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All aboard

IF taking the train is part of your everyday commute, it is probably another mundane task to get through. However, films often use it to create memorable moments.

A simple train ride can be a heart-thumping experience in an action film, or a romantic encounter when meeting a random stranger in the confines of a train car.

With a host of possibilities, here are some of our favourite movies that use trains to move the plot forward.

Romantic film Before Sunrise (1995) begins with a chance meeting between Jesse and Celine on a train, who connect emotionally over a short conversation.

It is enough for Jesse to suggest at the last minute for her to disembark with him in Vienna. From there, they spend their time together wandering from place to place talking about life and love. When it is time for Jesse to take his flight back, their connection makes it harder for them to part.

Step in for a magical journey with The Polar Express (2004). Here, the unnamed hero boy doubts the existence of Santa Claus until an astonishing event — he is invited aboard a steam engine train where he will arrive at North Pole.

Of course, this is no ordinary ride as it takes him through tunnels and across frozen, glacial lakes. He also makes friends with the other children who help get rid of his doubts.

Naive American man Roy and his wife who is haunted by her past as a bad girl decide to travel to Russia after a volunteer stint. Called Transsiberian (2008), it features the famous Trans-Siberia Express.

The journey becomes a thrilling chase of deception and murder when drugs are found in her bag after it was being planted by cabin companions Carlos and Abby. To make matters worse, Roy befriended narcotics officer Grinko who happens to be on board.

On a train in India called The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Peter Whitman reunites with his brothers Francis and Jack. They have not seen each other since their father’s funeral a year prior and this meeting is also to visit their mother who did not turn up during the funeral.

Throughout the movie, viewers learn that the train does not only serve as a mode of transportation. It is used as a journey of self-discovery and reconciliation as the brothers experience animosity between them.

Four criminals led by Ryder hijack a subway train in The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009). He then called the subway control centre resulting in the operator Walter Garber talking to him.

That turns an ordinary day’s work into a face-off with the mastermind as the criminals demand ransom. Soon, Garber learns that this is just a scheme to manipulate stock markets as news of the hostage situation sends it tumbling down. Now, the motive is blurred and Garber is still caught in between.

This week, catch The Girl on the Train based on the best-selling novel of the same title, which follows the story of Rachel Watson. She takes the train to work every day fantasising about a young couple living down the street from her ex-husband.

One day, she sees something shocking and is filled with rage, but she is unable to remember anything the next morning. Yet, she finds herself entangled in a mystery that promises to forever alter the lives of everyone involved.

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Delicious win for food loving duo

SELF-PROCLAIMED foodies Jules Lee and Stacey Chan were fascinated when they watched the “Battle of the Chefs” competition in 2014 that they decided to enter the competition two years later. It paid off as they beat nine formidable teams to win the gold medal in the Traditional Nyonya Cuisines category.

The event, part of the biennial Asia Food Festival, was held at the SPICE arena in Bayan Lepas, Penang.

To add icing to the cake, the duo beat celebrity chefs, restaurant and hotel chefs to be the only gold medal winners in the category.

Chefs had to cook, in teams of two, seven dishes — appetiser, soup, two main dishes, a vegetable dish, a rice dish and a dessert — in two hours.

Some of the criteria included taste, professional preparation, and presentation.

The pair entered the fray for the first time since its inauguration in 1988 and the event has been growing tougher every two years.

This year more than 1,200 chefs from 32 countries participated to vie for the 65 categories over three days.

“After three months of preparation we believed we can beat the odds and achieve our goal of being champions,” said the duo.

To prepare, they practised once a month.

Born in Kelantan, Chan honed her nyonya cooking skills from her grandmother, mother and a distant relative who passed down their nyonya kuih cooking skills to the younger generation who were interested to learn.

After completing her tertiary studies Chan landed a job at a Penang-based US multi-national company where she met Lee.

Penang-born Lee also came from a family steeped in the rich history of nyonya cooking and she honed her skills observing her mother, grandmother and aunt.

“We discussed in detail the ingredients, garnishing and overall presentation. We brought along more than 100 items (ingredients and food) to the battleground.

“We however told ourselves to enjoy the experience,” said Chan.

After the smoke had settled the competitors had to wait anxiously for 24 hours before the results were announced the following day.

“We did it! We won! It was a dream come true and we felt honoured to win against all odds,” said Lee. — By Paul Toh

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Lone voice in comics

IN the 1950s, the feminist movement rallied around a quote that expressed frustration over the lack of platforms for expression and access to spaces — “The personal is political and the political became art.”

A pre-independent Malaya saw only one woman comic artist: Nor Zaharah Abdullah, better known as Nora Abdullah.

Malaysia’s first woman cartoonist started her career in comic as young as 15. Growing up in Kelantan, her first comic was published in 1955 and it was none other than a story about the legendary Kelantanese queen, Cik Siti Wan Kembang.

At a time when comics was still a new form of art, Nora realised that she was the only woman in her chosen passion and how important her voice was in the creative field.

Inspired by Batman and Superman comics, she recognised the comic form as a powerful storytelling device and started using this method to tell tales of local mythology surrounding femininity and motherhood, as well as stories about conflicts in modern society.

Feminist art might not exist in Malaya, but Nora was acutely unaware that her work, her expression and creative manifestation is feminist.

She published 12 comics in total and continued to publish under Geliga Press Singapura until 1961. In the 1980s, her comics appeared again in magazines such as Gila-Gila and Salina.

While the male viewpoint is continually unconsciously accepted as the default viewpoint of creative history, the works of artists such as Nora should be celebrated. She is one of the very few female artists of pre-independence — possibly the only one in graphic design.

Ezrena is founder of Malaysia Design Archive, a space to trace and document Malaysian design legacy. Find us on Facebook,
Instagram and Twitter.

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Third-generation foodie gem

RESIDENTS of Taman Ehsan and Desa Jaya in Kepong are very much acquainted with Woo Ng Kee’s restaurant, situated at the town’s centre.

Likewise, the restaurant owners have been around long enough to see some customers grow up.

“My mom said she’s seen people come in with their children and she’s seen them grow up and have children of their own,” said its current owner Woo Chan Wai, 29.

His mother, Lee Chin Me, is the cashier there. His father Woo Hee Chow, 64, who inherited the restaurant from his father, passed it down to Chan Wai.

Ng Kee started serving delectable Chinese food in Pudu, Kuala Lumpur, over 70 years ago.

Ng Kee — Chan Wai’s grandfather — made sure to keep the business within the family.

He died in 2004 in his 80s, by which time Chan Wai and Hee Chow were already involved in the business.

“I started helping out at the shop when I was 13 and carried on after I left school,” said Chan Wai.

“This has always been a family business and I know that this is what I want to do.”

The business moved to Kepong in 1988 and has been there since.

“I remember we started at this site with half a shoplot. Today, we have three.”

The secret to sustaining the business this long? The bosses work too.

Chan Wai and his father are both chefs and they make sure that the food is kept consistent.

“If you compare the food quality from 30 years to 10 years ago and now, it is the same. That’s how we control the quality of the food. You also need to be very hardworking,” said Chan Wai.

“When it comes to working with family, it is important to speak up and talk about issues, instead of keeping them bottled up.”

While patrons may have different opinions on what is the restaurant’s
best dish, Chan Wai said their best-selling item was a braised pork leg dish that was available only during festive seasons.

“We don’t have it year round, just during Chinese New Year and other selected festivals, to cater to the families that come and dine with us.

“It is a family-oriented business and people come here for birthdays, weddings and any other celebratory occasion, and we are happy to have them.”

Having worked the family business officially for nine-and-a-half years, he said the best-selling everyday dishes were roasted duck, fish head curry and claypot kangkung.

Chan Wai added that the biggest challenge currently was to keeping prices reasonable for the community.

“The economy is not very good right now and setting the prices for the dishes is challenging.

“We try to maintain prices as low as we can for as long as we can.”

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Gift of clean water

THE adage “necessity is the mother of invention” was proven right when Ganesh Muren designed and built a solar powered water purification unit able to deliver clean drinking water in six months as his final year project.

Hardworking and humble, Ganesh recalls watching his parents strive hard to provide for him and his siblings. His father worked in a mechanical lab and his mother did odd jobs to help make ends meet.

At a young age, Ganesh realised how much his mother sacrificed by working as a janitor at education centres so the children would be able to study for free.

“My mother always stressed that education was the only way we could break free from the poverty cycle. When I was nine, I cought grasshoppers to sell to my neighbours and schoolmates for extra pocket money.

“After completing my diploma in mechanical engineering, I was offered a scholarship from Inti International University to pursue a degree,” said Ganesh.

As a student in 2013, Ganesh tagged along with a friend who did volunteer work and met an isolated a community of 25 Orang Asli families living in a village without running water or electricity just an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur.

His initial thoughts were to help the villagers — little did he know the encounter would define his career.

He visited several homes in the village and befriended a six-year-old child, Mira who was having diarrhoea daily due to the contaminated drinking water.

Ganesh went back to university to design a water purification system that could run without electricity. When he returned to the village four months later, he found out that Mira had died due to excessive diarrhoea.

Ganesh was devastated at the news but was encouraged and mentored by his college’s chief executive officer Rohit Sharma to complete his invention. Rohit sought collaboration from the university’s departments and industry partners to help.

Looking back now, Ganesh realised that the little knowledge he had and knew was enough to start changing lives.

“I turned my focus around and used my energy to make a big difference in the lives of others. I realised that I couldn’t wait for a better time or a better person to come along. I just had to do it.”

It was this mingling and bouncing off ideas at the institution’s mentorship programme that Ganesh met Jeyasothy Palakrishnar and Andreas Vogiatzakis who were there to challenge his ideas and motivate him.

“Both my mentors practised tough love when they had to in order to push me out of my comfort zone as a student and embark on a journey as a social entrepreneur.

“When I started Saora Industries in 2014, we were very lucky to have the support of Brahmal Vasudevan from Creador who also believed in our cause. I am very thankful to these individuals who believed in me from the very beginning.”

Set up as a social enterprise, the company’s mission is to change and uplift lives through technology and its priority is in bringing out positive impact to the communities.

The focus is in expanding the access safe drinking water and providing basic solar lighting to rural and marginalised communities.

“We manage projects from corporate funders. The fundings are used to purchase, install and service water purification units in the 10 project sites located mostly in Sarawak with a few in Pahang and Negri Sembilan, which adds up to approximately 3,200 individuals.

“We are currently developing more affordable solutions to expand our outreach programmes, and focus and strengthen these areas of operations before expanding our services into other industries.”

Ganesh’s invention was showcased to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak during the inaugural launch of the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre by US President Barack Obama recently.

His work has received recognition from Stanford and Harvard universities, among others. Ganesh has also received the Best Innovative Project Award by the Institute of Engineers Malaysia.

Ganesh continues to work alongside academicians, field experts and organisations to research and develop solutions towards clean and safe drinking water for rural communities.

When asked how it was like to come full circle and to share a little bit about Mira’s family and their life now, Ganesh said he did not think her story would touch so many individuals and garner attention that set off a chain of positive events. Mira’s father was offered a job with a steady income and his family moved to live in a nearby town.

“It’s sad that it took a tragedy to bring about attention and a change of fortune to the family,” Ganesh said.

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They don’t come doughtier than Johnny

AZIZ JOHNNY MCGOVERN, who died in Taiping on Aug 18 at the age of 91, was not the last member of that vanishing breed: the British planter.

There are now a very few left of that coterie, either in Malaysia, or Australia to which several have emigrated over the years, or back in Britain from which nearly all of them had emerged as young men seeking to make a name and fortune in colonial Malaya.

As empire waned and the newly independent Malayan nation became self-directing, the expatriate planter receded into the historical mists, a figure more accessible in the short stories of W. Somerset Maugham than at the social and golf clubs where he was wont to congregate.

There are no records by which to ascertain this, but the fact the two other Brtitish planters, both younger, were at Johnny’s 90th birthday dinner in mid-June last year which friends hosted for him in Taiping (Gordon MacQuistan and Howard Sargeant are still around) confirms that the man addressed plainly as Johnny was the not the last Mohican of that genre.

He certainly, though, must have been its doughtiest.

After breaking a thigh bone at the age of 88, he went on to live another three years. Wizened octogenarians rarely survive for long after they have sustained a break to the femur.

Johnny, whose wife Bedah died in 2000, was living alone in Taiping when he fell in his house one evening while trying to fetch a drink from the kitchen.

His bad luck he hadn’t strapped his handphone to his belt pouch that day.

Thus he lay helpless on the floor for 19 hours before a concerned friend who had been calling his number in vain from mid-morning decided to check on him the following day, and called an ambulance.

You have to be the hardy sort to endure travail such as this, with the stiff upper lip of colonial lore firmly in place. Of Johnny you could say he was to the hardy manner born.

Coming from a poor family with 11 siblings, he learnt toughness on the gritty backstreets of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he was born on June 15, 1925.

In those times, education for the poor was rudimentary at best and job opportunities dim for those without tertiary qualifications.

So what is a youth to do on leaving school? Join the armed services, which was what young Johnny did.

It was World War II and the Canadian Air Force was recruiting. Johnny was taken to Canada and trained as a bombardier.

After that he was sent to Calcutta, accompanying bombing missions to Myanmar where the British were attempting to beat back the occupying Japanese.

On one mission his plane crash-landed in a padi field, but Johnny was unscathed.

War’s end in 1945 had him looking for gainful employment in Pune in India and later in Calcutta where the violence that accompanied the Partition of India in 1947 convinced him that he should look elsewhere for his sustenance.

Sugar manufacturing company Tate & Lyle was looking for young men to work on sugarcane plantations in British Guyana to which Johnny sailed and stayed there until 1952 when he heard that young assistant planters were sorely needed in Malaya where the rubber industry was experiencing a boom because of the Korean War.

Johnny worked up from assistant planter with Harrisons & Crosfield in places like Bahau, Negri Sembilan, before becoming a full-fledged manager in Batu Kurau, Perak.

Meanwhile, he met and married Bedah Nor, a Jitra-born lady who soon learnt from Johnny all the western dishes he was fond of while being a smash at her native Malay ones.

Their Aidlfitri open house was the locus of friends in Taiping where the couple bought a house in the 1970s.

Unable to have children of their own, the pair adopted two girls, Zarina and Fiona, and raised them till they went to university in Australia in the 1990s where after graduating, the girls met and married Caucasian spouses.

By the late 1970s, Johnny had accumulated such a wealth of experience in plantation agriculture that he was hired by the World Bank as an adviser on some agri-based projects.

But he missed out on a hypothetical pot of gold in 1979 when his younger brother, Colin, an accountant who had migrated from Edinburgh to Sydney, won the rights to dispense the Kentucky Fried Chicken business in East Asia and the Pacific.

Colin asked Johnny if he was interested to operate the franchise for Malaysia but the bluntly speaking elder sibling chortled, “What do I know of chickens?”

The franchise went instead to Loo Cheng Ghee who went on to butt heads with big names on the socio-political landscape before his untimely death from cancer in the 1980s.

After Bedah’s death, Johnny went on to work for big bucks in Indonesia, overseeing huge acreages of oil palm in Sumatra before finally calling it quits in 2005.

A decision to stay with his daughters in Sydney in 2006 did not pan out. He moved to an apartment but the rent of A$300 (RM945) per week was immolating.

He hastened back to Taiping, where though lonely, he was nevertheless happy with his friends, spending his leisure time at the New Club Taiping.

He recovered quickly enough from the broken leg he suffered in 2013, and celebrated is 90th birthday in typically convivial style.

He was buried beside his wife’s grave in Jitra, as he had wished.

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‘Hope’ comes in all colours

TIRED of her corporate job, Sharmila Ramanathan, 26, started an online fashion business called NativesMY, which was launched recently featuring models you have probably never seen before — they are all transgender and refugee women.

Sharmila said she invited the women to model her collection — a fusion of Indian and Western design called “HOPE” in time for Deepavali celebrations — to give them a chance to shine.

“I believe this is the first fashion show that has ever featured four transgender and one refugee women as models and to walk on the runway where they can showcase their talent.

“I chose to work with these lovely ladies after being involved with the community when I was attached to an international non-profit organisation years ago.”

The collection features Sharmila’s redesign of anarkali, lengha and Punjabi suits in rainbow colours.

“I hope that this will send out a magnificent message to my models and to everyone out there who is going through a hard time that after a storm comes the rainbow. Featuring members of marginalised communities from diverse backgrounds as models has made the ‘HOPE’ Deepavali collection
extra special.”

Transgender model Memey, 35, said it was a dream come true to be given the chance to model.

“I was once a asked to model for a brand, but after the photo shoot, they found out I was a transgender and decided not to go ahead with the plan. I was so shocked
and hurt.

“I was so surprised and excited when I was approached by NativesMY, asking me to model for their Deepavali collection launch. For the first time in my life, I was told to be who I am. Nothing more,
nothing less.

“If given the space and opportunity, I feel that marginalised communities can showcase our talents and skills comfortably in the future,” said Memey.

Refugee model Sabrina John, 29, was born in northern India.

Despite having a degree in nursing, she has not been able to secure a related job since arriving in Malaysia four years ago, and now works in online sales.

“Many people do not understand that we had no choice but to leave our country, and when we come to a foreign country as refugees, we automatically have no voice as well.

“As refugees, we have no choice but to take any job to get by,” she said, adding that she was excited for the opportunity.

“I have always dreamt of looking beautiful in front of the camera and this campaign lets me do that. It has given my self-confidence a boost.”

Sharmila said the collection was priced from RM169 and features seven anarkali designs in different fabrics, three floral lengas and one Punjabi suit with skirt bottoms instead of pants.

“I started this whole project only three months ago and I couldn’t believe what we have achieved today. It has been an amazing journey working with beautiful souls like these women and I am looking forward for more opportunities in the future,” she said.

This article first appeared in
Malay Mail Afternoon E-Paper yesterday.

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Green thumbs up for greener spaces

THE Free Tree Society, based in Bangsar, wants to “green” urban Klang Valley with its gardening activities that are open to the public on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Each three-hour session fits 20 people, as part of the NGO’s outreach programme to raise awareness on the environment.

Walk-ins are welcome, though it is recommended to make an advance reservation on its website or Facebook, as the events are often packed.

Participants learn proper planting methods and cultivate seedlings into healthy plants. Grown plants are given free to the public or used to landscape the growing number of new community gardens throughout Kuala Lumpur.

Founded in 2012, the society has drawn dedicated volunteers to its cause via social media.

“Free Tree Society is a link between the environment and community,” said president and co-founder Baida Jane Hercus.

“Our online postings garner active public responses. People enjoy reading our DIY projects and fun events for their children to participate. They also want to know about areas under threat of development.”

In the last three years, the society has given away more than 9,000 plants, including herbs, edible species, shrubs, flowering plants, fruit and large jungle trees.

Malay Mail chats with Baida on the society’s growth and blossoming future.

How has the organisation evolved since it started?

Many visitors to our nursery have lamented that “my grandmother used to grow everything but I didn’t learn” or “I want to grow organic plants to make healthy food but I don’t know how”, among others.

The public urgently need education on how to grow and care for plants, how to create green spaces within offices, residences and shared spaces.

Having taught numerous volunteers gardening and related green skills, we want to further promote education as a larger part of what we do.

We have created a vibrant online and on-the-ground following, comprising amateur gardening enthusiasts and experienced horticulturists.

How did it secure the patch in Bangsar?

I’d dreamt of setting up a society like this for decades. I knew it would materialise when discussing it with Bettina Chua Abdullah, who worked for Bandar Raya Development Bhd.

Great things happen when you have the right people together at the right time. Having found a fellow greenie gave me goose-pimples. Bettina secured the land via a memorandum of understanding with BRDB, and the rest is history.

Operating in Bangsar, some people say you are preaching to the converted or attracting a more “elite” crowd.

It’s not true. The true “elite” don’t want to dirty their manicures (laughs). Gardeners and environmentalists are down-to-earth. Operating in Bangsar only means we have more style.

NGOs like Free Tree Society are no different from for-profit companies. Success comes from the right people at helm.

We can’t all be visionaries; nothing will get done. Success is 10 per cent inspiration and the rest is perspiration. At FTS, we sweat a lot, believe me.

Where do you get funding?

It’s strictly led by volunteers, with low running costs. It is mainly supported by corporate sponsorships. For donations, we organise privately-held environmental activities for corporate volunteers.

To supplement our costs, we sell some gardening products too. Our finances are sustainable, so much so we can offer free gardening activities.

The public come to our nursery, often with zero knowledge in gardening, to enjoy hands-on learning involving sustainable methods.

Knowledge in gardening is invaluable and a necessary life skill. Maintaining green practices at home is a good start to become an environmentally conscious individual.

How do green activities benefit the public?

Our plant giveaway days are tied in with special occasions such as World Earth Day and World Environment Day, giving greater meaning to those days and encouraging more people to join our events.

Our free trees come with care sheets to ensure that recipients understand how to love and maintain their plants.

Does the government support your efforts?

The government is supportive. We have signed an MoU with City Hall to participate in their Local Agenda 21 programme, where local communities are consulted to create policies and actions for sustainable development.

It encompasses raising awareness, capacity building, community participation and establishing partnerships. Hopefully, good things will come from working with City Hall.

What is Klang Valley’s future in terms of environmental concerns?

My pet peeve is rampant over-development. It diminishes local green lungs that have greater purposes than just helping the environment. More people can practise healthy lifestyles and communities can come together in natural surroundings.

News of floods destroying cars or new massive developments in green areas draw strong community responses. I’m wondering how we will react to proper protection of our green spaces — for instance, the newly mooted Taman Tugu project. Klang Valley’s future also requires redevelopment rather than new developments.

What’s next for Free Tree Society?

It is important to introduce environmental studies in schools. We are currently working with Maybank to upgrade our nursery as an educational garden, to benefit the public. Hopefully, it will be completed this year end or early next year.

The biggest dream, though, is Free Tree Society International.

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Business flourishes for former engineer

TOILING under the shed in Jalan Jering, Kampung Endah for up to 13 hours a day is a far cry from the professional job that Erwan Mohd Sharif used to have as a civil engineer.

The mushroom farmer, who holds a degree in civil engineering from Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia in Johor, decided to give up his career some nine years ago to move back to his hometown in Banting, Selangor.

Now 36 years old, he said of his decision: “I felt that it is my responsibility, being the youngest son, to care for my parents. My dad was a farmer and my mom, a homemaker.

“They were healthy at the time but needed help with their smallholding of oil palm and tapioca. I had to draw a salary from my parents because I gave up my job and did not have a livelihood.

“I have to admit, I was quite restless after having enjoyed city life for a number of years. One day, as I was watching the agriculture documentary, Agrotek, on television which showed the cultivation of oyster mushrooms, I was inspired to start my own project.

“It looked easy enough for me to handle, plus it didn’t require a lot of land. Besides, there were not many people in Banting who were into mushroom cultivation then.”

With RM12,000 capital and the blessings from his parents, Erwan established Endah Maju Enterprise and began his first lesson in mushroom cultivation from the Department of Agriculture in 2007.

“It was a short lesson and I had to learn everything else by trial and error.”

Helping Erwan now is wife Darwisa Abdul Hapit. Originally from Semporna, Sabah, she left her job as a factory operator in Shah Alam in 2015 when the business expanded.

Also seeing to the day-to-day work at the farm is Erwan’s older sister and a worker, who takes care of the 40,000 bags filled with compost, prepared to cultivate mushrooms. These bags are neatly arranged on wooden racks.

Mushrooms have to be harvested twice a month. Due to the varying cycles of the bags placed at different sections under the shed, Erwan produces some 20kg of oyster mushrooms daily, which are supplied to neighbouring mini markets and the Banting wet market. The wholesale price is RM8 to RM11 per kg, depending on supply and demand.

Erwan has learnt that business is a matter of solving problems.

“There are many things to sort out before the business generates an income. There’s the production, marketing and maintaining relationships, among others. We also have to work hard. When these are all in line, then only do we start to turn a profit.”

Erwan also said his business relied on conducive weather: “Our mushroom bags get damaged if the weather is too hot. When that happens, we try to intervene by watering the outside of the bags to cool them down. And then there are insects to deal with. We also make sure that the mushrooms do not grow too large to harvest.”

Even with non-stop back-breaking work, Erwan has no regrets leaving a professional career to establish his own mushroom business.

“It is definitely a challenging field but when everything goes well, I am really happy. That’s when my wife and I could take our three-year-old daughter to town with carefree spirits.

“There will always be an opportunity for a small business like mine to grow.

“Some of my friends produce as much as 100kg to 150kg of oyster mushrooms a day. I am confident that I, too, can achieve that one day.”

Erwan’s dad passed away in 2012 at the age of 62. He would definitely be proud to see how Erwan’s oyster mushroom business has flourished over the years.

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Burning devotion

TAOISTS began their celebrations for the “Nine Emperor Gods” festival at the Tow Boo Keong Temple in Ipoh on Sept 30.

On that day, barefooted devotees garbed in white thronged Sungai Kinta to welcome the spirits of the gods.

The ceremony started at 11.30pm with a priest lighting an offering and chanting prayers to invite spirits of the nine deities to the temple in Jalan Tokong.

This was followed by devotees carrying carriages and circling around a bonfire before making the journey to the temple, about 1km from the riverbank.

During the procession, carriages were shakened, which devotees believed the spirits of the gods were present.

The arrival of the carriages at the temple marked the start of festival, where devotees would observe a strict vegetarian diet.

During the ceremony, traditional Chinese operas and dances were performed.

One must-have offering was the tortoise-shaped steamed buns, which were placed at the temple.

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