A friend in need is a friend indeed

KUALA LUMPUR: Few of the homeless are as lucky as the late Low Saw Piow, who found a true friend in R. Rajagopal.

One of the 10 winners of the inaugural Star Golden Hearts award, Gopal, as he is better known, took Low into his home without a second thought when he saw that the older man needed help.

“I met Low many years ago,” said Gopal who is now 52. Back then, Low was working for a contractor laying telephone cables in front of the bank where Gopal was working. We greeted each other and that was about it.”

In 2004, he bumped into Low, who looked very sad, in Cheras. Low told Gopal he was retired and had lost all his Employees Provident Fund savings to a con man while trying to buy a house. The landlord had thrown him out as he had no money to pay rent.

“He said he had not eaten a good meal in two weeks and all he had were discarded vegetables from the nearby market,” Gopal said. Overwhelmed with sympathy for Low, Gopal bought lunch for him and brought him home.

“Low said he was not married and had no siblings so I decided to take him home. It was a decision made at that moment, and I would have done it for anybody,” he said.

Gopal explained Low’s situation to his wife and daughter and they accepted him into their three-bedroom apartment where he was given his own room.

Gopal has seen his own share of hardship. He lost sight in his right eye after an accident in 1997 but remains optimistic about life nevertheless, and was happy to share what he had with Low.

“He was like a family member,” Gopal said.

“We shared food and played carrom together. If I did not cook, there was a restaurant nearby where I arranged for him to eat whenever he wanted. I settled the bill on a monthly basis. Over time, even my friends became his friends.

“Many people in my neighbourhood knew him and would give him money or offer to pay for his food when they saw him. Every Chinese New Year, he was sure to get new clothes and ang pow from a kind man in my area.

“When he needed spectacles, some contributed cash and I topped up to buy him a pair,” he said.

In June, Low was diagnosed with dengue and hospitalised. Gopal said the hospital staff had many questions about his relationship with Low.

“When I told them I was the guardian, many were shocked.”

Low passed away on June 29 at the age of 67.

“The hospital refused to release his body to me and I had to contact Low’s sister who lives in Klang,” said Gopal.

His sister had traced Low some years ago to settle the matter of a house that was willed to the siblings. The case was still in court and the sister had been giving him money from time to time.

“Low’s sister and a younger brother claimed and handed his remains to us,” Gopal said.

He and his friends arranged for a funeral service and Low was cremated the next day.

Gopal sent messages to the people who had helped Low to inform them of his passing and some contributed towards the funeral expenses.

“We attracted a lot of attention at the crematorium because it isn’t usual to see four Hindus and a Punjabi cremating a Chinese man, assisted by a Buddhist monk,” he said.

Gopal’s daughter Yahshiniy said she was proud and lucky to have a compassionate father like Gopal.

“When my father brought Uncle Low home, I felt weird,” she recalled.

“I was about 11 or 12 years old at that time and wondered who he was and why he was in our house.”

But after her father explained, she accepted him as a family member.

“He always looked sad but when I talked to him, he liked to give his opinion and share his knowledge,” she said.

“He was very encouraging and supportive too.”

As for Gopal, he is just happy that he gave Low the best he could for the last decade of his life.

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