It’s a cute, endearing picture to see Hieu on his motorbike with his infant son strapped to his front. Their story’s another matter.
Over the last few months, many Saigonese have seen a motorbike taxi driver carrying a baby strapped to his chest. Some photographs of the father and the baby have gone viral on social media.
Tran Nguyen Thien Nhan, all of eight months old, has become a working companion for his father, 38-year-old Nguyen Trung Hieu.
After borrowing some money from the bank to invest in a business, Hieu and his wife lost everything when the business failed. The couple rents a studio apartment and the financial burden became too much to bear, with the wife jobless and the baby needing a caretaker if they wanted to go out and work.
Hieu as a motorbike taxi driver for ride-hailing firm Grab, and his eight-month-old son on a Saigon’s street. Photo courtesy of Hieu’s passenger.
Recently, Hieu’s wife found a job and started working as a sales staff at a local supermarket. Her mother is old and not strong to take care of two grandkids, so she looks after her three-year-old older grandson. Hieu’s 70-year-old mother is still busy selling lottery tickets on the streets.
“We have no choice. So I have to take our youngest child with me. If my wife works in the morning, I take care of him at that time,” Hieu said.
The father spent almost a month to prepare for his little son’s first trip with him. He bought clothes, diapers, milk, raincoat, towels for the boy for the three hours. Rainy days are more challenging since the raincoat does not afford total protection against strong downpours.
As he takes his passengers to their destinations, Hieu keeps a watchful eye on his son. Sometimes, he takes Nhan to places with some shade to protect him from prolonged exposure to sunlight, so the baby gets some rest.
If his wife goes to work in the evening, Hieu and Nhan venture out from around 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“It is hot these days, and sometimes he cries. I feel sad, but I have no choice. If he cries too much, I turn off the application and go home,” Hieu said.
Having a baby along makes it more difficult to work, sometimes. Many customers have refused to get on Hieu’s bike after seeing the baby.
“Since I started taking my son to work, passengers have reacted differently. Everyone is surprised, some feel sorry and show care, others get annoyed and cancel the ride,” Hieu said.
Some patrons have talked about the father-son duo on social media, and this has also attracted both positive and negative comments. Many people say Hieu is melodramatic and playing the sympathy card.
“The family is in poverty; and I am forced to take my son to work,” he said. Although a teacher told me not to care about what other people say, I spend sleepless nights thinking how to earn money and bring up my children properly.”