When the trishaw becomes home

Manan reading newspapers while waiting for customers at Armenian Street in George Town, Penang. — Photos: CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

MANY are facing bad times but few are taking it as hard as Penang’s trishaw riders.

But with the conditional movement control order (MCO) lifted on Sunday, many have been looking forward to better days ahead.

“Business has dropped by almost 100%, ” said trishaw rider Manan Talib, 56, who has been a trishaw rider for eight years.

“I have had no passengers at all since the beginning of November.

“Hopefully during the recovery MCO, tourists will come from other states and my friends and I could eke out a living, ” he said.

Having no passengers at all during the four-week conditional MCO which ended recently, many trishaw riders could not earn their meals.

Unable to even afford to rent a room, many have taken to sleeping in their own trishaws when night falls.

As many are past their 50s, uneducated and even illiterate, they have trouble finding jobs too.

Manan said he received financial aid from the Federal and state governments, but it was enough to live on.

“Some of my friends have no choice but to look for other jobs such as being fishermen or security guards.

“It is rather hard for me to get a new job due to my age.

“Luckily, there are kind people who give us money at times, ” he said, adding that he has been

sleeping in his trishaw for months.

Fellow rider Shamsul Anuar, 56, is going through the same fate.

“I have been riding since I was a student in 1986.

“These are the worst time I ever experienced. Sometimes, I have to beg for food.

Both Shamsul (right) and Lau, have been sleeping in their trishaws as they can’t earn enough to pay rent.Both Shamsul (right) and Lau, have been sleeping in their trishaws as they can’t earn enough to pay rent.

“As my family is in Kuala Lumpur, I have not seen them for months due to financial difficulties, ” he said.

Shamsul recalled that during the good times, he could earn about RM200 to RM300 including tips in a day if he was hardworking.

“I earned good money at least for a week in a month from cruise ship tourists.

“We got paid RM60 for bringing international passengers around George Town.

“I could earn more than RM200 by riding three to four hours a day, ” he said.

His biggest worry now is the rent he owes for his trishaw.

“I have to sleep in my trishaw.

It is my home now.

“We used to get food from the public but with the increase in Covid-19 cases and tight regulations, many are now scared to send us food, ” he said.

A pedaller who wished to be known as Lau, 56, has also turned his trishaw into his home.

“I used to rent a room nearby but now I have to sleep in my trishaw as I have no money to pay rent.

“I tried to look for other jobs but there are none for me.

“Thankfully, a restaurant nearby allows us to eat first and pay when we have money, ” he added.

Penang Trishaw Riders Association president Abdul Latiff Mohd, 73, who is still riding despite his age, said earning even RM5 a day is an uphill climb for any trishaw rider in Penang now.

“On good days, we meet people who give us food or money.

“The riders will always prefer monetary aid as we have to pay rent for our trishaws.

“It costs us RM3 a day, around RM90 a month.

“Due to the low education level and bad economic times, it is hard for us to find jobs, ” he said, adding that he had been riding for more than 60 years.

There is an estimated 100 trishaw riders in George Town, Penang.

In George Town, most trishaw riders operate at the Esplanade, Penang Road, Komtar and the heritage enclave in Armenian Street.

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