It was the end of a long day in Little India, having had multiple meetings and interactions. I was looking forward to just heading home and unwinding, and with my guitar on my back and recording equipment in a roller luggage I took the escalator down to the Downtown Line MRT platform at Little India Interchange.
As I descended the escalator I heard a man fervently giving instructions in a projected voice:
"Hi Ma'am, please use the lifts!"
As I approached the end of the escalator I noticed Pandian in an SMRT uniform giving these instructions to commuters. I observed him from afar, and was amazed at his enthusiasm and friendliness in carrying out his duties.
As an old woman carrying many bags of groceries was preparing to board the train, Pandian went up to her, helped her to carry her bags, boarded the train with her whilst carrying her bags, gave her instructions on how to best make her commute, and alighted right before the doors closed, proceeding to shout "doors closing!" as the train prepared to depart.
I was amazed - it was such a refreshing sight to see someone giving their very all at work, especially in a line of work that often doesn't hold much prestige in today's society. I thought to myself - I'm tired, worn out, ready for bed, but I just have to meet this man.
Going up to Pandian, I happened to be wearing a traditional Indian kurta which caught his eye. I told him I was an Artist-In-Residence at the Indian Heritage Centre and told him how amazed I was at his passion at work.
Over the next few months I would always look out for Pandian at the MRT station as I made my commute home to catch up with him. Conversations under these circumstances weren't the most ideal, as he would diligently be keeping an eye out for commuters in need of assistance and shouting out instructions, and neither did I want to be a distraction to his work.
We then met for dinner after his shift multiple times and from there I learnt of his incredible journey in Little India, from his time as a police officer, working in SMRT, and as a carrier of kavadi during Thaipusam, a spiritual walk he has inherited from his grandfather.
I'm glad to have met Pandian, and am grateful for his willingness to share his experiences in the spirit of serving the Indian community in Singapore.
By Neil Chan