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Once, when out of work, I toiled as a labourer and hawked in flea markets. Coming from the corporate world, a former high-flying executive, I was wrecked. But every night, seeing my wife and three babies sleeping peacefully…I could not wait for sunrise.

During the nineties, I commuted very regularly to Jakarta on business. It became almost a second home – rough traffic but wonderful friendly people. I used to visit this major client and parked in the special visitor’s lot.

The first time, an elderly man limped over and proceeded to clean my windshield. I waved him away. He assured me that I do not have to pay for his ‘service’. Right, don’t I know.

Over several visits, I noticed that old man, whom I had by then learnt, was a bankrupted businessman. As soon as a car pulled up, he would hobble over and set to work with his plastic spray bottle and squeegee. It took about five minutes to clean all the glass after which, he would pull up one windshield wiper as a marker.

When the driver returned, he would hurry forward, gently replace the wiper, doff his hat and give a wide grin. Most drivers ignored him but some would toss him a couple of five-hundred Rupiah coins (back then 5000 Rupiah approximated US$1.00).

Not once did he insist on payment but always greeted everyone with his grin. I shook my head as I recollected how window cleaners in other cities would turn belligerent when not tipped.

After a few visits, I started tipping him too.

Thanks to him, I pulled through when my time came to ‘clean windows’.

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