Wednesday, August 6, 2008

When Prices Rise

Someone once said when you start seeing makeshift food stalls sprouting all over, particularly in front of not-so-humble abodes, it is an indication that the hard times are back.

I don't know how far this is true but I did see this phenomenon onwards of 1998 in the middle-class township of Subang Jaya where I then resided.

All of a sudden, there were stalls upon stalls selling all kinds of food in my erstwhile neighbourhood, from breakfast fare nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut gravy) to teatime treats pisang goreng (banana fritters) and kuih muih (desserts & sweetmeats), to convenient takeaways such as burgers.

All that was needed were a sturdy table, an umbrella big enough to cover the table and a couple of chairs, and perseverence, and a business was born.

I have yet to see this happening anywhere near Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI). Then again, the largely silver-haired population of TTDI comprising government pensioners and well-heeled wargamas (senior citizens), are already a self-sufficient lot, their toiling days a distant memory.

While taking a breather at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC) yesterday evening, I fell into conversation with Asmadi, one of the waiters whom I know quite well.

The affable and soft-spoken Asmadi, who hails from Kelantan, has been with the club for more than a decade. In his mid 30s, Asmadi is a father of three, with the fourth on the way.

Since traffic was slow in the lounge, we had plenty of time to talk. Like everybody else these days, we commiserated about the escalating food prices and the looming hardship.

His wife quit her work to take care of their children. Her working wasn't worth it, he says, because there was hardly any money left after paying the babysitters, her meals and transportation to and from work.

He worries about not earning enough to support his growing family. He says he needs a side income to supplement his meagre salary. "I don't know kak, maybe open a foodstall somewhere," he vaguely adds.

"I have been learning in the club kitchen too, kak, just in case an opportunity presents itself to run my own little makan place," he confides with a smile.

I can only hope that such an opportunity comes his way soon enough. He is a likeable, hard-working young man who deserves every chance to make it during these increasingly difficult times.

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