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Homeless Hari Raya for elderly couple thrown out by son

They once led a normal life, but are counted today among the homeless of Kuala Lumpur.

3 minute read
Living from day to day, Zainab and her husband still struggle to accept what has happened to them.
Living from day to day, Zainab and her husband still struggle to accept what has happened to them.

Not too long ago, Zainab (not her real name) and her husband were much like any other couple, living a humble but normal life and working at a factory in Bangi, Selangor.

Today, though, home is the pavement near the Kota Raya complex in Kuala Lumpur.

While the transition had loomed for a while, the couple, both in their 60s, were still taken aback to find themselves living rough in the capital city. The pain of their move was made worse by the fact that it was their own son who kicked them out of his house.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Zainab recalled how he had invited them to live with him in Kulim, Kedah.  

They agreed, and with about RM60,000 saved up in her EPF, Zainab decided to stop working.

Her retirement was short-lived, though, as her son did not make enough as a cook to meet all of their needs. Eventually, she went back to work, earning RM80 a day for washing dishes and cleaning chicken carcasses.

This, together with her shrinking EPF balance, was used to cover the family's daily expenses.

"Every time I came home from work, I gave my daughter-in-law RM60 for nappies, milk and food for the grandchildren," Zainab said.

"I only kept RM20 for myself."

Her wages were meagre, but Zainab never thought twice about providing for her son, her only remaining child following the death of his siblings, one in an accident and the other due to Covid-19.

Even so, she and her husband were sad about the way they were treated by their daughter-in-law. After three years, they began to consider moving out.

But before they could come to a decision, the matter was taken out of their hands.

"One day, I heard my son's wife say to him: 'It's either me or them'," Zainab said.

She still remembers the day in November last year when their son took them to the bus station and put them on a bus to Kuala Lumpur with only RM80 in hand. By then, her EPF savings were gone, and they had nothing with which to start afresh.

In the morning, they arrived in the Kota Raya area with not a clue as to where to go. Since then, the streets have been their home, and they have heard nothing from their son.

"I told him to stop looking for me as soon as I left the house. I just miss my two grandchildren, I miss them so much," Zainab said.

"I feel crushed and broken."

No home, no work

Zainab and her husband have tried several times to find accommodation, including from the Social Welfare Department. However, the department requires documents such as water and electricity bills – records that no homeless person has.

Zainab and her husband waiting on the pavement to break their Ramadan fast.
Zainab and her husband waiting on the pavement to break their Ramadan fast.
"I live on the pavement, how am I supposed to get that?" Zainab said.

"All I need is a room to shower, pray and do laundry. That's all."

Now, for a daily wage of RM50, she has gone back to washing dishes at a nearby restaurant. During Ramadan, however, the restaurant is closed until evening and there is no other work.

For basic necessities like food and clothing, the couple rely on the good will of charity organisations and NGOs.

Living from day to day, they still struggle to accept what has happened to them.

For Zainab, there is no way she can return to her son.

"Even if he came and threw himself at my feet, I would reject him," she said. "I'm sorry, but the hurt is just too much."

And the pain is only compounded by the arrival of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

"I could never have imagined that one day, I would spend Hari Raya on the streets," Zainab said.

"All this time, I have watched homeless people celebrating Hari Raya on the pavements and today, it's my turn.

"No Raya clothes, no Raya cookies, nothing. But I'm still grateful to be here celebrating Aidilfitri."