I had no idea about lorry before coming to Singapore. In school while practising English as a child, I learned about travelling by boat, bus, train and plane. All over the world, workers travel on all these vehicles, but in Singapore it’s different. In most cases, workers’ like me, travel by lorry.
My journey starts at 5am at dawn. I’m reminded of my family staying far away from me in my country. When I close my eyes, they hug me. When I open my eyes at dawn, I see the diminished lights of the lamppost staring back at me. I smile with disdain.
Our journey takes only 45 minutes. But we wait while sitting in the lorry for one to one and a half hour every day in the morning and evening. Sometimes we also have to wait for the lorry to arrive.
At first, it was disgusting. But relationships were built unknowingly between the lorry and its passengers. While traveling together, we seem like a family. The members of this family are Bangladeshi, Indian Tamil, Singaporean, Chinese or Malaysian workers.
The lorry can accommodate 43 persons, of whom two blessed persons can sit beside the driver. They are blessed, because they get the air conditioner, they sit on the salon chair with the seat belt and this is the most comfortable place in the lorry. Those who sit behind face some problems. Sometimes, more workers sit in this place than the lorry can accommodate.
When it rains, the uncovered place in the back side of the lorry remains empty. Workers sit so closely that one body touches another. It’s like the hen hugging the chicken in the rain. Workers forget the differences of their nationality, race or identity. Everyone becomes a single entity. Nevertheless, many workers at the back side of the lorry get wet by the rain and the water from the wheel. We try hard to cover their body by their bag or towel. Sometimes one has to sit on another. Breathing becomes toxic due to the odd smell of safety shoes or sweat.
Only the passengers at the both sides of the lorry can hold something, but those who sit in the middle are in a vulnerable condition. They are like the floating plants on the pond. When the lorry breaks while speeding, then it becomes risky for everyone. Few days back, a worker almost died due to such breaking.
Is this how it is traveling on the MRT to work?
We are used to travelling a long way every day. Everyone feels drowsy due to insufficient sleep. Some others try to watch the sky, trees or the roads. There is neither any politics nor any social rules in the lorry; there is only the rule of breadwinning. Everyone understands the work. This way of life never ends. We usually badmouth when any bus takes more passengers than its capacity in Bangladesh, but we do not mind the crowded journey by the lorry despite having the odd smell of sweat, rain or dust. We try to find the enjoyment while traveling by the lorry.
The night arrives as soon as the dawn ends; the dawn boards the workers on the lorry as soon as the night ends. The lorry keeps running. Life goes on. The lorry ends its trip and the workers start working.
Writer – A migrant worker in Singapore