Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Saving Yusuf And His Incredible Nasi Lemak

Exactly one week ago, I was happily wolfing down nasi lemak for brunch. I bought it from the same stall near my workplace which I patron once or twice a week (if not of the risk of cholesterol blocking my arteries, I would happily have it every weekday).

Before I left with the take-away, I bid farewell to the seller, Yusuf (not his real name, but close enough). "See you in two weeks' time, hopefully."

A grimace flashed across Yusuf's face: "Two weeks! What can I do, brother? I have rent to pay. I have..."

His words trailed off, as he shook his head with a mixture of sorrow and frustration.

"Sorry about that, brother. I'm going to miss your nasi lemak too."

With head bowed, I walked away. I didn't know what else to say. I felt tempted to pay more than 5 ringgit which the nasi lemak cost. But what if such gesture serve to only offend him? Although I may not know Yusuf well enough personally, he comes across as an honest and diligent man proud of his craft. He never fails to get his stall up early every morning. Always polite, and patient.

Once the partial lockdown is lifted in another week (with no further extension - hopefully!), I can't wait to see Yusuf and taste his incredible nasi lemak again...

* * *

Yes, many parts of Malaysia is under CMCO (Conditional Movement Control Order), once again. This leaves many small traders like Yusuf out of work. Abandoned. Struggling to survive.

What can the government do to help them? Honestly, not much. There's only so much handouts that can be given away to the poorer folks. The national budget isn't bottomless. As long as there's no end in sight for the pandemic, resources must be saved and prudently spent.

What about us, as a community? Here's where people can really make a difference. Support local traders. Buy their wares. McDonalds and Starbucks? Please, forget about them! Franchises are able to weather the storm.

In short, we can do all our part to help out the Yusufs in the world. I'm not even upper class, nor earning much more than Yusuf. But that shouldn't stop us, whatever our financial status in life, to help each other out. Especially those close to us. Grocers and hawkers in our neighbourhood. Our village. Our community.

* * *

I hope Yusuf is coping well. I hope he'll get his stall up and running once the lockdown is over. I hope he'll remain vibrant as ever.

Yes, we all have our own personal problems to handle during this trying times. But that shouldn't stop us from looking out for one another. We can't survive on our own. Now, more than ever, we need to work together.

After all, we each have our own 'fixes'. One of mine is Yusuf's incredible nasi lemak. But there are many more Yusufs in the world that needs saving.

So look around you, people. Who are the Yusufs in your life? Please treat them nice. It's easy to forget them when the going gets tough. Now, more than ever, they need our love and support.

I miss you, Yusuf. See you soon, brother!

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