Penniless, student resorts to selling fruits to pay university fees

Dec 14, 2020 | 🚀 Fathership

KUALA LUMPUR: Exactly one month ago, Vicneswary, 23, contemplated ending her life. Penniless and living without electricity and water, life had become too unbearable to endure.

She also still lives in the fear that she will have to abandon her degree in a local university as she owes them RM1,018.18 in fees – an amount she has no way of settling on her own with her meagre income.

However, as dismal as things are, she found the will to live and be strong for the sake of her recently widowed mother Puspa, 44.

Together, they run a fruit stall, selling cut fruit.

On this particularly scorching day, she hails an ice truck and buys a bag of ice cubes. Without it, the fruits won’t keep till evening.

And without today’s income, she tells FMT, they will barely make it through the next day, and have nothing left over to save for rent.

This is Vicneswary’s ‘new normal’ since losing her job as a waitress at a well-known hotel because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s been a good 30 minutes, and not one customer drops by despite the everyday hustle and bustle around them.

Vicneswary lets out a soft sigh but says, “This is normal.” She explains that even on a good day, the most the duo can earn is a measly RM25.M

Life is tough for Vicneswary. By the time she was only 18, she was already juggling the demands of studies and work because money was tight.

She tells FMT that her father was a heart patient and too sickly to hold down a job. Left with little choice, she decided to study only part time and take on a full-time job so she could help her mother earn a decent income.

Despite the hardship, she says, the family of three was happy. However, her father died of a massive heart attack in October last year. He was only 55.

Devastated by this turn of events, Vicneswary says her mother sunk into depression.

She however, had no time to grief and quickly assumed the role of sole breadwinner. She assured her grieving mother that she’d find a way to settle her family’s monthly bills.

“I knew the amount of hard work ahead but it was my responsibility to take care of my family, especially since my 82-year-old grandfather had moved in with us.”

“I wanted my mother to rest at home. She rejected the idea initially, but I managed to convince her that I was capable of doing this,” she says.

Vicneswary got herself a job and decided to pursue a Bachelor of Communications, majoring in journalism, at Open University Malaysia (OUM) Bangi on a part-time basis.

“It was also my father’s dream. And the prospect of being an investigative journalist sniffing around crime scenes sounded absolutely thrilling to me.”

However, her newfound happiness was short lived.

Not only did she lose her job in August because of the pandemic, their landlord served them with an eviction notice in November.

To pressure them to leave as soon as possible, the landlord cut off their water and electricity supply, forcing them to live for two weeks in total darkness save for the candles they lit at night.

For water, a tap located near a cluster of rubbish bins in the area was all they had to survive on.

She tells FMT that this was the tipping point for her and as much as it hurt her mother to hear this, Vicneswary told her she wanted to commit suicide.

“I applied for hundreds of jobs but not one came back with a favourable reply. We were living on tea and biscuits. I could survive but these were unacceptable living conditions for my mother and grandfather.”

Thankfully, they found cheaper accommodation. However, the rental of RM700 was steep and the duo had to figure out how to earn an income. So, they decided to sell fruit.

On the day FMT met up with Vicneswary, business was good and Puspa was clearly relieved. With everything sold out, they headed home to Taman Orkid.

Their home is practically bare except for a television set, a prayer altar, a fridge and a simple kitchen. She and her mother sit on the cold, hard floor and play with the two stray dogs they adopted.

“My father taught us the importance of taking care of animals. He would feed stray dogs and birds and we try to continue the tradition despite having little money,” smiles Vicneswary.

The fruits today may have sold out but Vicneswary’s worries are still very much present.

She tells FMT that she cannot resume her studies next semester in January, as she has an outstanding payment that she cannot settle as she has next to nothing in terms of savings.

“My dream is to be financially stable so my mum and grandfather are well taken care of. I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’ve gone through.”

As if sensing her distress, Gori and Shiro lick her face, and for a moment, all is right in the world.

You can find Vicneswary and her mother at their fruit stall in Taman Suntex, Cheras opposite the Bank Simpanan Nasional from 11am to 5pm every day.

Unrepentant teen with a long list of offences is why some parents shouldn't breed

Nov 25, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Ralph Wee Yi Kai, a 19-year-old Singaporean man, has pleaded guilty to eight charges on Nov. 25 during his plead guilty mention before District Judge May Mesenas.

The charges include consuming weed, causing unnecessary suffering to a frog, possessing imitation tobacco products, trespassing into the rhinoceros enclosure at the Singapore Zoo, and committing mischief by damaging property, reported CNA.

Another six charges will be considered during his sentencing.

Probation is "not realistic"

Wee pleaded guilty via video link from his place in remand, where he has been since Nov. 6.

The prosecution strongly objected to a probation suitability report, noting that Wee is "beyond the control of his parents, which renders probation unsuitable", according to CNA.

The prosecution asserted that probation "is not realistic" for Wee, based on his repeated offences and conduct in court.

They cited his "blatant disregard for rules", and urged for a reformative training suitability report instead.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Melissa Lee said Wee "has a tendency to abuse drugs and alcohol", which caused him to behave aggressively towards his parents.

He also "posed a risk" to them, which led him to be admitted to the Institute of Mental Health.

"Never expected it to come to this"

Wee's defence lawyer Shashi Nathan requested for the addition of a probation suitability report, according to CNA.

Shashi maintains that his family is able to supervise Wee, and added that his client "comes from a good family" who are "able to look after him".

He said that Wee was undergoing "a severe emotional crisis" when he committed his offences, and shared that the case has also affected Wee's family, especially after their home address was released to the press.

"While Ralph understands that what he did was wrong, he never expected it to come to this," said Shashi.

Difference between probation and reformative training

Wee was ordered to go though both assessments for a probation suitability report and a reformative training report, reported Yahoo News.

Offenders who undergo probation will not have a criminal record, while reformative training, which provides a more structured environment, results in a criminal record.

What Wee's lawyer said

Wee's lawyer said his client acted out after breaking up with his girlfriend, 18, who was the one who filmed the video of Wee backflipping in the zoo.

The defence lawyer, Shashi, said Wee spiralled into an emotional crisis as a result of his break-up.

Wee is homeschooled.

The court was told Wee saw a video of a man riding a giraffe and decided to make a video in the rhino enclosure, Yahoo News reported.

The ex-girlfriend had filmed the act and posted it on her private Snapchat account.

Wee posted it on his public TikTok account and a police report was made by a zoo personnel within the same day.

Wee removed the video when he was told to do so by the police, but reposted it on Dec. 18, before being told to remove it again, claiming he thought the video had been made private when he reposted it.

Wee had also included a link in his Instagram account biography to directed to a page selling t-shirts with the words "rhino ralph".

But he denied creating the merchandise profile.

He later removed the link.

Wee will return to court on Dec. 20 for his sentencing.

Timeline of events with updated details

Oct. 9, 2020, 2:40am: Allegedly committed an act of vandalism by hitting an information panel at a bus stop in Sixth Avenue, off Bukit Timah Road, causing S$900 in damage.

Allegedly caused damage to two cars -- S$2,800 to a Mercedes-Benz and more than S$1,600 to a BMW -- in nearby Sixth Crescent.

A taxi driver passing by reported him to the police, as Wee was standing in the middle of the road with a beer bottle in hand.

Dec. 16, 2020: Wee was placed on compulsory supervision for 60 months from Dec. 16. He was required to present himself for urine tests on each Tuesday and Thursday, but failed to turn up on four occasions.

He was placed on e-tagging during this period of time, after having been charged for his earlier offences.

He had to stay at home from 10pm to 6am as part of his bail conditions.

Dec. 17, 2020, 2.40pm: Accused of trespassing into the rhinoceros enclosure and taking a video.

Dec. 18, 2020: Reposted zoo video, despite taking it down earlier after being told to do so by the police. Told to remove video again.

Dec. 24, 2020: Accused of abusing a frog, which subsequently died, by hitting a ball against it on a foosball table, causing "unnecessary pain and suffering".

The incident allegedly took place at a Sentosa Cove property.

July 2021: First hauled to court and charged with two counts of mischief, as well as one count each of vandalism and criminal trespass.

Bail was then set at S$15,000.

Aug. 6, 2021: Allegedly consumed cannabis while out on bail. Arrested at his residence and two urine samples obtained tested positive for weed. S$15,000 bail revoked.

Sep. 14, 2021: Allegedly possessed an e-vaporiser and six e-cigarette pods at a ward in the Institute of Mental Health.

Three police officers showed up at IMH, where Wee was warded, to arrest him for failing to attend court.

He was admitted to IMH due to his drug and alcohol abuse, as had acted aggressively towards his parents when they demanded the drugs from him.

He was warded in IMH due to the risk he posed to his parents.

Oct. 13, 2021: Charged with one count of drug consumption while still in remand.

Bail raised to S$20,000 and Wee was released.

While out on second bail, Wee committed a string of offences, including cutting his electronic tag, according to ST, as well as not reporting for his urine tests on a few occasions, CNA reported.

The prosecution has called for an urgent bail review hearing to have Wee's second bail revoked for the alleged fresh offences.

Oct. 26, 2021: Allegedly cut a S$100 GPS ankle tag at an address on Leedon Road at about 12:10am.

Prior to this act, Wee was upset at his father, who had asked Wee to sleep early since he had to report for his urine test in the morning.

After arguing with his father, Wee decided to leave the house, and used pliers to cut off his e-tag before cycling to his friend’s house.

Upon discovering that Wee was missing, his father called the police.

The e-tag, worth S$100, was damaged and could no longer be used.

It was found in Wee’s house.

Oct. 28, 2021: Allegedly possessed an e-cigarette pod at the Leedon Road address.

Nov. 5, 2021: Warrant of arrest issued, as Wee could not wake up to attend court.

Nov. 6, 2021: Wee arrested.

Nov. 12, 2021: Slapped with four additional charges.

Nov. 25, 2021: Pleaded guilty to consuming weed, causing unnecessary suffering to a frog, possessing imitation tobacco products, trespassing into a rhino enclosure, and committing mischief by damaging property belonging to others.

Ordered to go though assessments for a probation suitability report and a reformative training report.