Friday, December 18, 2009

On the streets where you live

First of all, I have to express my heartfelt thanks to these lovely people (though I've already thanked them in person) for sharing their stories with me. I was a total stranger to them but not for long as I think my smiles won them over!

Surprisingly, they weren't afraid when I told them it was for the internet. That people would get to read about them. Yes, IT (Internet Technology) is here to stay. Though hardly involved in it, they want to be part of the 'action' too. Bless them for their trust in me and I'll try my best to be their friend too.

Vicky the milkman - I bumped into him when I was looking around the Raja Rajeswary temple, Ampang, where I got married. He was delivering milk to the temple and having just a short break. Vicky hails from Delhi and is happy doing his delivery rounds around Ampang and Bangi areas.

It's been two years since he got himself this job and he lives in Semenyih. 'My boss owns 90 -100 cows. I do not milk the cows as I only concentrate on the delivery.' Admitedly, rain or shine, he has to service his clients, so work is hard but it's better than not having a job. True industrious spirit ! The huge milk canister can hold 50 litres of milk. Happily, he showed me a sample of milk packet, ' It costs RM3.00and I keep the milk cool with ice in the canister. ' Vicky takes Monday off and the rest of the week, he zooms around on his motor bike , faithfully calling on homes.

I bade him good bye as he rested under the spready shady trees. Come to think of it, he looked pretty tanned as the sun was beating down.

Sussela, the itinerant vendor - I met Suseela in one of the quieter streets in Brickfields. Her regular clients were already buying fish and vegetables. I too bought some long beans as I had planned to make a curry that evening. Work starts from 7.30 am and her day finishes at about 2.30 pm after she has finished her rounds in Brickfields and Bangsar. 'I have 50 houses to call on.' Housewives look forward to hear her horn as they know she's here with fresh supplies and what a time saver for them as they cannot spare the time to do regular shopping. That's true service - right at one's doorstep!

As for me, I've availed myself of such a service before when the children were young and time factor was an issue. In my opinion, I think we tend to overlook the excellent customer service they have up right up their sleeves. People like Suseela have always been a boon - reliant whatever the weather.

One of the customers was interested to know why I was taking pictures and I told her why. She then asked if I could give English tuition classes to some children. I declined and directed her to some possible places where she might have some success.

Malik, the cendol and rojak seller happily serves his customers near Medan Damansara. Under the shady foliage , he dishes out his cool bowl of wriggly green cendol (strings of green pea), tops it up with layers of ice shavings, lashings of gula melaka and a generous scoop or two of creamy coconut milk to make it yummy and so inviting. When the weather is hot and sunny, business picks up as that's when a bowl of delicious, mouth-watering cendol is a treat!

Encik Abdul is a migrant from Taiping town. We soon got talking as I told him it is my hometown too. He has been operating this business of serving drinks, fresh-cut fruits and nasi lemak to the office workers nearby for the past 5 years. Business is brisk at lunch time as the regulars seek him . He takes care of this side of the business while his wife does some private cooking for clients. They bring the herbs for her to cook for a small fee. 'It's to control their blood pressure problem.' Just as we were talking, a car passed by and a lady dropped some herbs into her hands.

I asked Encik Abdul if permit was difficult to obtain and he replied in the negative. That everything would be in order as long as rules and regulations issued by DBKL ( CityHall) were followed.

Ah Lim, the wirecraft man busies himself at his craft daily within the compound of the National Museum. When I saw him he had a big group of school children admiring his craft. He did not mind talking about himself. Ah Lim picked up this skill of wiring from the Beautiful Gate for the Disabled in Petaling Jaya. He learned it well within two years and now he's self -suficient to stand on his own. He even makes them for his fellow disabled friends to sell in other venues. 'I can make about 30 a day, big and small items.' I was curious to know how long the dragon takes to complete. ' 25 minutes thereabouts, ', and that's because he's adept at it now.

Ah Lim gets his supplies of wire which are specially coated to give the shiny look from a supplier in Setapak. The wire comes from Italy and it is pliable for the twisting . As we talked, Ah Lim adeptly twisted the wire with a small pair of pliers to make another item.

Life became more interesting when he decided to operate in the open market instead of being cooped up in the confines of his abode. I enjoyed talking with Ah Lim. He's such a pleasant man and seems to be the gallant type to take things in his stride, come what may.

Anak, in Gombak, helped me to choose some rambutans which she had in her stall. She told me she sells to earn extra income while her husband does construction work in the vicinity. The bamboo for the lemang comes from the jungle. Anak showed me the fire where she cooks the lemang and how she has to keep a watch on the fire as she turns the bamboo around to prevent burning. She doesn't keep the lemang for more than 2 days.

These vendors continue to etch a living, in good and bad times and they are part and parcel of the hardworking, economic fabric of KL-ites . Admittedly, life is challenging as they face congested roads and relentless traffic as KL grows. The question is how long will they be around plying their trade if they can find an alternative to find another source of living that offers them more attractive returns.

Do join me in saluting this humble workforce of ours .


  1. I admire their determination and courage to continue serving thier respective customers, whether it is shine or rain, and earning income at the same time.

  2. Truly 1Malaysia salute them btw love lemang..:p

  3. Excellent post, Keats! We pass by them every day but not many of us know their names. I just say "Thank you, brother!" to the garbage pick-up guys, postman etc, and refer to the veggie van and bread-and-buns guys as "Veggie Truck Man" and "Roti Guy".

    How lovely of you to interview them. I think our friends from abroad will enjoy this post the most. It's part of everyday life in Malaysia.

    Now you've made me want a cendol very badly. Medan Damansara, you say? He's there every day? I normally go to the ones in SS3 and Kelana LRT junction.

    Oh and by the way, I notice that people welcome bloggers in the way they never do when it comes to journalists and survey folk. When I was taking photos in the blood bank, all I had to do was tell the nurses it is for my blog. And all those food places, including roadside stalls, are so used to customers taking photos of food. They know it will go into foodie blogs!

    Ever notice how most Malaysian blogs are about food (though the ones about politics get more emotional response, lah)? Malaysians love our food. When there was a bomb scare at the KL Court Complex in 2007/2008, we ran out from the cafeteria carrying our teh tarik and currypuffs with us! Ha ha ha! Not even files are that important!

  4. Isn't it lovely how far a smile can bring you :). I think you do a great job by sharing all these interesting stories with us. I love to see Malaysia through your eyes. Have a wonderful week, my dear :)

  5. This is a wonderful post, thanks for sharing. Kindness is the best gift you can give.

  6. Nice to see the manual ice shaver, those olden days the guy selling chendol would shave the ice like on a small bench and I think its quite hard to see any of them anymore, maybe in smaller towns off KL. Thanks, nice interesting post.

  7. I love reading your blog. It is chuck full of interesting life, foods and so forth.

  8. i love this entry , it's tell a lot about our ordinary life as a malaysian and the people around it . Sometime there are great stories behind these ordinary people , you just have to keep your mind open and be patient in getting them to tell their story.

  9. Sunshine Girl, they are so part of our lives. These are the people we see every day and together we share our beloved Malaysia. I'm voting for you and giving you a 10 again!

  10. This is really beautiful and interesting post about hardworking ordinary people who works different job for their living or just to earn some extra money. I think that this idea to interview them is nice and kind and that you also made one of their work days more interesting and special in some way. I enjoyed this post and please tell those nice people that a woman from Sarajevo send a big hello to all of them.:-)

  11. Keats, life is a living if one make it happen. I admire them for taking their time and energy to actually doing some good work to earn a living. Happy Holiday!

  12. Hi
    Wan Hashim, yes, these people are a determined lot :))

    Bananaz, I enjoy lemang too. that makes two!

    ~Covert-Operations'78~, there's so much food to enjoy among Malaysians. I enjoy cendol very much too. the street life adds much to our Malaysian diversity.

    ROSIDAH, thanks!we love our foods = and the best can be found among these street stalls too.

    Pam, glad you enjoyed the post. stalls like these have always been around . when you visit malaysia, do try the cendol.

    CheaHS@n, you're right. we have to look for the bench in the smaller towns.always a delight to see one in use like in the good ol'days:))

    wenn, thanks for visiting .

    Lucy, glad you enjoy my blog. it's good to share what we have in malaysia - food, culture, etc. Mind you, the varieties of food will astound you!

    xplorer,i was really happy talking to these folks. they are humble and hard working.

    Autumn Belle, thanks for all the stars:)) we will really miss these folks when they fade away from our streets.

    medaM, gosh! wouldn't they love to hear your 'HELLO'. thanks very much for thinking of them:))

    Zue Murphy, yes, these people - Vicky, Malik, Suseela, Abdul Rahman, Lim, Anak work hard and make life just like anyone of us.

  13. I always love to see the 'every day' life of people in the streets.


Great to have you popping in!