Hurt has moved from head to body

Hurt has moved from head to body
Far cry from an office: Mr Lim, 55, has been helping out at his relative's coffee stall.

SINGAPORE - A couple of days ago, we brought you the story of the former managing director of Five Stars Tours, who has been serving drinks at a coffee stall after his business went bust.

That was the financial part.

Yesterday, Ken Lim Cheng Chuan spoke to My Paper on how he feels about his change in fortune.

Quite simply, Mr Lim says that the pain is no longer in the head but in his body.

While he used to spend the day worrying about his financial woes, now it is physical labour that takes its toll on him.

"In the past, my head hurt because of my business problems. Now my body hurts instead because I sell coffee from morning to night, which keeps me on my feet the whole day," he told My Paper in Mandarin.

Each day he starts work around 8am and closes the shutters after 10pm, a far cry from the 20 years of comfort he enjoyed as the boss of Five Stars Tours.

But he says he has no choice and has accepted his lot.

"Who will want to hire me? First, I don't have any qualifications, second, I don't speak English, and third, my hand is slightly disabled," said the 55-year-old.

He had injured two of the fingers on his right hand in a woodwork accident many years ago, at his job as a carpenter.

Mr Lim was declared a bankrupt in June, and is now settling his financial affairs.

The tour agency's earnings first took a hit in 2010 with the opening of Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands, when tours to Genting in Malaysia, which made up the bulk of its profits, fell 70 per cent.

Subsequent expansions into Malaysia pushed the business over the edge.

Mr Lim said he had thought there would be enough demand within the Malaysian market.

Instead, he ended up learning about the ups and downs of life, and just who his friends are.

Some still visit him from time to time, while the fair-weather friends have disappeared.

"Having more or fewer friends does not make a difference," said Mr Lim, philosophically. There were other issues on his plate, but he has dealt with them.

He has swopped his private apartment for a Housing Board flat. Again, his family made the adjustment without any problem.

"We led a very average life, and I never pampered my children," he said.

His wife and children also help him out at the drinks stall.

Ahead of them are now a new set of challenges, mainly from the fierce competition from other drinks stalls in the hawker centre, one just next door to his.

For a man who saw a transport empire crumble, this is hardly likely to give him sleepless nights.

"It's still all right, I make enough to survive," said Mr Lim.

samboh@sph.com.sg


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