Driving a taxi for at least twelve hours a day was par for the course for Mr Gan Tiong Meng.
Toiling quietly, he would sometimes leave as early as 4am, only going back home for dinner.
He drove for hours until his back ached.
But he did it all to keep his family of five going.
The 66-year-old, who has been driving taxis since 1980, says: "There were bad passengers but I had to tolerate and endure. I need to have patience because I'm in the service industry.
Mr Gan has also had his fair share of passengers who run away without paying the fare, especially in his early days as a cabby.
"But I just have to forget it. If I'm angry, it still doesn't change things. I have to let it go," he says in Mandarin.
It was tough, he says with a smile, but he tried to get home in time for dinner with his children.
He used to earn $1,500 a month for the entire family, which was just enough for them to get by. On weekends, he worked at least 10 hours, but he now drives for only six hours.
"I had to push myself to support the family," he admits.
The taciturn man shows his affection when he talks about how his four kids have all "grown up well".
All four have graduated from university.
His second child, Madam Gan Seow Wee, a 42-year-old housewife, speaks fondly of her father and the hard work he put in to keep the family afloat in the 1980s and 1990s.
When she worked long hours in the office, she spoke to her father about the backache she was developing.
"I asked my father if he had the same problem as a cabby and he said yes.
"It was then that I realised that my father keeps a lot of his discomfort and hurt to himself. He endures these hardships to provide for his family," she adds.
Even as we find out how hard he worked to provide for his children, Mr Gan is modest, noting that he had help from his company, ComfortDelGro, who gave bursaries to help pay for his children's education.
He speaks nostalgically of a simpler time when most people did not send their children for tuition. His children went to the nearby community centre to do their homework with their peers. His eldest children also helped their younger siblings with schoolwork and with the household chores.
Despite working hard to feed the family, Mr Gan does not find it tiresome or painful.
"I don't see raising the family as a difficult job because I love them," he says simply.
"I had always wanted them to be healthy, happy and have the freedom to do what they enjoy. I am contented now," he says.
This article was first published on June 15, 2014.
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