M'sian City Life #9: I Just Want To Earn An Honest Living But People Think I Am A Cheat

"I don't need donations. I am only doing business."

Cover image via SAYS

Meet Bala. He is a 36-year-old man who has difficulties speaking and moving around due to neurology disorders.

Despite his limited physical abilities, Bala has been living on his own in Brickfields for a long time and makes a living by selling toys all around Klang Valley for the past 16 years.

Image via SAYS

Many would have mistaken Bala as a person with cerebral palsy, when in fact, he was only stricken by the condition after a relative dropped him when he was seven months old.

Since then, Bala's speech and motor movements have been affected.

However, he did not let this become an excuse for him to not earn an honest living. With his limited education, Bala has been selling all sorts of small merchandises from wooden puzzles to keychains in order to survive in the city for the last 16 years.

Although he has the mind of an adult, he finds himself constantly frustrated as it is difficult for him to communicate properly with others due to his speech impairment.

One of the biggest challenges he faces on a daily basis is the possibility of getting verbally abused by potential customers. They would chase him away, or hurl insults at him. Some have even gone so far as to call him a 'cheat'.

Bala usually frequents pubs around Bangsar and Solaris Mont Kiara in the evenings to sell his toys. Some pub goers would hurl insults at him or scold him. Others would demand him to show his OKU (Malay acronym for “Orang Kurang Upaya”) card, to which he would comply.

Although he would never enter any business premises as he only sells toys by the pavement, some business owners still chase him away, fearing that he would be a nuisance to customers.

In the midst of all his struggles, Bala was fortunate to meet Jake (not his real name), 16 years ago. Jake has been supporting him by purchasing his toys ever since they got acquainted.

Image via SAYS

"I used to work at Bangsar as a sales supervisor in the early 2000s. One day as I was walking back to the office after a break at the mamak, I heard someone screaming loudly, calling for me. I turned around, and it was Bala who came over to return my handphone which I had left behind," Jake said.

"We used to bump into each other because we would frequent the same places to do sales. There were a lot of people who went around Bangsar asking for charity or selling things but I was cautious since there were a lot of scams going on. After this incident, I realised that Bala was a genuine case. It was then that I started supporting him by buying his toys," the 35-year-old added.

Although they have known each other for such a long time, it was only recently that Jake actually sat down to get to know Bala's life story, and both of them got together to share this story with SAYS.

"I don't need donations. I am only doing business," explained Bala.

Image via SAYS

While most people would assume that Bala is looking for charity, but the fact remains that he is just a man who is trying to earn an honest living by selling toys.

Bala will always ensure that his customers get the correct amount of change, refusing to keep the balance. Even when he didn't have any, Bala would go to the pub owners to get small change to return to his customers. He always ensures that his customers get the correct amount of change, even refusing to keep the balance when offered.

"After knowing him for the last 16 years, I can certainly vouch that he is not greedy. Every time I buy something from him, he will try his best to get the change for me. Despite me asking him to keep the change, he would still find the balance to give it to me. Just last week, someone gave him RM5 instead of buying his toys, but Bala rejected it," Jake said.

Living in the city ain’t a piece of cake but it could also be exciting and adventurous. How are you coping? How are you making the best out of things? Do you have a story or experience to share?

SUBMIT YOUR STORY NOW, or work on it and send it soon. Share a personal experience, your story as an urban city-dweller in Malaysia, whether it’s yours or from someone you know, email [email protected] or FB message us.

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Stay tuned for the next episode!

Previously on Malaysian City Life #8, Elia Anis shared her scary account of being a snatch-theft victim: