To many, Singapore owes her success to efficiency, professionalism, and quality. Singapore’s transport system is the epitome of these factors. However, few remember the true heroes in our everyday lives fuelling Singapore’s success.
We are a team of young Singaporeans who embarked on a yearlong project to discover more about these unsung heroes. And one such hero is the Bus Captain. We wish to show everyone that smallest things can make a big difference.
“ I don’t think being a pilot is a safe job nowadays. News reported a lot of plane crashes. There might incidents that go unreported as well. I never wanted to become a pilot. Anyways, you call a pilot “Captain, right?”, I am equally called a “Captain. Bus Captain!” Haha! ”
We interviewed over 200 Bus Captains in Singapore. There were numerous stories – of dreams and hopes, of heartbreaks and loneliness, of fear and subsequent courage. They were personal, precious and sometimes painful memories. Here are some of our favourite stories.
Kalidass is a Bus Captain for 18 years. With a cheery disposition, he often dresses up as Santa Claus for Christmas parties.
Who is your favorite person in the world?
Kalidass holds his mother very dear to his heart and has a picture of his mother in his wallet. When asked why does he keep a photo of his mother instead of his wife, he blushes and admits: “I love my mother very much, without her I would not be born into this world. Her name is Angelina and I have a tattoo of her name in remembrance of her.”
What advice can you give to other Bus Captains?
“ Control your temper, be friendly. Ah, give them good service and the passengers will compliment you.”
The next Bus Captain we met was Mohd Salleh. He greeted us enthusiastically as we boarded the bus.
We met him on the bus and he greeted us very enthusiastically as we got on. We started a conversation with him, just when we asked if he was willing to allow me to take a photo of him, we realised that there was a lady sitting at the corner silently smiling at our dialogue. We found out soon that she was his wife, she was on her way home and she had just delivered lunch to him. She delivers lunch to him and takes the bus home every week as she wanted him to have a healthy home cooked meal. They have been married for 19 years.
What do you enjoy about your job?
“It makes me happy, I get to serve the public from one destination to one destination. So far so good working as a bus driver. It has been almost 10 years working as a bus driver.”
What is your happiest day when you are on your job?
“ My happiest day is my rest day. I work 7.3 hours a day, it is not an easy job, we face many problems and some of the problems can be very silly. But I am very happy to be working as a bus driver.”
Cheng Yei Loon’s story is one of his personal dreams. An aspiring singer from Malaysia, he is working as a Bus Captain due to circumstances at home.
“My dream was to join Mediacorp, I wanted to be a singer back when I was still living in Malaysia, and I even had my photographs taken. When I was in Malaysia, my English was not good. Now that I am in Singapore, it has gotten a lot better.”
Of all the stories, Shan’s story was particularly poignant.
“ My name is Shan and I was a Bus Captain for seven years. Then after that, I explored outside, drove trailers, coaches from Singapore to Genting. Actually, I joined Tower Transit as a Bus Captain. But during the lesson and training, my trainer saw my talents, and gave me interviews, and assessments. I passed those interviews and now I am promoted. ”
“ This is my first time, in my whole life. I’ve been a driver in so many different companies, and this is the first time I’ve been recognised and promoted. I am very appreciative. It’s the sense of identity that motivates me.”
Initially hired to be just a Bus Captain, Shan was groomed and promoted to become a Supervisor due to his leadership potential, besides his determination and hard work.
“ Singaporeans are friendly in general. But saying thank you can really make my day. ” – Muhammad Fazuli
What’s your childhood dream job?
“ To be a Bus Captain. My mum has been very supportive despite that I’m just a Bus Captain. There is a stereotype of people that looks down on us. I’m turning 24 years old this year and I’m glad that I have a mum that stands by me. She keeps me going. ” – Mahathir
This personal project allowed us to know our Bus Captains and view them with fresh lenses. Just like you and me, they have big dreams and aspire to be successful for their loved ones and families. They go about their jobs with pride and wish for Singaporeans to respect and recognise the efforts of our unsung heroes that fuel Singapore’s success, literally and metaphorically, day to day.
Can we bother to take 10 secs of our time a day to appreciate the true heroes in our everyday lives? A word of gratitude can go a long way.
Visit our facebook page to view more interviews at Bus Captains of Singapore
Article written by Pearlynn Wang
Edited by Chong Jun Liang and Annabel Law
11 Comments Add yours
Nice human side of things: Singapore does indeed have a worldwide reputation for remarkably efficient public transport, so these “unsung heroes” deserve their share of recognition 🙂
I wish all cities had such great public transport systems and happy people working in those roles. It would make city life so much nicer for everyone. They seem like such happy, smiley people 🙂
Wow, this is indeed very interesting. I do believe workers like Bus Captains knows more about life and people than me, a cubicle worker.
I’m saying so because everyday, they see and experience so much.
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So glad that you enjoy the article as much I did!
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To think that in the Netherlands, bus drivers are harassed more and more over the last couple of years and even ambulance staff are attacked these days. Horrific 😦
“Can we bother to take 10 secs of our time a day to appreciate the true heroes in our everyday lives? A word of gratitude can go a long way. ”
Yes we can and we should !
Great message with pictures to match. As important as meeting our own responsibilities may be to us, they are the most efficiently carried out by the very many others, most unheard and unseen, as they carry out their responsibilities. In that sense, meeting one’s honourable responsibilities helps everyone. I think that plays a big part in the success of Singapore.