The fragrance from the garlands of flowers at the row of six stalls on Jalan Kapitan Keling here have never failed to attract the attention of those who passes through this Georgetown heritage spot.
But the ‘bunga malai’ or flower garlands have also pulled in the foreign tourists who are vacationing in this ‘pearl of the orient’.
The six flower garland stalls at Jalan Kapitan Keling begin their daily business as early as 6.30am, where suppliers deliver baskets of fresh flowers from Cameron Highlands, Bukit Bendera and Sungai Petani.
For stall owner Ameer Sultan Abdul Razak, 59, the fragrance of the fresh flowers, including jasmines, roses and orchids, is invigorating enough to make him start work at 7am.
When met by Bernama, Ameer said he takes some 20 minutes to one hour to make a flower garland depending on its size and floral arrangement.
“The bunga malai is used by Hindu devotees for their prayers in the temples. It is also to honour guests and dignitaries apart from as the mark of respect during the cremation ceremony for Indians,” he said.
The bunga malai is an important element in the culture of Malaysian Indians. It is used, among else, for prayers, weddings, and welcoming ceremony for distinguished visitors.
The flowers are joined to make a garland using fine strings derived from the banana stem. The garlands are made according to the orders that in turn depend on the nature of ceremony.
During the 40 years that Ameer operates his family business at Jalan Kapitan Keling, he has ‘woven’ various varieties of flower garlands, a skill which he learnt from his father.
He said each of the flower garlands is sold at between RM3 and RM50 depending on its size and so far the most expensive garland ordered was priced at RM500.
According to Ameer, he could sell up to 10 flower garlands a day, operating from 7am until 9pm. The rest of the flowers are kept in special refrigerators to ensure their freshness.
“Maybe to Malaysians, the bunga malai is nothing extra ordinary but foreigners have shown interest in how to make the flower garlands.
“My stall continues to receive a stream of foreign visitors who are attracted not only to the flower fragrance and colours but also on the unique flower garlands. Some even take the opportunity for their pictures to be snapped with them wearing the garlands,” he said.
MONEY FOR FOREIGN WORKERS
The flower garland business is also ‘money’ for foreign workers who are skilled in making the bunga malai, particularly those from India.
For 43-year Indian national P. Segar, the stringing method in making bunga malai is the same when compared to that in India.
“It takes me only 20 minutes to string a one metre-long bunga malai”, said Segar who is an employee of one of the bunga malai stalls at Jalan Kapitan Keling.