As I sat in the playground swing at The Tambun (Woodlands) Park at Bandar Baru Tambun one evening, the sight of a lone man hard at work sweeping dry leaves caught my eye.
Born and bred in Perak, 67-year-old Ah Koi @ Lu Woon Chan has been keeping the park immaculately clean, all by himself, for over a decade.
Completely soaked with sweat, this was the Good Samaritan’s reply when I asked him what motivated him to do the unthinkable. “This is my best form of exercise to stay healthy. Cleaning is my hobby. That’s all.”
The park itself has been neglected for the past 10 years. No one knows who is in charge. Ipoh City Council? Or the developers? The lighting is non-functional, with only one or two still working. Countless tree trunks are debauched with graffiti. Other than Lu’s effort, all that is being done is the mowing of grass once every two to three weeks but the cut grass is always left behind irresponsibly.
“Those days there used to be a gate but its condition has now deteriorated,” he lamented.
The civic consciousness of park users leave much to be desired. When I explored the cool oasis with its beautiful foliage earlier, I spotted litter such as cigarette boxes, empty bottles, plastic cups (from an expensive coffeehouse chain, mind you!), crushed-up plastic bags and empty food wrappers. The old-timer cleans the park daily, which means that all the junk appears just overnight!
Lu, a retiree, who once worked offshore for an oil and gas company, is not disheartened. Caring for the park on weekdays, weekends, public holidays, festive seasons and now in the haze is his passion. He would drive his car filled with gardening tools to the park every day to do his bit for society.
Bracing himself for the unpredictable weather and incessant mosquito bites, he clears the overnight rubbish at the park, sweeps fallen leaves and branches and prunes shrubs that have grown out of shape. For the taller trees, he climbs to do the trimming. Occasionally, he would reprimand litter bugs, especially the habitual ones.
But there is only so much that he can do. “I am an old man. I wonder how long more I can continue?” said the greying gentleman who used to be an active basketball player in his younger days.
Lu is baffled by the behaviour of those who, upon encountering a rubbish pile in their path, would choose to walk around it or leap over instead of picking it up or putting it aside.
This quote from Mother Teresa aptly describes this angel of a man.
“The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it”