Spicing up a 65-year bond

(From left) Kathiresen and Thanasegaran receiving containers filled with Nasi Briyani, Mysore Mutton, Ayam Masak Merah and Dalca from Azrul Gani and Mohamed Azhari for Hari Raya at their Ocean View apartment unit in Karpal Singh Drive. — Photo: CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

TWO families are living up to the true spirit of friendship as according to the saying ‘true friends never apart, maybe in distance but never in heart’.

Both families have been keeping their friendship alive for more than 65 years, and the close relationship is being continued by the younger generation.

Octogenarian M. Kathiresen, 84, recalled the first time he met the nasi kandar legend, the late Mohamed Ibrahim Dawood who made the former Craven Cafe restaurant in Jalan Datuk Keramat, Penang, a favourite go-to place for the public, ministers and even royalty such as Raja of Perlis Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the film legend Tan Sri P. Ramlee.

“Mohamed Ibrahim and his brother Aboo Haniffa were managing the restaurant at that time.

“I was a student in the 1950s and I would normally sit at the roundabout near the restaurant, listening to the records being played in the restaurant.

“Craven Cafe was among the first 24-hour nasi kandar restaurant in Penang. Even during the May 13 riots, the restaurant remained open,” said the retired Penang Municipal Council health department overseer.

Kathiresen added that he became close to Mohamed Ibrahim and Aboo Haniffa because of their interest in politics.

“The relationship between my family and their family also grew closer over the years.

“Sadly, Aboo Haniffa passed away in the 1970s followed by Mohamed Ibrahim in 2002,” he said.

Despite the passing of Kathiresen’s two friends, Mohamed Ibrahim and Aboo Haniffa’s nephew Mohamed Azhari Mydin Gani, 54, kept the relationship alive through visits and goodwill gestures.

Mohamed Azhari said his family moved to Kuala Lumpur after the three Craven restaurants in Penang closed down in 2007, adding that his family still had a Craven Cafe operating in Bukit Antarabangsa, Selangor.

“I chose to remain in Penang with my wife and children.

“So, we would bring food to Uncle Kathiresen’s house during Hari Raya and he would bring cookies to our place during Deepavali.

“We also visit each other occasionally. We encourage our children to keep this special relationship intact,” he said.

Mohamed Azhari and his son Azrul Gani, 14, were at Kathiresen’s home at the Ocean View apartment in Karpal Singh Drive on the first day of Hari Raya.

Sharing the moment were Kathiresen’s wife P. Saroja, 77, son Thanasegaran, 48, grandsons Javed, 13, and Shastri, six.

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