Performing arts practitioner, Muslihah Mujtaba, 26, found herself incomeless during the Circuit Breaker period when schools cancelled all co-curricular activities and enrichment lessons.
She is not alone. With events and activities cancelled or delayed, many in the arts community are struggling to stay afloat.
However, there is a service that has seen a great surge in demand - food delivery. Down but not out, Lili, as she is referred to by her family and friends, decided to rent a motorcycle and become a delivery rider.
Lili, who holds a degree in Theatre Practice from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, had to quickly learn how to ride skilfully so that her delivery items remain intact. Once, she accidentally spilt a drink that she had placed in her motorcycle box.
“Upon arriving, I informed the customer about what had happened and apologised to him, but he was very furious. I tried to stay as patient as I could and guided him on the ways in which he can raise a complaint on the app.”
The customer refused to allow Lili to leave and forced her to wait for about 20 to 30 minutes until the issue was resolved.
When she eventually left his place, she did some deep breathing exercises and lots of zikir and istighfar to calm herself down. The last thing she wanted was for her focus and concentration to be affected while she continued the rest of her shift.
Lili has also had to deal with nasty remarks. Someone once bluntly asked her, “What’s the point of being a degree holder and an overseas graduate but yet end up being a delivery rider?”
However, she refuses to get discouraged. “I believe that rizq or sustenance comes from Allah and to me, as long as my intentions are pure, it doesn’t matter what I work as. To be honest, never in my life have I thought that I would be a despatch worker. But maybe there is a reason why Allah granted this job to me – perhaps to build my patience, polish my skills as a rider, to meet different kinds of people and personalities, as a test... I just try to take it day by day.”
Lili always reminds herself of the verse “Verily with hardship, comes ease” (Surah Ash-Sharh, 94:5) and that tough times don’t last, but tough people do. “I love the fact that the phrase (verse) here is with hardship and not after hardship. That means, in the hardship itself, there’ll always be something positive.”
When asked who inspires her the most, Lili immediately replied that it’s her mother, Kamaliah Binte A. Manap, whom she calls “a true superwoman”.
“She has been a single parent since I was five years old as my late father had cancer, and I have never seen anyone as strong as she is. She works very hard to ensure that her children grow up well and yet finds the time to settle household chores and spend time with us. She is the reason why I work hard in life and aspire to be a better Muslimah.”
Fortunately, Lili has also met kind people in her journey. During Ramadan, she reached the doorstep of a Muslim family during Maghrib. They immediately offered her drinks and dates.
“The whole family, including the children, went out of their door welcomingly to ensure that I was able to break my fast properly. They even asked if I wanted some food, or if I wanted to come in for a while.”
Although Lili had to politely decline as she had other orders to deliver, she was so grateful that she thanked them profusely.
“They really made me feel like a guest and treated me well, although I was just sending their food.”
Her experiences have reminded her of the importance of kindness.
“Always be kind to everyone. You’ll never know what kind of battles other people are going through.”
Lili’s heart goes out to everyone who is struggling to find jobs. “It’s a tough time to be living in, and it can be really disheartening to find something concrete, but don’t despair. Have faith in Allah’s plans, and insya’Allah, everything will be okay.”
COVID-19 is a big challenge for all of us. It has impacted our lives and livelihoods. Our road to recovery will not be easy, but we will persevere and come out of this stronger, Insya’Allah.
The following schemes, support measures and resources can help to ease your load and navigate your way in this difficult period - https://www.sgunited.gov.sg/stay-strong/support-resources