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Superhero on the bus, checkmate for chess ban

Considerate driver wins kudos, while attempts at blocking fun and deterring bike riders in housing estates draw boos

BUS CAPTAIN HERO

A woman boards a crowded bus in Admiralty with a toddler in her arms.

With no seats in the immediate vicinity, she opts to stand.

A minute passes. Instead of driving off, the bus driver walks up to the female passenger and politely persuades her to find a seat.

Not only would it be uncomfortable, but it is also dangerous for her to remain standing, he tells her. His action prompts other passengers to stand up and offer their seats to her.

She relents, takes a seat and the journey continues uneventfully.

This simple act of courtesy and civic-consciousness inspired lawyer Thiagesh Menon, who was on the bus, to pen his experience in a Facebook post which has since gone viral.


SMRT bus driver Nor Adhwa Othman gets praise from netizens for his concern for a passenger with a toddler who could not find a seat on the bus. PHOTO: SMRT/FACEBOOK


Above: Railings blocking a footpath, a chess-ban meme, concrete blocks in Bedok. PHOTO: SMRT/FACEBOOK PHOTOS: ABDUL SALIM HARUN/FACEBOOK, LIM JIALIANG/FACEBOOK, ALMONDSHELL/HARDWARE ZONE


Railings blocking a footpath, (above) a chess-ban meme, concrete blocks in Bedok. PHOTO: SMRT/FACEBOOK PHOTOS: ABDUL SALIM HARUN/FACEBOOK, LIM JIALIANG/FACEBOOK, ALMONDSHELL/HARDWARE ZONE


Railings blocking a footpath, a chess-ban meme, (above) concrete blocks in Bedok. PHOTO: SMRT/FACEBOOK PHOTOS: ABDUL SALIM HARUN/FACEBOOK, LIM JIALIANG/FACEBOOK, ALMONDSHELL/HARDWARE ZONE

"Prior to boarding the bus, I had been watching the trailer of the new Captain America movie, a cinematic project filled with an assortment of superheroes," said the 34-year-old.

"I couldn't help but think that this young man could have turned an insouciant blind eye to the passenger's discomfort and the possible danger facing her," he said in a post that has garnered more than 8,000 reactions, comments and shares. "He instead chose to address it. Now that's who I call a superhero."

If the bus driver was really a hero, he must have had a very busy day doing good.

In the comments section of the post, other netizens related similar stories about the same bus driver.

"He went all out to help an elderly lady board the bus from Chong Pang, and assisted her when she alighted in Sembawang. Kudos to him!" said another Facebook user.

The attention even made bus operator SMRT sit up and take notice.

In a post, SMRT identified the "hero" as Nor Adhwa Othman. "He was delighted to hear of the kind compliments and promised to continue with this good work in serving you all," it said.

Mr Thiagesh said he was surprised at the positive reception to his post. "I'm grateful that in a world where social media is used to spew and spread hateful vitriol, I was able to use the same medium to attract some recognition to a good deed."

LIFTING BARRIERS

Defensive architecture and unfriendly practices in the heartland is a hot topic on social media these days, and the heat online seems to be making a difference.

A poster banning chess put up at Block 11, Haig Road, was met with harsh criticism last week after a photo of it was posted on a community group page called Wake Up, Singapore on Facebook.

The poster was put up at the start of the year after residents lodged complaints about chess players causing a nuisance and playing till late at night.

"Very soon, no one will be allowed to sit or rest at the void deck," said one user.

Memes, like a photo of a chess board fitted with metal railings, put up by chocolatier Lim Jialiang, soon started trending.

The railings were a reference to the recent brouhaha last month when a photo of an empty void deck decked with metal railings at a HDB block in Queenstown went viral.

In response, the Marine Parade Town Council called the copies of the poster a "mistake", removed them and apologised.

On Wednesday, another photo surfaced - this time of yellow concrete barriers in Bedok North, presumably meant to deter cyclists and those on electronic bikes.

"I could trip and fall if I didn't notice," said Hardware Zone forum user AlmondShell. "What about the wheelchair-bound?"

The thread generated more than 100 replies, many of them criticising the move and asking about the process behind such decision-making.

And on Friday, yet another photo emerged. Facebook user Abdul Salim Harun posted a photo of bright yellow railings obstructing a footpath at Marsiling Drive. He asked: "How is a resident on a wheelchair supposed to move around this obstacle set up by the town council?"

Netizens going online to find support and seek redress for things they are passionate about is nothing new. And while not every complaint is legitimate - some are downright outlandish - it is clear the public expects the authorities to act sooner rather than later.

DEAR DONALD

A hard-hitting letter addressed to US presidential nominee Donald Trump by the journalist behind popular blog  Humans Of New York is making its rounds online.

"I try my hardest not to be political," said Mr Brandon Stanton on a Facebook post on Monday. "I didn't want to risk any personal goodwill by appearing to take sides in a contentious election. But I realise now that there is no correct time to oppose violence and prejudice."

The 32-year-old, who is behind the Facebook page which has millions of fans, said opposing Mr Trump wasn't a political decision, but a moral one.

"I've watched you retweet racist images. I've watched you retweet racist lies. I've watched you gleefully tell stories of executing Muslims with bullets dipped in pig blood," he said.

"Over the last two years I have conducted extensive interviews with hundreds of Muslims, chosen at random, on the streets of Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan. I've also interviewed hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi refugees across seven different countries. And I can confirm - the hateful one is you," he said.

The letter elicited a huge reaction from netizens.

Facebook user Zainab Ashraf said: "I am a Muslim Pakistani and I want every single person on earth to know that I do not hate you. This is not what my religion stands for. This is not what I stand for. I stand for peace, equality, justice and love."

Another user wrote: "From every other part of the world, we are wondering how he is even getting so many votes!"

The post has since been shared more than a million times, and attracted more than 2.1 million reactions -one of them from, unsurprisingly, fellow presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

NOTABLE TRENDS

HUN SEN: The Cambodian Prime Minister has been accused by an opposition leader of buying "likes" for his Facebook page, which has 3.2 million fans. More than 70 per cent of the PM's fans come from countries like India, Thailand and Vietnam. Cambodia has an Internet penetration of less than 10 per cent.

DAVID ONG: The Bukit Batok MP resigned suddenly on March 12 over a "personal indiscretion". He is believed to have had an extramarital affair with a woman who was a grassroots activist in his ward.

#TWITTER10K: Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey said in a TV interview that the 140-character limit wasn't going to be replaced. The company was rumoured last year to be increasing the limit to 10,000 characters, a move which alarmed many users.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 20, 2016, with the headline 'Superhero on the bus, checkmate for chess ban'. Print Edition | Subscribe