"You need me to pass by Geylang bazaar?"
"Is that way faster?"
"Definitely not at all. Since this's the fasting month, Malays like at least to pass there."
"Oh not me then. I'd prefer less crowded place anytime."
"Every Ramadhan I'll try to avoid Geylang."
"But why? That's the best place to find passengers." I was surprised with the taxi driver's statement whom I'll call James.
This incident happened a few years ago but it's fresh in my mind
"You don't mind I talk about religion?" James was cautious with his words.
"Go ahead. Speak your heart out."
"I'll call you sis, ok?"
"Fine." I had to assure James again.
"Sis, I don't like to see Malays eating openly without any shame at Geylang. Especially those sellers..." James lost his words out of frustration.
"You are a Muslim?" I asked him as he went quiet.
"No. I'm a Christian."
"Thanks for showing concern towards another religion. A very lucky me to know I'm not alone avoiding Geylang for the same reason." I had to lift his spirit.
"Sis, we believe the same prophets."
You believe in Muhammad too?"
"My religion stops at your Isa. You know, even if not fasting month, I don't like to go Block 1."
"That's the market. A lot of people down there. The best port for taxis." I was fishing out for his reaction.
"You see old, old Malay men drink, gamble. The Chinese towkay make their money."
"You don't like the Malays or the Chinese?" Now, I'm lost for words. Feeling ashamed of my own race.
"I don't like their bad characters. Sis, I see you like to go to the mosque."
"Me?" I was surprised with the remarks by James.
"You came out from the mosque at Admiralty right?"
"Oh, I often dropped by there to see old friends. They gave me porridge for my mother so I've to send to her."
"Sorry if I've offended you with my words.'' James was apologetic.
"Not at all. In fact you are the second Christian to knock sense in me."
"Is that so?" He was elated.
"I'm honest with you. This famous in Marsiling Dr Tong's words still ringing in my ears. He scolded me for not showing my gratitude toward's Allah's gift. He said for the past 30 years I had forgotten to say thank You to Allah for lending me problem free ears. Just a drop of water went into my ear and I started to panic. Allah is reminding me, he said."
That's my first and last visit to Dr Tong.
From then on, I understood why I was the 77th patient on that particular day - Dr Tong treat patients as his own children and he peppered 'advice' from his sincere heart.
"A very fatherly man I think. Sis, we are in Bedok now. The block?"
"Yes, this is."
"Hope to meet you again any time sooner. There's many more things we can share."
"Sure. Thanks." I thanked James as he discounted my fare, and for showing his care towards my race and my religion.