Woeful life of dishwasher made jobless by lockdown

Mageswari Krishnasamy’s wooden couch was salvaged from the void deck after the city council sealed and evicted a flat dweller for not paying his dues.

GEORGE TOWN: Two years ago, Mageswari Krishnasamy was thrown out of her mother-in-law’s house over a domestic dispute and went to live in a food court in Sungai Pinang.

She and her four-month daughter slept on the benches there and lived off the kindness of strangers for some days until a state assemblyman came to their rescue. He placed them in a government flat in Taman Free School.

Mageswari, 31, soon found a job as a dishwasher at one of the stalls at a food court located opposite the building in which she lives. Another of her four children has since been reunited with her.

The dishwashing job gave her earnings of RM35 on weekdays and RM50 on weekends.

But the food court has been closed for a month because of the Covid-19 lockdown and there’s no more money coming in. So she has resorted to feeding the children black coffee and sugared water.

“I can’t afford to buy milk and I’m too shy to ask for favours,” she told FMT. “But I would feed the children plain rice and fried eggs once in a while.”

The children, Keashav, 5, and Racheal, 2, seemed contented enough as they chugged down their coffee while watching a movie playing on a DVD player.

Mageswari’s wooden couch was salvaged from the void deck after the city council sealed and evicted a flat dweller for not paying his dues.

She said her clothes, including the ones the children were wearing, were donations from a “nice Malay aunty” occupying a flat across from hers.

Another nice neighbour, a Chinese woman, used to babysit her children when she was still working.

“There is one nice uncle who would come to drop by to give us vegetarian meals,” she said.

Mageswari got married to her first husband in 2007 and they had one child before they divorced. She married another man in 2012 and they had three children. But he has since left her.

“He would sometimes call to talk to the children. But he has not come to see them for three years.”

Racheal and Keashav drinking black coffee from their milk bottles.

Her eldest son Sharann, 13, is under the care of her pastor at a church home in Rifle Range and often comes up tops in school. Her second youngest, four-year-old Kavinia, is under her mother-in-law’s care.

Mageswari said her hunger and marital pains didn’t bother her as much as Racheal’s problem with a cleft palate.

“She has trouble drinking. When I fed her anything, it would come out through her nose. And her teeth are not growing properly; so she has trouble chewing.”

Doctors have told her the girl needed urgent surgery to prevent complications.

Mageswari herself has her share of health problems. Thyroid issues have caused her neck to swell and doctors at the Penang Hospital have told her she too needed surgery.

“But who will look after my kids?” she said.

After the interview with FMT, Mageswari received a visit from representatives of the Penang Hindu Association, who gave her some daily necessities, including milk for her children.

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