'Karunggg guni' is a familiar cry in the HDB blocks, which together with the horn, signals the arrival of the famous rag-and-bone man who collects virtually everything, from any household all over Singapore. Over the years, they have become symbolic to everyone's lives, from the stories about them to the friendships forged with residents.
Karung Guni Uncle Hot
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Beep Pooh Beep Pooh
The shrill sharp sound of his pump was previously my alarm clock on weekends. And which Singaporean can't actually identify with that all too familiar sound?
The Karang Guni man is often patrolling our corridors and neighbourhood blocks, asking us whether we have any old clothes, electronics of newspapers to sell him for some cash. I think his presence really brings us much convenience especially when most of us do not have the time to personally recycle or donate these old belongings. He provides instant service at your doorstep!
That said, the pay-out is not extremely attractive - at best a few dollars for some heavy kilograms of old belongings. However, factorizing in the convenience brought to us I think it's still worth selling it to the karang guni man!
It is a pity that this profession is slowly dying out as less youngsters wants to be involved in it. I guess next time we will see more random bags of rubbish and belongings lying in the void decks.
The sound of the karang guni uncle's horn is one that I remember from my childhood. Living in one of those older HDB flats, he would make his weekly rounds around my grandma's block to collect unwanted newspapers, clothes and electronic items. Nowadays, the karang guni uncle still exists, but I think that they are a dying breed. How much money can you really make from collecting and reselling these old, unwanted goods? Coupled with the rising cost of living in Singapore, being a karang guni man is simply an unsustainable profession.
It is quite sad that now there is also the presence of those mega recycling companies that continually distribute the familiar yellow recycling bag to our doorsteps. It is more convenient for us to just place the newspapers into the bag and leave them outside for later collection than to wait for the karang guni man, yet another reason why the karang guni profession is dying out.
However, I admire their grit and tenacity. The karang guni man, last I saw him, is old and his skin has been tanned brown by the sun. He has no fat on him, only muscle from years of carrying heavy loads and walking round the blocks. Although he is so old, he still continues to make his rounds which must be getting increasingly hard on him given his old age.
Although I do not want this childhood icon of mine to die out, it is perhaps inevitable. Hopefully, the government can step in to help them or provide better retraining opportunities, especially for the older ones, such that they can get better jobs that are better sustenance for a livelihood.
The karung guni uncle plays such a vivid role in my childhood memories!! They always meander through our neighbour hoods, honking their quintessential honks whilst chanting their hokkien catchphrase! It was so quirky to us kids that time we picked it up and chanted along in zest.
They always and still amaze me with their strength and vitality; hoisting and weighing our junk and pulling them all along the roads. They might appear ragged and coarse, but they also carry a sort of charisma with the dignity they go about their business.
I really believe that they play a huge part to the Singapore culture, defining the dialects and reminiscent of our maritime history. Nowadays it's such a rare occasion to hear the all-too-familiar honking and chanting, but I definitely am delighted every single time they come about. It reminds me to not be washed away by the advances of the nation, and to remember and stay rooted in tradition.
The Karung Kuni Uncles definitely mean a whole lot to me, and I'm sure many other people, lest for the younger generations who are probably more familiar to the Candy Crush jingle.
I used to be very bewildered by the incessant honking coming from the carpark and i was always kinda irritated by the loud noises. Only till much later then I realised they were te sounds from the Karang Guni man marketing to the blocks.
I still find it quite creative to do such a thing such that the blocks around would be alerted of his presence. Rather than throw your goods away, selling it to him for some money, why not? It's a win win situation and furthermore you wouldn't have to move far like carrying your goods all the way to the second hand store.
Ive always held these old men in awe at their strength, attitude and faith towards life. Though a lot of them are not young anymre, they still strive to make an honest and humble living.
The man of many myths
When I was young, to ensure my good behaviour, my parents always used the same tale of horror : 'Ah boy ah, karung guni knows whether you're good or bad, if you are a bad boy, he'll come in the middle of the night and take you away!' This was usually effective as deterrence from misdeeds (i.e. treating flour as snow and trying to make my house into a life-sized snowglobe with it)
The 'rag and bones' man, has over time, become synonymous with the Singaporean culture. With his pushcart, his horn and signature cry of 'karung guni, tiu gu bo zua wei bu sa kor, hai lei lio buay si ki', he has integrated himself as a unique brand of right-at-your-doorstep hawker, especially for HDB stayers like myself!
Our family proudly claims to have our family 'karung guni', whom appears on schedule every Sunday to collect our newspapers, old clothes or even the occasional TV or rice cooker. I found the guy friendly, humourous and always ready to hand out sweets to my younger siblings. My parents will chat with him akin to an old friend in Hokkien and he'll linger around before moving on to the next unit!
In a Singapore where many local aspects are fast vanishing, it is my hope that the legacy of the 'karung guni' will carry on and not disappear, for otherwise when its my turn to scare my son, the old tale can't make its entrance.
Really really cool guys
Other than being super annoying with the horn and super loud with the "Karang Guni" cries, I love these guys! What a unique way to market yourself instead of knocking and/or pressing the doorbell. This is not a forced thing, you donate whatever you would have instead thrown away, to him, and it is a win-win situation!
These guys make great conversation. Once, my mom spent almost half an hour at the door talking to the karang guni guy, and it appeared he entertained her. Surprisingly, she has over five karang guni contacts, which I did not know they arrive when called.
Anyway, the best thing is that both parties win. You get your junk out and get paid decently, while he recycles the stuff and helps Singapore's green effort. How wonderful!