Served well by old faithful

For a neater finish: Haja Mohideen stitching songkok with the sewing machine his father bequeathed him at his shop in George Town. — Bernama

GEORGE TOWN: There isn’t an inheritance more precious for Penang songkok maker Haja Mohideen Mohd Shariff than the sewing machine he received from his father.

It had served his father many years after he opened Kedai Songkok OSM Mohd Shariff in King Street in 1936.

The machine was used to give fully handmade songkok a neater finish, said Haja Mohideen, 73, who started being his father’s apprentice after school hours when he was 12.

Today, the machine is still being used to fulfil songkok orders for Hari Raya.

“If it needs repair, I do it myself. It was with my late father for a long time and now it is serving me faithfully.

“So if it needs fixing, I know what to do.

“The machine has sentimental value, so I will not sell it.

“Someone once offered me RM3,000 for it but I declined, ” he said.

Haja Mohideen can be seen working tirelessly with the black sewing machine every day.

He recalled that when he was young, he was only permitted to cut the fabric for the songkok and do small tasks while his father did the stitching using the machine.

“Since small, I watched one songkok or tarboosh after another – that was made using this machine – being sold to customers.

“And till today, their descendants still patronise the shop (to get a songkok) for Hari Raya, engagement, school, etc.

“It gives me immense happiness, ” said Haja Mohideen.

He said the sewing machine was also used to make songkok worn by the Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail, Penang Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas, former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and several other VIPs.

Haja Mohideen, third in a family of seven children, said his father passed down the skills only to him.

He said that he joined the business after finishing school and that he was able to raise two children from the trade.

The songkok-making process begins with a frame which is an oval and rectangle cut from an 18-layered sandwich of newspaper, brown paper and cloth stitched together.

“This year, the demand is high, unlike last year when people were under a strict movement control order, ” said Haja Mohideen.

Hence, he and his apprentice Abdul Kader Mydin – who is also his son-in-law – will be working till Hari Raya to finish orders for the songkok which are priced between RM20 and RM45. — Bernama

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