At the oldest flower stall 1800s) in Penang’s Little India the fragrance from the fresh flowers perfumes the street as you walk by Pitt Street in George Town.
Bright kaleidoscope coloured posies jostle for breathing space with Indian flower garlands made from fragrant jasmine, champaka, roses and chrysanthemum with religiously-significant leaves used for worship.
Penangites make a bee line for the Indian florists here for the freshest flowers for temple prayer or their home altars.
Flowers with a riot of unbelievable colours are displayed in large blue and white pails standing two to three tiers high with hanging garlands at the Pitt Street Indian Florists in a row of kiosks along Jalan Kapitan Keling, George Town.
Ameer Sultan, 65 is the second generation traditional florist who took over the business set up by his father the late S.P. Abdul Razak of George Town Florist in 1956. Ameer was 6 at that time and would help out at their original stall which was across the road where the Broadway Budget Hotel now stands.
They used to live on Market Lane, just a few doors away from the old Tuak Shop.
Historically this area was densely populated by Indians labourers who favoured the cloudy sweetish toddy also known as kallu (in South India). This coconut palm wine is made from the sap of coconut flowers.
Today after the closure of the Tuak Shop, Market Lane is overlooked by tourists of its’ cultural significance.
Ameer remembers fondly the Penang electric tram cruising along Pitt Street coming down from Weld Quay at the F.M.S Railway Station (Federated Malay States Railway now known as Wisma Kastams) where passengers would purchase their train ticket on the island before crossing over by ferry to board the trains on the mainland!
He laments that business is slow these days and only pick up during temple festivals and deity feast days.
Nowadays Ameer also takes orders for weddings, floral baskets and wreaths. You could even order a hand bouquet right at the stall. The Indian florists specialise in creating garlands for religious and ceremonial purposes. Some florists even give flower arrangement classes.
S.P. Abdul Razak’s grandson, Basheer Ahmad 37 is set to continue as the third generation florist!
All are wearing Poo Malai Flower Garland which is made using fragrant flowers as a sign to welcome a respected guest.
No. 1 & 2 , Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling,