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Lek and Singha: Love, Pain, and The Discovery of Happiness Despite Disability

Each person holds unique value, but not everyone is aware of it. When we exist within diverse perspectives, it can often impede our ability to perceive the significance within ourselves.

Witness the journey of Lek and Singha, a homeless couple navigating the struggle to acknowledge their intrinsic self-worth on Love on The Street.


Lek: When Disability Transforms into a Painful Burden

Picture by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Lek, a pseudonym, is a 51-year-old woman with disability from Tak. She was previously married and had four children but later divorced her husband. Dealing with a herniated disc, Lek requires frequent hospital treatments. Meanwhile, her children have pursued their individual paths in life. Overwhelmed by the belief that she cannot work and might burden her children, Lek decided to leave her home.

Similar to other individuals without a home, Lek resides in the area of Sanam Luang. Across the canal, Singha also makes his home. Before long, their paths crossed, and they became acquainted. Eventually, Singha proposed that they live together.

"Singha said I could move in with him. It seemed like he could take care of me, so I said okay."

Initially, Lek agreed to move in with Singha out of concern for safety, but over time, they developed a strong connection.


Singha: When Committed to Looking After Her, I Must Give It My All

Singha, using a pseudonym, is a 56-year-old Muslim man from Phichit. Initially, he planned to work in Bangkok, but the loss of his belongings prevented him from proving his identity, leading to his exclusion from receiving state welfare. Singha did not share much about how he became homeless, likely because he's always busy. During the recent conversation with Lek, for instance, only a glimpse of Singha's face was seen one or two times before he disappeared. Lek explained that back then, Singha was occupied with gathering discarded items, which made him unavailable to join the conversation.

Even though without having lengthy conversations with Singha, sometimes, the different sides of him shown. On one occasion, he sat nearby and was quite talkative during an interview. He shared that his wife is disabled, unable to move her lower body, particularly her legs. Still, he proudly expressed how he took care of her, even in situations that might be considered unpleasant, without any sense of disgust.

“Singha wants to care for his wife, perhaps as a part of their later life stage.”

Ja, a secretary at the Issarachon Foundation, responsible for assisting the homeless in Sake Alley, mentioned Singha's commitment.


A Challenge for the Disabled Homeless

Lek's herniated disc didn't manifest abruptly; instead, it gradually eroded her physical well-being. In the early stages of homelessness, she could walk, but as time passed, her abilities became limited, leaving her only able to sit and sleep.

“Sitting like this really hurts my bones. When the pain kicks in, I can't sleep a wink. I have to keep massaging myself. My spine is all closed up and narrow, hindering the blood circulation. When I went to the hospital, they said my bloodstream was infected, but others thought it might be because of fragile bones.”

In addition to coping with a painful disability, Lek has to endure sitting in varying weather conditions—sometimes scorching hot, other times rainy, with no option to move. As a result, Sinha has to locate a shelter for Lek on days with unfavorable weather.

“Singha is a busy man with little time for conversation with me, except when he stops by to ask if I'm hungry, which I usually decline. When I was exposed to the sun with no one to turn to, it was him who moved me to another shelter."

“He made me realize that his love is genuine. He assisted me with everything, from physical care to looking after my clothes—he took care of them all.”

Another big problem Lek has to face is the weekly visit of municipal officers every Monday. Their goal is to clean up the area, which involves clearing away the belongings of the homeless.

“The municipal officers came and took our things—medicine, phone, and ID. They even grabbed the papers I got from the central hospital, like my medical report. They took them all. When we asked for our stuff back, they just said they couldn't find it.”

“They came to clean up the street where people dumped their food trash. No sleeping is allowed, but sitting is okay. By 5 AM, we have to pack up everything, because the entire area needs to be empty. They even took away my bed, so now I have to sleep on the floor, and it's tough on my body.”

Despite constant requests from the homeless, the municipal officers never returned their belongings. Anything on the ground is treated as trash, even official government documents. This poses a significant challenge for disabled individuals like Lek who require medical treatment. Without an identity card, she is unable to access government medical assistance. Additionally, without documents from the central hospital, there's no record of her treatment history.


Do I Still Hold Value If I Can’t Help You?

Lek frequently questions her own worth. She's a patient who requires medication, finds it hard to go to the bathroom, and needs assistance when moving around. On top of that, she can't work. This makes her feel like a burden and as if she can't be of help to anyone.

"He saved up some money. I wanted a phone, and he bought it for me,"

Lek mentioned the nice thing Singha did. She felt guilty thinking that her partner did so much for her, but in reality, Singha willingly did these things without expecting anything in return.

“He's the one handling everything. I just enjoy a comfortable life. Living with him has its ups and downs – it's joyful at times and painful at others because I can't support myself. He doesn't cause me pain; it's only the struggles within myself.”

Lek shared about her daughter, mentioning that she has graduated, found a boyfriend, and is now working. Lek felt a sense of regret as a mother who couldn't support her daughter. Whenever she talked about her daughter, there was a mix of pride and sadness in her voice.

“Although I'm her mother, I've never given her money or assisted with her tuition fees. She independently supported herself through hard work, selling goods online. She's a hardworking person.”

When asked about whether she wanted to meet her children or not, Lek honestly replied that, despite her love for them, she didn't want them to witness her current state.

“To be honest, I prefer them not visiting me. I fear that I make them embarrassed. They may find it difficult to accept my challenges and question why I left home.”

Transforming Lek's self-perception is challenging, especially given her long-term experience with disability. Anil Lewis, Executive Director of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, stated that disability is a natural part of the human experience and should be embraced.: “I realize that my blindness, just like the color of my skin and my economic standing. , is a characteristic that describes me, but does not define me. These characteristics are neither negative nor positive. They simply offer a means to describe facets of my existence.” However, in the homeless environment, it would be challenging for them to raise this issue.

Nevertheless, there is a growing public understanding of the homeless, which raises the likelihood of further studies on the mental health of disabled individuals experiencing homelessness. This also enhances the hope that like Lek and other homeless in similar situations will recognize greater value in themselves.

English Translated by Hingsanthia S.


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