It was a Wednesday evening at the void deck of Block 310, Hougang Ave 5 - where Hougang MP, Mr Low Thia Khiang, has been holding his Meet-the-People sessions since 1991.
There were proper lighting, 2 wooden tables (one for registration and the other for Mr Low to use), about 10 plastic chairs for residents to sit on, and of course the occasional refreshing night breeze. Who said that Meet-the-People sessions have to be held in classy, air-conditioned places with higher maintenance cost?
The residents registered themselves, wrote down their particulars and sat waiting for their turn to meet their MP. Some had come from areas such as Jurong, Bedok, Tampines and of course, Hougang.
After the session ended at around 10pm, Mr Low offered to give me a lift home, as my house was located en route.
"Mr Low! Mr Low!" I heard someone shouting, as we were making our way to the car park.
It was a young chap, probably in his early twenties; he was waving frantically as he ran towards us. His face was filled with beads of perspiration and anxiety. Without further ado, we turned back to find out what was happening. And yes, this was a young chap calling out to his MP as though he was calling out to a friend. Amazing! I thought to myself.
"Mr Low, 我的朋友不要回家，他已经好几天没回家了。你可以去劝劝他吗?", the young chap was panting as he spoke.
Without any hesitation, Mr Low asked," 你的朋友在哪里 ?" With that, the young chap, whose name is Daniel, pointed to another young chap who was seated alone, staring blankly into the air.
Mr Low then advanced slowly and sat down beside the troubled-looking young man. I stayed behind with Daniel as I did not want the guy to feel intimidated by too many people around.
"My friend does not want to go home; he said that his father ill-treats him," explained Daniel. "His mother and sister are here to fetch him home. See, they are over there," he continued.
I looked over my shoulder and saw them; desperation was written all over the elder woman's face. Knowing that her son normally hangs around Hougang to play soccer with his buddies, she had come from Tampines to fetch him home.
I looked around me, and saw 5 of his friends there, aged about 13 to 25. They started throwing questions and comments at Daniel:
Who is that man? MP? You mean that's your MP?
I don't even know who the MP of my constituency is!!!
I though he is your uncle, neighbour, or some relative!
Daniel started to explain that Hougang has been under the Workers' Party since 1991, that Mr Low held his weekly Meet-the-People sessions there, how everyone in the estate knew him so well, how often he did his house visits, what he has done for the residents of Hougang, where one could look for him if they needed help, where the Town Council was, the operating hours of the Town Council, etc.
I could hardly believe that all those words were coming from the mouth of a very young chap who was barely 21, someone who was not even eligible to vote! He knew so much about his own MP as compared to his 5 friends from other constituencies.
Daniel's friends looked astounded, and one kept mumbling that he had never seen his MP, that he didn't even know whether it's a he or a she.
I had no idea how Mr Low's chat with the young guy was progressing then, but I could tell that the young guy was beginning to open up to Mr Low.
Meanwhile, Daniel and his friends told me that they had difficulty communicating with their troubled friend, who kept everything to himself. An hour later, Mr Low walked over to us and immediately I introduced Mr Low to the young chap's mother. He then took her to a corner and spoke to her.
Next, Mr Low went back to the young chap again, this time with his mum. The few of us who were seated a distance away thought that all was well and he was going home. However, the guy was still very resistant to the idea of going home. Mr Low then spent another 30 mins coaxing him.
Altogether Mr Low had spent nearly two hours with him and had done his best, but was still unable to change the boy's mind. Eventually, Mr Low managed to persuade the boy's mum to go home first, let him cool down, and hopefully find a better time to talk to him.
With that, Mr Low said to me we had to be going. I looked at my watch and it was about 20 mins to 12am!
"Encourage your friend to look for a job," Mr Low said to Daniel before leaving for the car park. We bade farewell to the group of friends, and left.
I felt quite sure that Mr Low had made the troubled young boy feel much better after the chat, even if he did not succeed in persuading him to go home.
But what stuck in my mind, and actually touched me, was how well and confidently Daniel had spoken of his constituency, the place where he grew up, the MP whom he had known since young and regarded as a friend; someone he trusted and relied upon to make his estate a better place to live in, a place that is full of life, at least to him and his friends.
So do you know who your MP is?
For almost everyone living in Hougang Constituency, the answer is an affirmative "Yes".
This article was first published in 'Hammer', issue: 0801