There may be little glitz and glamour to being a vegetable seller, but there’s plenty of pride and dignity for Jeyagobi Karuppiah in knowing that he and his family have fed many mouths in Ipoh for more than half a century.
The 53-year-old inherited his dad’s vegetable stall, based in the city’s central market, back in 1988. As a 25-year-old then, he had to learn the ropes fast.
“My father started his business in 1948, when he was also delivering newspapers,” said the genial trader.
According to Jeyagobi, his dad had many VIP customers, which invariably meant that the quality of his produce had to be top notch. Times have changed though, and individual customers are few and far between these days. The stall now largely serves restaurants and the catering industry.
The stall has all manner of vegetables – from the greens of ladies’ fingers, through to grain and powdered spices. “Our vegetables come from Cameron Highlands while the grain and powder are sourced from India and Turkey.
“We also get supplies from Penang,” said the former St Michael’s Institution student.
This is all backbreaking work, and only the fittest can survive the gruelling schedule. His stall opens from 6.30am, and the evenings never arrive soon enough, it seems, with work concluding at least 12 hours later.
Even in the face of changing times, there is still a sense of continuity for him and his family. Slowly but surely, he is handing the reins of the business to his second son (he has two boys and a girl), 28-year-old Mithunbarathi.
“We get special requests from hotels for supplies, too. My son handles that, while I continue to attend to restaurants,” revealed Jeyagobi. And with that, he went back to his job of minding the stall. After all, Ipoh’s growing population still needs to be fed.
The Paper’s People is a weekly column which introduces Malaysia-based everyday folk, doing what they love. If you have any person to recommend, e-mail us at email@example.com.