Independent, defiant & cheeky: That’s how Cineleisure Auntie ought to be remembered
Her antics over the years suggest she is feisty but occasionally friendly.
Many Singaporeans have taken to social media the last two days to mourn the passing of an elderly woman who sold food rations along Orchard Road.
Dubbed the “Cineleisure Auntie”, and more affectionately as “Zheng Po Po” by people online, the elderly 84-year-old woman, whose real name is Zheng Ya Gui, passed away in the early hours of June 11, 2014, at Singapore General Hospital.
Details of her passing first emerged in a Facebook post by someone who interacted with Mdm Zheng just one week before she passed on.
She had succumbed to stage four colon cancer.
The commenter said that he believes the government had helped her over the years by providing her with daily necessities and sorting out her medical bills, including her funeral.
In a 2008 photojournalism post by some Nanyang Technological University students on the site reclaimland.sg, the elderly lady revealed her real name as Zheng Ya Gui and the reason she was illegally selling things, which were the food rations that were given to her.
She said then: “My osteoporosis condition prevents me from getting a job, yet it is not enough for me to seek government welfare because it is only given to those who cannot get out of bed, or who cannot bathe themselves.”
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Her presence in Orchard Road over the years without incident, however, also suggested that the authorities did not want to intervene to stop her, preferring to just let her be, even though they had rendered her assistance.
She, on her part, rarely resisted help, be it monetary or in kind.
Some have given her food, while others offered her a ride back home late at night after hanging out in Orchard Road.
Occasionally, she also displayed her feisty side. Sometimes after being given $2 in exchange for an item, she would demand for $4.
The question on a lot of people’s minds is: Why is she in this state?
I think there is more to her than someone seeking pity.
She was definitely defiant. Her deteriorating physical condition over the years did not stop her from venturing to the same spot on a daily basis.
And she could have picked anywhere else in Singapore to hawk her wares illegally, but she chose to go down to glitziest part of the Orchard Road belt to rough it out with the crowds.
And she stood out. Starkly. And most likely, on purpose.
She was also cheeky. She sold off all the items given to her by the authorities that were intended to help her out but she had deemed to be useless to her.
And she probably knew there was nothing anybody could do about her because how does one forcibly prevent an old woman from doing what she was doing?
Fine her? Evict her?
She was making it very clear that even though she was receiving help from the authorities, she also favoured her independence. And whatever mobility she had left.
Lastly, in one of the most well-shared post written barely one year ago by a Melbourne-based writer, Mdm Zheng still gave the writer the time of day, chatting with her and gamely posing for a selfie.
And that’s how she ought to be remembered.
Not just that she was occasionally friendly and usually cranky.
But that she will never be forgotten.
Top photo from here