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Malaysia Milkman Kerpal Carries On Traditional Trade In Penang With No Sign Of Stopping

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
Milkman Kerpal carries on traditional trade in Penang with no sign of stopping

By Christina Chin


GEORGE TOWN: Milkman Kerpal Singh always turns heads with his signature che gu leng (fresh cow's milk in Hokkien) call.

With his trusty brass milk canister, Kerpal's Honda kapcai (moped) is a regular sight around town.

Continuing the traditional trade, Kerpal, who is quite the linguist, even takes the time to explain to his multi-racial customers how adding ginger and rock sugar can enhance the taste and health benefits of milk.

Besides his good grasp of Hokkien and English, the 78-year-old former St Xavier's Institution boy also speaks fluent Bahasa Malaysia, Tamil and Punjabi.

“I have a gift for languages, I suppose. I picked up Hokkien when I was growing up as I had many Chinese friends,” he said.

Besides milk, he also sells his own homemade yoghurt.

The grandfather of 14 celebrated his 78th birthday on Friday and has no plans of putting away his trusty brass milk canister anytime soon.

Kerpal said the vintage European-design canister has been his “pillion rider” since he started delivering milk in 1966.

Recalling how he got started, the former electrical shop supervisor said he began rearing cows to supplement his income.

“I had four children to raise so I decided to rear a few cows in my old village in Boundary Road.

“I eventually sold off my cows but continued delivering milk which I get from another cowherd,” he said when met at the Tanjung Bungah market here yesterday.

Kerpal works a gruelling schedule to help raise his eldest son's family.

The latter passed away almost two decades ago, leaving behind a wife and four children.

“Now, three of them are in college and another is in Form Four. Even after they finish studying, I intend to work for as long as I am able.

“My job is not easy but I cannot just sit at home and do nothing my body will just stop functioning,” he said.

Kerpal said God, hard work and a glass of fresh milk daily are the secrets to his good health.

From the moment he leaves his home in Reservoir Garden at 9am, he heads to Tanjung Bungah to collect the fresh milk before heading to the nearby market.

He is only there for an hour from 10.15am before hitting the road again to deliver orders around Tanjung Bungah, Tanjong Tokong and Pulau Tikus.

He then refills his canister and is on the go again.

He sells about 50 packets daily and gets home late in the evening.

“Even when I am on the bike, customers will flag me down.

“People find it amusing to call out to me because my name is pronounced Karpal Singh (similar to the famous lawyer politician),” he said.

Retired nurse Susan Cheng, 70, and her granddaughter Amira Nadia, 15, were spotted buying milk from him yesterday.

“I've been a milk drinker since my teens and it really is good for the bone and health,” Cheng said.

Kerpal sells his milk at RM3 and RM5 per packet and delivers for free.

He can be found at the Tanjung Bungah market daily, come rain or shine.