but during this time of Covid-19 – I can only imagine his business is probably not doing well – he wasn’t as concerned about the money as much as helping others.

Most shopkeepers nowadays don’t care about helping people solve their problems, yet that’s what he did for me.

I took the blade home and it worked perfectly! My daughter got a “new” fan for nothing.

Fan Repair
Image source: Mark

My wife and children are Singaporean. When I told them this story, they were shocked. Not so much my wife. She is almost in her 60s so she remembers the good old days and said this reminded her of the aunties and uncles who used to run the shops in the kampungs when she was growing up.

But my children were surprised as they are used to patronising big modern shops where everything is transactional and the employees go strictly by the book. They said my interaction with this man was small but very meaningful.

That is why I decided to share my story on Reddit.

Everyone is frustrated with all the bad news on Covid-19 and Phase 2 at the moment, so it’s good to hear something good for a change. I wanted to show that amid everything that’s going on, there are still good people in Singapore doing wonderful things.

I am intending to go back to the shop to thank the elderly man. He didn’t want cash, so I’m thinking of giving him a gift, cookies or chocolate, something he would like. It’s more of a friendship thing.

I would say to him: “Thank you for being generous. Thank you for being a friend.”


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