In a world of thieves, murderers and people with general ill intent walking among us, the cendol man, like the ice-cream man, represents that which is wholesome and good.
Basulul Rahman Ahmad Basheer wasn’t born with a silver spoon in hand – like most cendol sellers. However, the 43-year-old basks in the glory of serving and does so with pride – his was not a job by default.
“I’m not shy to do this ... doing this I don’t need to resort to stealing or lying to make a living,” said the genial Ipoh-ite.
There is enterprise in his endeavour: when working at bookshops and the catering industry failed to provide for his wife and three kids, Basulul felt the writing was on the wall. He knew then (in 2007) that he needed to start a business if he were to feed four mouths.
Naturally, hard work was going to be par for the course, but neither the tedium of food preparation nor the rigmarole of serving deterred him.
At the end of every work day, he prepares his brown sugar (a composite of four different varieties) for the following day.
“I mix the coconut milk in the morning because it needs to be fresh,” he revealed. The cendol itself is made by his relatives.
Typical operation hours are from 11am to 6.30pm, where, not only parents picking up their kids at the nearby Tarcisian Convent primary and secondary schools are customers, but, nearly every individual with an unquenchable thirst (and sweet tooth), makes a pit stop.
Basulul is quick with his pleasantries and earnest in sharing his life stories, but trials and tribulations aside, it’s really the quality of his ware that does most of the talking.
A straight up cendol “biasa” is a gastronomic delight, and the constant patronage of clients is proof.
Plying Ipoh alone does not pay the bills sufficiently, so, he takes on catering jobs (weddings, parties, functions, etc.) within the state.
“But I have gone as far as Lee Rubber (in Setapak, Selangor), where I catered for a wedding reception,” he shared with pride.
Failing to become a kabaddi player or a religious teacher (his two early ambitions) has not held him back in any way to becoming an outstanding member of society.
Today, he is not only the bureau head and assistant treasurer for Dewan Perniagaan India Muslim Perak (Perak Indian Muslim Chamber of Commerce), but also, the chairman of community cooperative Koperasi Nurul Huda.
Basulul is resolute in his belief that the definition of happiness is not discovering that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but adhering to some of the most basic human values: “Earn an honest living, and don’t let your ego get the better of you.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.