When I went to Peace Centre for lunch with my colleagues today, I was pleasantly surprised to meet Mr Nagappan Arumugam, the "Mr Kachang Puteh of Singapore". Several years ago when I visited Peace Centre, his son-in-law was manning the stall.
He graciously agreed to pose for a photo with me, and happy to know that I would post it to the Internet :)
When I teased him that the price of his 'kachang puteh' has increased tenfolds over the years from ten cents a packet to the current price at one dollar a packet, he smiled. He told me that he still visits his family in India every year.
The enlarged newsclip from The Straits Time, Saturday, May 21, 2005 is prominently displayed on his cart:
HOME GROUND Section
Selling 'kachang puteh'? It's a tough nut to crack.
He is one of the dying breed still selling snack in paper cones, but tastes are changing.
BY LIN ZHAOWEI
For nine hours every day, Mr Nagappan Arumugam faithfully stands at his little stall at Peace Centre shopping mall in Selegie Road, selling 'kachang puteh'.
His small metallic pushcart is stuffed with plastic bottle containing more that 20 varieties of peas, peanuts and beans. True to tradition, his one-dollar snacks are served in white paper cones.
His day begins at 11.30 a.m. and when he gets tired, he pulls out his plastic stool to sit on. There is no signboard to indicate his presence and many people simply pass him by without a second glance.
Mr Nagappan, 62, has been selling 'kachang puteh' for about 15 years. Before he moved to his present location eight years ago, he was plying his trade at the old Hoover Cinema in Balestier Road.
Before popcorn invaded cinemas here, people picked up cones of 'kachang'from sellers like him to munch through a movie.
At that time, these 'kachang puteh' sellers, dressed in their white shirts and 'sarongs', would roam the streets calling out to customers.
They packed their nuts in bags, arranged them neatly in a wooden box and carried it on their heads. They sold the 'kachangs' in cones made of carbon-laced newspapers or torn pages from the Yellow Pages.
Time has seen their numbers dwindle, as taste change. The few existing sellers no longer peddle their goods on the streets.
It seems that tougher times are ahead for Mr Nagappan.
"Business has gone down in recent years. I used to make about $700 to $800 a month. Now I make only about $200 to $300 monthly."
Mr Nagappan prepares most of his nuts himself in the rented flat he shares with a friend in Geylang Bahru. The rest are bought off the shelf.
He has a wife and four grown-up children in India, but could not convince them to live here with him.
He visits them about once a year.
He foresees the demise of the 'kachang puteh' trade in around 10 years' time. "Kachang puteh doesn't appeal to the younger generation."
Sent from my Treo 650