Wednesday, March 22

When a man can’t fit in


Poverty, failed marriage, run-in with the law force man out of mainstream society

SIBU: Geruka Geratong had a good life with his wife and daughter in Katibas, Song, a few hours’ boat journey from here. That was 20 years ago.But then his wife divorced him and henceforth his life went downhill.

At one point he was so desperately poor that he resorted to selling his birth certificate to a stranger for RM10.

For two decades his life was turned upside down and it culminated in his decision two years ago to lead a life of solitude. The same year he quit his long-time job as a labourer.

He now keeps a nomadic existence without any sense of purpose in life.

Geruka went to school only until primary six.

Five months ago, he was put behind bars for a month for theft of scrap metal – a crime he apparently did not admit.

“Someone called the police and said I had been stealing scrap metals. I was arrested after that,” he said.

He was putting up at an abandoned house near a polyclinic when the police arrested him.

A month later when he was out of the jail, he returned to the ‘home’ only to find his belongings, which included a bicycle, missing.

He ‘moved house’ a few months back after the authority chased him out of his old place. He found a new home among some trees inconspicuous to the outside world.  His home is opposite a Taska in Lane 10, Oya Road – a flood-prone area.

He has a shed in which to shelter from the sun and rain.  There is a small fireplace for cooking basic meals and for keeping bonfires on cold nights.

Geruka, in his 40s, says he is happy with what he has now.

“I need nobody’s help,” he said with a touch of stubbornness in his voice.

Having lived there for about five months, he said there were times when his home got flooded when water level went up knee-deep.

To earn his keep, he still walks about to find scrap metal.

‘Office hours’ are from 8am till the dusk sets in.

When lady luck strikes, he earns up to RM30 – enough to buy a 10-kg bag of rice.

Geruka once found companion in a bird. But it died because he could not take good care of it. He still keeps the cage, though, in case he finds another bird.

He has also lost his identity card. His friends stole it many years back when they were drinking.

“We were drunk and they took my IC. I do not know why they took my IC,” he said.

It does bother him if he gets mistaken for an illegal immigrant.

Geruka has a bag he always carries around.

“I don’t want to leave it anywhere lest someone should put poison in it to kill me,” he said. It’s amazing that despite all his hardship, he still has his sense of pride and dignity. He wants no help from anyone.

“I want to be left alone, that’s all. I do not need any help and I do not need people to take care of me as I can take care of myself,” he insisted.

Declining an offer of money from this reporter who interviewed him yesterday, he pointedly said that he needed no help as he could survive on his own.