In the spirit of Merdeka Day, here is a heartwarming story from Penang celebrating our multiracial culture.
The latest talk of the town in Balik Pulau, Penang appears to be a giant mural of a bread vendor!
Many of us may have fond childhood memories of our neighbourhood ‘Uncle Roti’, so one wonders what inspired this particular giant mural.
Fondly known as ‘Roti Kumar’ or ‘Uncle Roti’, Muniandi Letchumanan, a humble bread seller, has been peddling his well-loved kaya bread for almost 30 years now.
His daily routine begins at 8.30 a.m. when he leaves the house to sell bread. In the afternoon, he would tend to cattle at his farm in Pantai Acheh and return home for a short nap. His final rounds for the day selling bread is around 5.30 p.m. until late night, except on Saturdays.
Well, according to Abdul Rashid Abdul Raman or Acit, who was responsible for getting in contact with his fellow artist, Andhar A Samah who painted the mural, ‘Uncle Roti’ symbolised Balik Pulau’s culture.
On a personal note, Acit considers Muniandi a ‘legend’ as he was known by everyone regardless of age and race within the local community. The artist grew up in Pekan Kongsi, the same area where Muniandi would make his regular rounds. As a young boy, he had loved to draw on the ground, even prompting a mild telling-off from Muniandi!
When Abdul Rashid reached out to Muniandi, he was touched that the artist still remembered him – “It’s a pleasant surprise that as an ordinary person, I was chosen to be featured. It made me very happy, especially when I learnt that the artist was actually the small boy I used to see so much of back then. I am truly touched. It did not occur to me that someone whom I saw so much of as a child would feature me in his artwork,’ said Muniandi in an interview with The Star.
What remains inspirational is how Muniandi managed to raise his children who are successful in their own right – one’s a doctor, another is a lawyer and one is even pursuing chemical engineering.
The locals were thrilled to learn about the mural. Ooi Seng Lai, on the community’s behalf, when met by the Star newspaper, commented, “We are all ecstatic for him as he has always been very positive and friendly to everyone here. It’s not just the bread he sells, but the connection he has built with the local community. Everyone here has grown fond of each other, like old friends.”
The mural, as well as three others, have been commissioned by the National Art Gallery and the Culture and Arts Department for the Balik Pulau Festival 2019, an initiative to help promote the Kuala Lumpur Biennale 2020, held from 1st October 2019 to 29th February 2020.
The ‘Uncle Roti’ mural which stands tall at postcode 11000 in Balik Pulau, Penang (to be precise, on a building wall located at a parking lot right across SJK(C) Sacred Heart) will now go down in history as an icon of humility and diligence!
*Featured image sourced from Facebook/Adzmir Anwar