The people around her at the basement of FairPrice supermarket at Toa Payoh HDB Hub pinched their noses and winced at the stench permeating the air-conditioned atmosphere.
Curious, bedsheet promoter Noriza A. Mansor, 49, went looking for the source of the smell.
At a cashier's counter, she saw a man in his 70s with dried faeces smeared all over his bermuda shorts, shins and shoes.
Unlike others who chose to ignore or avoid him, she did the remarkable: She bought him a new pair of shorts, grabbed a box of tissue paper and cleaned him up with a pail of water before sending him and his wife home in a taxi.
This amazing act of kindness happened on Tuesday at around 5.45pm.
Mr Tan Soy Yong, 76, had soiled his pants while grocery shopping with his wife, Madam Lee Bee Yian, also 76, who was wheelchair-bound. There was also a clump of faeces about the size of a 50-cent coin on Mr Tan's sandals.
Ms Noriza, a divorcee who has three sons and two daughters aged from 10 to 25, was alarmed.
"No one was helping him even though he looked so pitiful," she said.
She immediately approached the couple and offered to help them carry their two bags of groceries. Then it occurred to her that it must be uncomfortable for Mr Tan to walk in his soiled pants.
She hurried into ValuDollar, which was opposite FairPrice, to buy a pair of shorts for him.
But when she emerged from the shop, she realised that the couple had left the cashier counter.
She caught up with them a few metres away and insisted on helping Mr Tan push Madam Lee.
Meanwhile, currency trader Goh Rong Ren, 32, was rushing off for a dinner appointment with his friends when a passer-by tapped his shoulder and asked him to help the elderly couple.
He said: "I saw a Malay woman pushing an old woman on a wheelchair and she told me to wait for the uncle behind.
"When I turned around and saw him covered in faeces, the stench just hit me."
Mr Goh helped them to carry a bag of groceries, while the other bag was left on Madam Lee's lap.
Mr Tan insisted on taking the bus to his home at Potong Pasir as he could not afford a cab.
At this point, Madam Lee was a bit disgruntled, complaining about the hassle that her husband had created.
Mr Goh offered to pay for their cab fare and told them not to worry.
Though he thought of helping Mr Tan clean up, he said: "I wasn't willing to do it as I am particular about cleanliness."
When the four took the lift up to the main road, Mr Goh pushed Madam Tan to the kerb to flag a cab while Ms Noriza was at the back supporting Mr Tan.
When Madam Lee asked about her husband, Mr Goh turned and realised that Ms Noriza and Mr Tan were not behind them any more.
Mr Goh walked around and saw Mr Tan changing alone in a corner.
"My first thought was that she (Ms Noriza) had bailed," he said.
Mr Goh noticed Mr Tan holding the soiled pants in his hands, and told him to throw it away. But Mr Tan refused. There were valuables in the pocket of his pants, he replied.
Mr Goh fished out a spare plastic bag from his own bag for Mr Tan to put his dirty pants.
Just then, Ms Noriza appeared with a tissue box and a pail of water. She had gone down to the FairPrice staff toilet to get the pail and tissue, with the intention of helping Mr Tan clean up.
Ms Noriza asked Mr Tan to sit on a brick ledge while she knelt and started wiping the dried faeces off his legs.
Mr Goh was moved to tears at the sight, touched by Ms Noriza's compassion.
He said: "Her selflessness towards a total stranger moved me. It was pure and unadulterated kindness."
Ms Noriza's act of selflessness would have gone unnoticed if not for Mr Goh, who was so moved by the incident that he wanted others to know what she did.
He first thought of calling TNP, but did not have the hotline number. He eventually got his friend to alert us.
More details emerged.
Ms Noriza had patiently cleaned off the dried faeces on Mr Tan's legs, while talking and reassuring him.
She finished in five to 10 minutes and rinsed his dirty sandals with the remaining water in the pail.
"I was telling him not to worry and that he would be clean very soon," she told TNP when we convinced her to share her good deed.
Mr Goh said: "Most Singaporeans are very indifferent and unfeeling, but this has restored my faith in the kindness of Singaporeans."
He gave Ms Noriza and the elderly couple $50 to get a cab. She took the taxi with them to their block at Potong Pasir.
She would have gone up to their three-room flat with them, but she received a call telling her that new stock for her bedsheets had arrived at FairPrice, so she hurried back to work by cab.
But even after leaving the couple, Ms Noriza remained concerned.
She wanted to visit them to see what their living conditions were like, as Madam Lee had told her that her husband often soiled his pants at home.
When The New Paper visited the couple's flat with Ms Noriza on Thursday, there was a slight stench, even from the outside.
The flat was cluttered with junk. Items included bicycles, rolls of tape, hats and newspapers, stacked up to 1.5m.
Mr Tan seemed oblivious to the mess.
"It looks clean to me," he said in Malay, as Ms Noriza translated.
He said he has difficulties controlling his bowels and often soils his pants in public.
Ms Noriza was the first person who has helped him.
He never leaves the flat without his wife because he fears she may fall when she is alone.
During the day, they spend most of their time watching TV and occasionally leave the flat for walks around the estate.
Mr Tan said they prefer going to Toa Payoh HDB Hub for groceries as it is cheaper.
The couple have a son and a daughter, who do not live with them.
Their groceries and utilities are paid for with $500 that is transferred into Mr Tan's account every month. He is unsure where the money comes from.
His next-door neighbour, senior IT analyst Anil Karthikeyan, 37, said Madam Lee had knocked on his door for help before, when Mr Tan had a fall.
He said: "The language barrier makes it hard to communicate, but they live alone, so I try my best to help them."
Mr Anil has also seen people visiting the couple a few times, but he is not sure who they are.
Ms Noriza was relieved to see that the couple is fine, but was saddened by the condition of their home.
Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, the Member of Parliament for Potong Pasir, said: "The Citizens' Consultative Committee in Potong Pasir has been rendering necessary assistance, and (our) Residents' Committee chairman pays them regular visits."
This article was first published on Oct 13, 2014.
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