Making good use of his skills

Spoilt for choice: Ruben and Kanamal busy preparing the different types of cookies at their home in Kampung Baru Sungai Lalang in Sungai Petani, Kedah. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

SUNGAI PETANI: When K. Hemarruben was asked to quit his job as a pastry commis at a hotel in May, he felt lost and confused.

With a 76-year-old grandmother to care for at home, the 23-year-old, who was born blind, knew it wouldn’t be easy to get another job due to his disability.

Luckily, Hemarruben met his childhood friend Lim Zhi Min, 22, who told him to make good use of his baking skills and start a home-based business in June.

The advice became one of the best things that he had received this year.

“On a normal month, I can earn about RM1,000 by selling cookies and cakes but since October, I have been receiving a lot more orders for Deepavali.

“These two weeks have been crazy as I am rushing to meet orders, ” Hemarruben said when met at his rented wooden house where he lives with his grandmother N. Kanamal in Kampung Baru, Sungai Lalang.

He first underwent an operation on both eyes when he was a seven-month-old baby.

He has limited vision in his left eye while the other eye could not be saved after the operation.

“In March last year, the nerve in my left eye severed and after an operation, the vision became poor and blurry. I am taking some eyedrops but doctors said I could not have anymore operations on my left eye as it would make it worse, ” he said.

Hemarruben bakes almond chocolate, peanut, green peas, cornflakes and coconut cookies, and butter, marble butter, sugee, chocolate, fruit, lemon, orange butter and coffee cakes.

His customers are from Penang, Kedah, Selangor and Negri Sembilan, and he delivers the cookies using Pos Laju with help from his friends.

Upon completing his secondary school at SMK Aman Jaya, he joined St Nicholas Home for the Blind in 2016 where he learnt pastry making.

“In June 2017, I joined a hotel in George Town where I did my practical for three months before joining the hotel in Batu Ferringhi in 2018 until I was asked to stop working in May, ” he said.

The ever-smiling Hemarruben said he would not have made it this far without Lim’s support and encouragement.

He has a special wish for Deepavali this year, that is to expand his business and to maybe open a bakery one day.

Kanamal said she was proud of her grandson as he did not wait for aid from others.

“His parents left him with me when he was only a three-day-old child. They never returned for him, ” said a teary-eyed Kanamal, who stopped working at a tea leaf-packing factory 16 years ago.

Kanamal thanked friends and supporters who had come forward to help them during difficult times.

Lim said Hemarruben had been known to be hardworking since young.

“In primary school, he always sat in the front row so that he could read what was written on the blackboard. All these years, I never took pity on him because I know that he is a very hardworking person who will never depend on anyone else for help.

“That is why I promised myself that I would help Ruben all the way until he is able to stand on his own two feet, ” Lim said, adding that once the movement control order is over, both he and Hemarruben plan to go to Kuala Lumpur to apply for a business licence and to look at other ventures.

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