A Singaporean "uncle" who told three foreign labourers on a train to keep their seats when they offered to give them up to local commuters was honoured by the Singapore Kindness Movement yesterday.
Mr Rimy Lau, 68, was presented with a certificate commending his gesture and a figurine of Singa the Courtesy Lion by the movement's general secretary William Wan at the organisation's Hill Street office.
The movement said Mr Lau's caring gesture "helped to make Singapore a nation of kindness and graciousness".
His kindness was spotted and photographed by this reporter who documented it in a Facebook post, and later, was featured in an online Straits Times story. The account of the incident was shared more than 60,000 times and was read by more than 800,000 people.
The former Regent Singapore Hotel housekeeping supervisor told the men, from India: "You don't always have to give up your seat. You come here to build our homes, so you can sit also, you know?"
The post sparked a discussion on how Singaporeans treat foreign workers here.
One of the trio, Mr Saravanan Samidurai, 28, was invited to the ceremony. He was presented with a Singa figurine as a token of appreciation for taking the initiative to make way for Mr Lau, a senior citizen. Mr Lau had directed most of his comments to Mr Saravanan who spoke the most English of the trio.
They included instructions on how to get around Singapore as Mr Saravanan had been in Singapore for just three days and was taking the train for the first time.
Mr Saravanan took out his phone to take a selfie with Mr Lau.
Mr Wan said they became "neighbours" on the train by chance but became "friends by choice".
"What happened is a good example of what all Singaporeans should do, regardless of race, religion and language," said Mr Wan.
Mr Saravanan said Mr Lau's efforts made him feel welcome.
Speaking through a translator, he said he experiences class discrimination back home due to the caste system in India. He hails from a remote village in Trichy in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. His parents are farmers and live in a hut.
"Mr Lau - a Chinese Singaporean man speaking to me on my first few days here - made me feel like an equal," said Mr Saravanan, who is working with NKH Construction in Singapore. He is working on an HDB upgrading project in Clementi, where he is involved in the installation of lifts and handrails.
Mr Saravanan, who has two older sisters, earns about $750 to $800 a month and hopes to save about $500 of this for his family.
Mr Lau's kindness has even resulted in him being recognised when he walks down the street, but he brushed the praise aside. He said: "Some people treat construction workers differently, they refuse to talk to them. That's not right. We should treat everyone the same."