S'porean Muslim, 36, spruces up Tampines HDB corridor with CNY decorations for elderly neighbours

"Doesn't mean that Chinese can only do for Chinese New Year, Malay can only do for Hari Raya, Indian can only do for Deepavali," Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman said.

Ashley Tan | February 06, 2021, 04:43 PM

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Chinese New Year is just around the corner, and many Chinese families have been bustling with activity to spring clean and decorate their homes.

One unlikely Singaporean however, has decided to chip in during this festive period.

Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman has spruced up the entire corridor outside his flat at Blk 117 Tampines St 11 with red and gold, out of his own goodwill.

Photo courtesy of Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman

Thanking his neighbours

Speaking to Mothership, the 36-year-old shared that helping to decorate the area was a gesture of gratitude on his part to his neighbours.

After his father's passing in December 2020, the family had been staying at his sister's house instead.

While they were absent, his neighbours helped to water his plants and keep the corridor clean.

"Like kampung style, people here are very nice, so I wanted to say 'thank you' to them," Abdullah said.

Additionally, many of his neighbours are elderly.

Thinking that climbing up and down to paste and tape the decorations on walls and ceilings would be much too tedious for the old folks, Abdullah decided to take on the task of decorating himself.

"And the [Year of the Ox] is actually my birth year," he quipped.

Asks Chinese friends and shopkeepers for help

Of course, buying the decorations have earned Abdullah some curious remarks, as an atypical customer.

"You Malay can do ah?" — was one of the questions a shopkeeper asked him.

To which he responded: "'Why cannot do?' I say. Nothing wrong, this is all culture, not religion."

Fortunately, upon explaining the reason behind buying Chinese New Year decorations, the shopkeepers reacted with happiness at what he was doing, Abdullah said. Some have even given him decorations for free.

But how does he choose the decorations, especially those adorned with Mandarin text?

Aside from getting advice from shopkeepers, Abdullah says that whenever he picks out or uses the decorations, he will message a Chinese friend for help — "like this wording, is it supposed to be on the left or right?"

It seems that this initiative Abdullah started is a whole-of-community effort, with various people from the neighbourhood supporting him.

"Doesn't mean that Chinese can only do for Chinese New Year, Malay can only do for Hari Raya, Indian can only do for Deepavali," he said.

Decorates in his free time

Abdullah shares that he first started putting up the decorations in mid-January.

As he works full-time at a pet shop, he has been doing this bit by bit in his free time.

The corridor outside his unit is festooned with red fairy lights, faux red flowers and dangling pineapple decor.

Photo courtesy of Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman

Another corridor is also adorned with red tasseled decorations at regular intervals.

Abdullah was quick to assure me that the decorations are not yet complete, and that he will be done by the coming Monday.

Photo courtesy of Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman

Despite the sizeable number of ornamentations Abdullah has garnered, he shares that he only spent around S$100.

Some of the pieces are old ones shopkeepers have donated to him, which he subsequently mended and spruced up.

However, money is no issue for Abdullah. After all, the only thing he wants is for "the people to be happy, that's all, [especially] during this kind of period, where people can't go out."

And clearly, his efforts have paid off.

"The ah ma and ah gong were so happy!" Abdullah exclaimed. His Malay neighbours on the same floor have been quite encouraging as well.

And although this might be the first time he has decided to do this, it definitely won't be the last, he said.

For Abdullah, others' happiness means as much to him as his own.

Top photo courtesy of Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman