For better or for worse

Once described as a gold mine, businesses in both Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion are no longer drawing the crowd.

TAILOR Vimala Devi Ramayah, 66, was spotted meticulously sewing saree blouses in her small shop on the second floor of the Malayan Mansion in Masjid India, Kuala Lumpur.

Bent over her old sewing machine, she barely noticed when the StarMetro team walked into her humble yet charming establishment called Valli Tailors.

Vimala’s 37-year-old tailor daughter, Jeyamalar Balasubramaniam, also looked up, offered a smile and continued with her sewing.

Both women were engrossed in the task at hand — stitching saree blouses for an upcoming wedding — which is a rarity these days.

After Malayan Mansion and its twin Selangor Mansion were placed under the enhanced movement control order in April last year following 15 Covid-19 positive cases, businesses were hit hard.

Even after the MCO was lifted on May 3, the situation continued to go downhill.

Vimala and Jeyamalar have not paid the rent for three months due to poor business. — Photos: SAMUEL ONG/The StarVimala and Jeyamalar have not paid the rent for three months due to poor business. — Photos: SAMUEL ONG/The Star

About 2,500 residents were affected, and at that time, about 90% of the residents there were foreigners from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Indonesia and Myanmar who worked in the area.

Vimala said their business had not recovered, even after a year.

“We used to be so busy with wedding orders and alteration works. Now there are hardly any customers, ” she said, adding that she got lucky with a last-minute order for saree blouses for a wedding.

“People simply stopped coming here. I owe my landlord three months’ rent and it is a daily struggle to make even RM1, ” she said.

Vimala has been renting the unit since 2002, and business used to be so good over the years.

She was able to pay the RM3,000 rent as there was a steady stream of customers.

Over at Selangor Mansion, lunch hour at Adira Mess pre-MCO used to mean the place was full to the brim.

“It was so packed that people would wait in line for a seat, ” said Mano who runs the restaurant serving Indian cuisine.

“But after the first lockdown last year, business dropped by 70%. We have not recovered ever since, ” Mano said.

“No one comes in, even during lunch hour. Those who do, pack their food, ” he said, adding that people were still fearful of the coronavirus.

Thani says business at his sundry shop suffered a 60% drop.Thani says business at his sundry shop suffered a 60% drop.

On the ground floor of Selangor Mansion, sundry shop keeper Thani Gasalam, 60, echoed Vimala and Mano’s sentiments.

“Business is slow, I would say it is down by 60%.

“We may be located in an area that some may describe as a gold mine, but without customers, it is worthless. People just stopped coming here since the lockdown, ” he lamented.

Down the corridor, other commercial shops run by dobhis, tailors and travel agents are still closed.

Many have moved out of the buildings, while those who are still there use their units as a storage facility.

Both buildings were built in 1969, and have eight storeys each. There are 18 commercial units on the ground floor and another 18 on the second floor. The rest are residential units with each level having 20 units.

StarMetro saw cleaners appointed by United Malayan Realty Sdn Bhd — the management company of both flats — busy washing and scrubbing the area.

“Every day, each level is given a good scrubbing, ” said Mohd Abdul Hakim Mohd, who works as a chargeman for the company.

“We cannot compromise on cleanliness. It has been a challenge to get the tenants to cooperate but we are seeing improvements, ” Mohd Abdul said.

“However, no matter how much we do here, there will always be some bad apples who throw rubbish, ” he said.

The two buildings get a good scrub three times a day by cleaners hired by the management company.The two buildings get a good scrub three times a day by cleaners hired by the management company.

Mohd Abdul and his colleague Kathigesu Thuraisamy spend the day going around the two flats to ensure that everything is in order.

Armed with a hand sanitiser and a disinfectant spray bottle, they spray the lift buttons and wipe down staircase railings.

“We need to set an example and if people see us doing this, they will do it themselves, ” said Mohd Abdul.

“Sometimes we clean in the morning and by the afternoon, there is rubbish. If we catch the culprits, we will tell them off, ” he said.

“Things have changed here and it will probably never be the same again, at least for a long time.

“We cannot live like before, throwing rubbish everywhere and not wearing masks. It is no longer an acceptable lifestyle, ” he added.

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