Malaysian retiree runs three businesses to keep busy after retirement

Zaleha has over 50 boxes of antique items in her home. Photo: The Star/Sheela Chandran

For 40 years, Zaleha Tasrib, 62, worked as a photographer at Muzium Negara in Kuala Lumpur. Throughout her career, she travelled all across Malaysia, taking photos and documenting them for the museum.

Now that she’s retired, Zaleha has found a great way to fill her time by engaging in something else that brings her joy. While some seniors may choose a life of leisure after retirement, Zaleha refuses to rest or relax in the comfort of her home.

She runs a bookstore – Koleksi Bonda Zaleha Enterprise – in Bangi Gateway, Bandar Baru Bangi, Kuala Lumpur. She also sells antiques at flea markets across the Klang Valley.

Zaleha has over 1,000 books, with various genres ranging from Malay history, textile to culture in her collection. Photos: Zaleha TasribZaleha has over 1,000 books, with various genres ranging from Malay history, textile to culture in her collection. Photos: Zaleha Tasrib

She has collected over 1,000 books and 2,000 antique items, which she accumulated over the course of her four decades working at the national museum.

“I started buying books to use as references in my work. I was also encouraged to buy antique items by the late Datuk Shahrum Yub, Muzium Negara’s former director-general.

“Over time, I has just too many books in my home. Worried they’d be eaten by termites and silverfish, I decided to open up a bookstore in 2018 to share my wide collection of books with others. Every book and every artefact has a story to tell. And it is my mission to ensure that these stories are not forgotten,” says Zaleha during an interview in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Retiring into entrepreneurship

Her bookstore isn’t just about business. Instead, for the mother of five, it is a labour of love and a way to preserve and share the stories of the past with future generations.

“My work at the museum instilled in me the importance of preserving our heritage. Opening this store seemed like a natural progression for me.”

Many book enthusiasts frequent Zaleha’s bookstore because she carries work covering a wide range of genres. Photo:  Bangigatewaybukusejarah/InstagramMany book enthusiasts frequent Zaleha’s bookstore because she carries work covering a wide range of genres. Photo: Bangigatewaybukusejarah/InstagramHer books (mainly in Bahasa Malaysia and English) come in various genres ranging from Malay history, textile, culture to fiction. She also offers encyclopedias, magazines and reading material on Islamic history. Most of her customers are university students and vintage book collectors.

“Some buyers like old books that are hard to find. These books are expensive, ranging from RM200 to RM1,000. As these books were published before the 20th century, they are not easy to come by,” she explains.

She shares photos of her books on Instagram. Despite the growing availability of e-books, Zaleha notes that there remains a steady demand for vintage physical books, particularly those that are out of print.

“While the landscape of book buying is evolving, many old books continue to hold value for both younger and older generations. This trend is reflected in the increasing sales of rare books, especially those no longer found on the market.

“There are also those who come to my house to view antique items and purchase them,” says Zaleha, who was born and raised in Batu Pahat, Johor.

‘Read more to keep the mind working,’ says Zaleha.‘Read more to keep the mind working,’ says Zaleha.She finds joy in running her little businesses as it keeps her busy post retirement.

“If I don’t keep active in my retirement, I will spend extra time sleeping (laughs). I don’t want any sickness to come my way so it is best to keep active.

“Retirement is not the end of the road; it’s a new beginning. There’s still so much to explore, so much to create. Why stop now?”

To replenish her stock for books and antique wares, Zaleha is constantly sniffing things out from different sources, including Facebook groups, acquaintances dealing in books and antiques. Additionally, she explores local book and antique fairs.

“When it comes to old books, I make sure they’re in good shape with all their pages and covers intact, and free from bugs or water damage. And when looking for antiques, I focus on items that still work well and look nice, avoiding fake ones. I try to get a fair price based on how good a shape they are in,” shares the former student of SMK Semerah in Batu Pahat, Johor.

It’s never too late

The Johorean mainly sells her antique items at flea markets around the Klang Valley. Among them are brassware, ranging from traditional tepak sireh (a Malay traditional metal container for storing betel leaves), cook ware, candlestands and charcoal irons.

Her collection showcases treasures sourced from all over Malaysia, namely from Terengganu, Melaka, and Sarawak, complemented by select pieces sourced from Indonesia and Cambodia.

'Retirement is not the end of the road, it's a new beginning,' says Zaleha. Photo: The Star/Sheela Chandran'Retirement is not the end of the road, it's a new beginning,' says Zaleha. Photo: The Star/Sheela Chandran“I have over 50 boxes of antique items in my home. I bought many of these items from friends, during my outstation work trips as well as online.” She has been selling antique goods at flea markets in the Klang Valley for six years.

“My customers comprise people of different ages. There are many young adults who are interested to purchase items like old fashioned kerosene lamps, coconut scrapers, congkak, and tiffin carriers. The kuih bahulu brass moulds are one of the top sellers,” shares the grandmother of three.

Busy bee

Zaleha doesn’t like to waste any time and says that she’s always “on the move” doing different things just to keep busy.

Since 2005, she’s been running a home-based business selling homemade currypuffs.

“I have always had a side business... even while holding a full time job at the museum. Years ago, I worked as a part-time seamstress, stitching clothes and curtains. I then started a home business selling crockery. Later, I ventured into the food business, selling curry puffs, cookies and rendang. Now that I have retired, I am focusing on just three things – my bookstore, selling antiques and my currypuff business,” she says.

Zaleha is so used to her hectic working life that she cannot not be busy.Zaleha is so used to her hectic working life that she cannot not be busy.Zaleha says that she’s too used to being active to relax.

“I’m used to keeping a routine and filling my time with productive activities. After dawn, I start my day by making about 1kg of pastry for currypuffs. Once that’s done, I cook meals for my family, then I go to the bookstore from Mondays to Thursdays. It is closed on Fridays. My kids manage the bookstore on the weekends. If there’s an antique event on weekends, one of my daughters will accompany me. That’s my routine as a retiree and business owner.”

She thinks it’s important for seniors to stay active after retirement.

“Stay healthy by exercising. Read more to keep the mind working. Most importantly, do what you love to stay happy. Find a hobby that interests you. It could be gardening, crafting or spending time with your grandchildren and children. Go travelling, if possible,” concludes Zaleha.

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

Senior , Zaleha Tasrib , Books , Antiques


Next In People

Slovenia's 'umbrella doctor' weathers the economic storm
2 Malaysian women gear up for a six-day, 2,005km bike ride across the country
StarSilver: Old age – Are we there yet?
Malaysian sculptor collects scrap metal, transforms them into artwork
Video of Malaysian chef promoting a blind tutor’s services goes viral
Heart and Soul: Teachers Day – Musings from an English language teacher
Boon of being offline: How 'phubbing' can be bad for your career and family life
Malaysian embarks on solo trip around the world in his Perodua Kenari
This Philly bus driver is also a substitute teacher and public transit activist
Syrians turning to drugs to escape the misery of an ongoing civil war

Others Also Read