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Amid winds of change, unlikely pair's friendship is a constant

Shintaro Tay on 09 Aug 2019

The Straits Times


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There is no end to the hustle and bustle in Little India, but electric-fan repairman Peter Chou still finds the time to shoot the breeze with Bangladeshi construction worker Lotif Sikder.


The duo have become firm friends since Mr Chou sold a bicycle to Mr Lotif and now enjoy a chat and coffee on Sunday afternoons despite a 30-year age gap. "When talking about life, I feel happy I can talk about everything freely," says Mr Lotif, 45. "My heart is happy, that's why I come here. I like him."


For seven years, Mr Lotif has been faithfully coming from Kaki Bukit to visit Mr Chou, 74, every Sunday.


They first met when Mr Chou was a street hawker at the Sungei Road Flea Market. Mr Chou retired as a retail salesman about 20 years ago.


After stints at temporary night markets, the father of three adult children pitched up in Sungei Road to find a way to stay active.


Mr Chou noticed that fans were easy to source as people were always throwing them away, so he began tinkering with them and slowly perfected his skills. He found a spot in the back alley of a rental shophouse in Upper Weld Road where he sells and repairs fans, charging from $15 to $40, mainly to migrant workers and the poor. He also repairs other household appliances and bicycles.


He says: "I don't want to stay at home watching TV or go down to the coffee shop to sit down and waste my time doing nothing."


Mr Chou's stall has become something of a beacon in the Little India community. As the day progresses, he is greeted by migrant workers who sit around his shop while on their way to do grocery shopping or simply to meet up with friends.


"Nowadays, in Singapore, there are new buildings and modern areas. But in Little India, there are old buildings and you can still find different kinds of trade," he says. "Little India is a special place."


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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