I sat in my living room this morning, going through the stacks of bills I clutched in my hands. Electricity, water, broadband, mobile phone, car insurance, gas and a second reminder to settle my monthly car loan.
At the same time, I am reminded of my son’s orthodontist appointment which I have delayed for two months. Every time my boy reminds me of it, I use my busy schedule as an excuse.
“Remind me tomorrow, ok? Mummy is a bit busy today…”
Judging from his expression, I can tell he is getting tired of my same old lame excuses.
My daughter on the other hand is in a honeymoon phase – enjoying her free time after high school graduation. For mothers like me, that would mean more eating out, more movie nights, more junk food, more shopping trips and higher electricity bills.
As I do some quick mental arithmetic of the ‘damage’ done so far this month, I look at the boxes tied up neatly in my living room, all set for my move to a new place, and agonise over the extra cost the move will necessitate.
It isn’t easy being a single mom. In between making a living and spending quality time with my kids, I cook, clean, scrub toilets, do the plumbing and god knows what other kind of chores.
For the amount of work I do, I cannot even afford to pamper myself with a monthly massage at a decent (and by this I mean dirt cheap) spa. I can’t even remember the last time I went to a private clinic for treatment. All I do right now is pop in two Panadol tablets and splash some medicated oil on my throbbing temples – which is precisely what I did a minute ago.
The funny thing is, I am not poor. As a middle class family, I make a decent income. But money is tight. It has been for some time.
What upsets me most is not even that familiar lump I feel in my throat at the end of every month. It is the fact that my hardship is not recognised by the people who are supposed to take care of my well-being as a citizen of this country.
I know of families bigger than mine trying to survive with smaller incomes. Like me, they too have episodes of starring blankly at stacks of bills every month end. Although our share of the pie keeps getting smaller, we manage our lives to the best to our ability.
That’s how a family of four survives with a four-figure income and a family of six with a three figure income. We manage.
Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday told fairy tales when he described everything in Malaysia as A-OK. He claims, his party -Barisan Nasional has governed the country responsibly and efficiently, so much so that our nation is prosperous.
Crunching numbers to support his statement, the prime minister threw colourful figures to prove his claim.
- 170,000 Malaysians have risen above the poverty line.
- 5 million Malaysians now have access to basic amenities.
- The national crime index has been reduced to 40%.
- The value of investment has risen by RM86 billion.
- 1.5 million jobs have been created.
- Transportation, education, public health and housing has seen a 105% success.
I do agree that these figures do look impressive. However, life is still the same for many of us. We go through the same struggle every bloody month.
If the numbers are right, why do I still see homeless people around me?
Why am I still pursued by beggars almost every time I am in town?
Why do I get calls from jobless relatives asking for openings?
Why do I hear about house break-ins and snatched handbags in my neighbourhood?
Why do I have six locks on my gate?
Why do I end up wasting my precious time waiting for the public bus and train?
Why do I have to fork out a huge sum to pay for my son’s tuition classes every month?
Why can’t I afford to buy a house?
Why hasn’t my salary increased in the past five years?
What I am trying to say here is that if everything is OK, why doesn’t it feel OK?
I can’t speak for all Malaysians, but I think the success of the GTP (Government Transformation Programme) and ETP (Economic Transformation Programme) as claimed by our prime minister does not reflect the growth in the living conditions of ordinary people like me.
I suppose only ordinary citizens will feel the pinch of living an ordinary life. And our prime minister is no ordinary guy.
Perhaps in the future, instead of depending on numbers and statistics, Najib should take a public bus and go around town to witness how ordinary people live their lives instead of reading and believing sugar-coated reports.
I guess our ranking in the Happiness Index sums it all up perfectly. What does being number 84 out of a list of 150 mean? Well, to me it means we’re neither happy nor sad. We are in a phase of numbness.
Yes, our nation is numb. We are stuck. We ain’t here nor there. If no changes are made, I fear we will be stuck for a long time.
I, for one, hate being stuck.
How about you?