Granny toils to make ends meet


Freshly packed: Murugammah promoting her salted fish and other dried ­seafood products at her stall at the Ayer Itam market in Penang. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: The struggle is real for S. Murugammah, 61, as she lugs up to 10kg of salted fish, dried shrimp and anchovies all the way from Nibong Tebal to the Ayer Itam market every Sunday.

The grandmother starts her 48km journey by bicycle at 5am from her home to the bus stand where she boards a bus to the ferry terminal.

She then hops onto a ferry which takes her over to Penang island and goes on another bus ride to the market.

The commute that takes her three hours one way sometimes only earns her slightly more than her bus fare for the day.

At the Ayer Itam market on Sunday, Murugammah was seen trying to attract customers to buy her products despite the heat and humidity.

When the heat becomes too much, she packs up and crosses the road to set up her tiny stall under the shade to prevent the salted fish from going bad.

“Since the pandemic, I am struggling to make ends meet.

“For about four years, I used to commute almost every day to the island and set up my stall at the Jelutong market or Ayer Itam market.

“But when the Covid-19 cases went up, I was afraid to come over to the island.

“Now I set up my stall at the Jelutong market on Saturdays and on Sundays, I am here at the Ayer Itam market.

“I am lucky if on some days I make just enough to cover my expenses, ” she said, adding that she usually sells her products door-to-door at her housing area in Nibong Tebal on weekdays.

Murugammah said she made about RM150 a week and used the money to pay her rent and bills.

“The balance is used to restock my supplies and to give to my grandson.

“He has just finished his SPM and wants to further his studies.

“My daughter works but as a grandmother, I want to give him some money, ” she said.

Murugammah cycles to Parit Buntar in Perak to get her supplies.

“It is tiring but my supplier is there and I need to get my stock.

“Sometimes if there is a friend who goes there, he helps me get my supplies but if not, I go on my own.

“It is not an easy life after my husband died of cancer 29 years ago. I have been doing this for the past eight years.

“I did try selling different things but this business seems to be the one that gives me some profit.

“Now, however, business is not good and I am finding it difficult to make ends meet, ” she lamented.

Murugammah lives a simple life, spending her free time listening to the radio.

She said that on weekends when she crosses over to the island, she wakes up at 4am to leave her house by 5am.

She gets back home around 3pm as she sometimes misses the bus.

“By the time I am back home, I am exhausted.

“I am no longer young, so it is taking a toll on me. I just need to make ends meet and manage.

“I do hope business picks up soon as it is tiring to lug back the items that I didn’t manage to sell, ” she said.

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