Car mechanic at Bukit Brown resigned to losing his trade

HIS hands dark with motor grease, the old man ate silently under the van's raised boot as the rain fell.

 His tools of the trade: A can of engine oil, spanners and a car jack lie in a heap at the back of his van.

 A former car mechanic, he runs a mobile workshop out of his beat-up Toyota van at the gates of Bukit Brown Cemetery off Lornie Road, where he does simple repairs for a small fee.

 Rain or shine, he will be there, said a regular group of bus drivers and cabbies who share the spot for a quick rest.

 To them, the old man is known simply as "Uncle". And like his scenic, serene surroundings, "Uncle" will also disappear when works start on the planned new four-lane, dual carriage road which will affect part of Bukit Brown Cemetery.

 When The New Paper visited him yesterday afternoon, he was alone and eating rice from a packet. "Uncle" said that he is in his seventies, and owned a car repair shop in Bukit Brown way back when there was a kampung.

 He said: "This place was bustling with activity in the 1970s. There was even a coffee shop around here."

 He said that he was later forced to close his shop and move away, but declined to say more.

Regular customers

 A school bus driver in his 40s, who gave his name as Mr Ang, said that "Uncle" has a "regular but small" pool of customers, who drop by at about 10am.

 Mr Ang said that the old mechanic is "very selective" about his customers.

 He explained: "He will only fix your car if he knows you. You must call him first to make an appointment.

 "He does simple things like servicing brakes and changing engine oil. He only fixes older cars because new ones have computers in them.

 Mr Ang usually drops by Bukit Brown for a quick break after work at midday.

 He and cabby Tony Png, 65, are a few who choose Bukit Brown as a place to get away from the bustle of city life.

 Scant sounds of distant traffic are the only hint of the urban landscape beyond this quiet sanctuary.

 Said Mr Png: "Not many people know of this place, so there's no one to disturb my nap."

 A certain Mrs Chan, a 78-year-old resident living at Sime Road, which is behind the cemetery, said that she is "apprehensive about the noise and traffic levels" that the new road would bring.

 "I was hoping that the land would be preserved," said the former teacher who has lived in her semi-detached house for 26 years.

 But "Uncle", who currently lives with his son in a landed property, is resigned to leaving Bukit Brown, a place that holds many memories for him.

 He said irritatedly: "I don't really care what they are going to build here. These things happen. "Maybe I will just close my business."