Wednesday, March 18, 2015

[Special Edition] People, Places, Penang - The Tricycle Bread Seller

I may be asked about the rationale for writing a piece about a foreign island i.e. Why Penang Island rather than Singapore since my blog is called Singapore Trails. Is this a deviation from my original purpose of writing about Singapore?

Well, yes and no. You see, purists would say that Penang Island is no Singapore. But there are many similarities between these two islands, MANY! Penang is also a place where I can extrapolate what life was like in Singapore - the way we lived, the food we ate and the streets that we walked.

Penang Island is just about an hour plane ride from Singapore and we are privileged to be situated close to Georgetown, Penang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Being listed as a heritage site means that its architecture and cultural landscape will be largely protected against the rapid modernisation of towns and cities. In fast-paced Singapore, we can only catch hold of whatever remaining bits of heritage that we can hold on to.

Let me begin my story of Penang with the Tricycle Bread Seller.
The Tricycle Bread Seller 

In The back alley of Stewart Street

It was a pretty humid day and a yellow tricycle crawled into the back lane of Stewart Street. I'm sure that Mr Sekar, the owner of this "mobile office", had entered the lane to look for a reprieve from the blistering heat.

Me Sekar was keen to share his work. The bread on display were hygienically wrapped and were supplied by branded bread making companies. But what I was interested in was Mr Sekar's "ride". The lower cupboard stored his loaves of bread that he uses to create his mouth-watering kaya toast.

Mr Sekar shared about how he prepares the kaya toast
In the upper cupboard, Mr Sekar has his kaya and butter ready. The doors to the cupboard help to keep away the flies and dirt as he moves from street to street. As we said our farewells, Mr Sekar peddled off to hawk his "wares". There was a great sense of pride in what he does. Mr Sekar did not choose the easy way out by mounting his cupboards on motorcycles. Instead, he continues to serve the community by peddling his tricycle.  

Tricycle Bread Seller in Singapore

I asked Mr Sekar to pose with his tricycle. He did. I'm not sure if he knows that in Singapore, this trade is no longer in existence. So when was the last time we saw such a tricycle bread seller selling bread on the streets?

Well, it seems that the last captured image of such a bread seller in Singapore was in 1982.  (1) Though the mobile cupboards looked slightly different when I compared both the 1982 picture and the one that I'd taken recently, the concept of mounting these cupboards on a tricycle remains the same and Mr Sekar would not have looked out of place if we had placed him in the 1980s.


1. Pinsler, R. June 1, 1982. National Archives of Singapore. Retrieved on: March 19, 2015. 

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