Many of the shops in small towns along Federal Route 1 are dying, if not dead. Mr Yang, a long-time shopkeeper in Slim River town told me he is glad I am here to photograph the town now and not later. I asked why. He said if I were to come later, many more local old businesses will be shuttered or turned into something else.
It is not the new highways that are by-passing old towns or the shrinking population to be blamed, according to this old timer. The bitter truth is there are few young people interested in taking over a traditional family business. To blame other factors is to be in denial; said the man in honest introspection.
Be it a Chinese medical hall, an Indian grocer or a Malay tailor shop, the founder’s younger descendants see their future elsewhere. Mr Yang contends the new generation prefers a business with quick profits.
Nobody wants to idle away their lives stuck with a slow-moving business in a sleepy town. Old money has lost its charm; I added and he concurred.
To steer our conversation to a less-depressing subject, I asked him about remaining unique or interesting businesses in town.
Mr Yang smiled and asked me in Hokkien: “Lu wu chiak bangkali loti boh?” (Do you eat Bengali bread?)
He then pointed in the direction of a Indian-Muslim bread factory that is now in its third (and probably final) generation. I’ll visit it next.
Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 100, f4, 1/320 sec.