SINGAPORE— Geylang Serai Bazaar, one of Singapore's most popular and bustling markets, is famous for its vibrant atmosphere, especially during Ramadan. Amid the throngs of visitors and the many vendors hawking their wares, there's one that stands out, not because of its size or grandeur, but for the story behind it.
Raj Govin, a 65-year-old man who owns a vadai stall called "Mr Wadeh", has been setting up shop every year for the past 20 years. He considers it a way to pay homage to the tradition and the community that has made his small business successful.
Raj's stall, which is currently located near Tanjong Katong Complex, has become a fixture at the bazaar, and his customers have become his friends over the years.
"It is a tradition for us. It is like a pilgrimage. We go every year, every Hari Raya, we come to Geylang Serai bazaar," says Raj, as he reminisces about the early days of his business. "The child came with the mother and bought from us in 2002, then the daughter became a mother, and she brought her child and came. Now the whole family comes around and buy so we have a long following."
Honouring his late wife on their annual pilgrimage
But this year, Raj's pilgrimage has been marked by a personal tragedy. His wife, who had been his partner in the business for many years, passed away six months ago.
Despite the loss, Raj continues to set up his stall, as it was his wife's desire to give back to the community and make people happy during Hari Raya.
"My wife's desire is not to make money during Hari Raya but to give back something. That is why we bear the cost," said Raj. "We absorb a lot of the cost. And we are selling the cheapest in the market in the bazaar at $1 one piece because it is not right to push the cost to our customers."
"There are also those who are a little bit unfortunate, they find it expensive, but we want to cater to everyone and want to make everyone happy once a year. That is my wife's desire. My wife passed away six months ago, but we continue to do it. We desire to make everyone happy."
Despite facing a high rental cost of $16,000 at the Geylang Serai bazaar, Raj has refused to compromise on the quality of his food.
"It is the highest rental price I have paid, but it is still manageable. You can still find good suppliers at a manageable price," Raj said.
He believes that by finding good suppliers and managing costs, he can maintain the quality of his food without compromising on his customers' satisfaction. "Especially those supplier shops with four or five shops together where you buy once, you get it cheaper," he added.
Despite the challenges, Raj's dedication to his customers and passion for his vadai has helped him build a loyal following and make his presence felt at the Geylang Serai bazaar.
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