Tuesday, March 15, 2016


By Mansor Puteh

The flea market or ‘pasar karat’ which translate literally as ‘rusty market’ in Lorong Petaling in Kuala Lumpur which had been in existence for years, was suddenly closed by City Hall. This followed the negative reporting by a local newspaper.

I immediately wrote to the Mayor of the city complaining about it and saying how there are such markets in all the major cities in the world. And how I would make a trip to one if I am abroad where I often found something interesting.

Even if there is nothing there for me to buy but at the very least I could learn a thing or two from the things that are offered for sale, most of which would be discarded anyway, thus adding to the pile of garbage of things that still have some more life and which could be useful to some others.

I got a new or fresh copy of a coffee table book on the history of Portuguese maritime exploration to the East including to Melaka in Malaysia in a flea market in Lisbon, Portugal, and immediately bought it.

I then donated it to the Melaka Museum authorities who found it interesting since it has all the information on the history of Portuguese maritime exploration that they did not have.

And at the flea or morning market in Hitchins in England I found a book on Stamford Raffles who the British claimed to have ‘founded’ Singapore being offered for just one pound sterling; I immediately bought it.

Fortunately, the Kuala Lumpur Mayor found my arguments for the reestablishment of the flea market at Lorong Petaling to be convincing so he ordered that the market be retained and better still be upgraded.

So everybody who goes there can check what the traders have to offer.

And unlike the flea markets in the other cities, it is now opened every morning till ten, when before it was opened only on the weekend.

I go there occasionally even if I do not intend to buy anything, since such markets are not just places where the traders sell discarded objects, but where one can learn a thing or two about the history of the city and also country from the discarded objects and things that are sold, some of whom may not be for sale anywhere and they may not be useless objects too for many.

And as the saying goes, ‘One man’s garbage is the other man’s treasure…’ where the value of something priceless may also mean that it is not that terribly expensive after all.

See you there…

I sometimes go there even when I did not have anything to buy; I like to be there because this is where a hidden part of the city is present; and it is in all the things I see.

They may be things that had been discarded by many others who could afford to get rid of them, but they are still good and they are also dirt cheap to buy that can still be used for a while.

I am sure some of the traders had gone on to doing other things after spending a while trading here, because they have managed to gain some experience in business and had got enough money to invest on other business that can further uplift them onto a new level of business and social activities.

No wonder I had not seen a few of them who used to be there where I had bought some things or at least checked some others and queried them on their prices.

I would be happy to be able to shoot a small scene in my forthcoming feature film called, ‘Malaysian Snow’ by showing the lead actor called Osman visiting it and finding something  very precious to him, something that his grandfather had lost or disposed of.

What will this scene mean to him and to the film? A lot.

And what can the object be? I know. It is an old military identification card which says that his grandfather had once been in the military and had been given an award for having confronted the communists and killing some of them.

Or I could have Osman finding and buying an old newspaper cutting in the jawi or Arabic script saying so. Which is which? I can decide on which idea I want to use.

This is stunning. I had not imagined being able to come to this to add just a bit more details in this film which I am eager to work on.

And making Osman visit the pasar karat does not have to be just that; he can actually do something interesting on the side to add more details and information to the story and to his family history.

I always make sure I visit the flea markets when I am abroad and who knows what I would find there.

I got a new book on the history of the Portuguese exploration and colonization of the Far East at the flea market in Lisbon for eighty ringgit. I gave it to Perzim or Perbadanan Muzium Melaka.

I was pulling my trolley bag to go to the bus stop to go to the airport for my flight back to Kuala Lumpur via Paris, when I noticed the many stalls that had been erected across the street.

I was lucky because I had the time to go there and I was surprised to see the book, which is not a recent edition but still new and untouched. So I immediately bought it with the intention of giving it to Perzim.

And who knows what I would find in the other flea markets when I am abroad? I hope I can find some more interesting objects or manuscripts related to the ancient history of Melaka that no one has got till now.

No comments: