Right next to China House (a traditional compound rejigged into a café, restaurant, bar, retail space and gallery) is a stationery shop that transports you back to the eighties. [It wasn’t the kind of place you remembered the name of but Google Maps tells me it is called Syarikat Choong Keat.]
We poked around unabashedly, even though the stationery shop setup felt more like a wholesale business than a retail one. We artfully got out of the way as the old uncles went about their business. I wondered who still needed computer paper (the kind with holes on the sides).
I didn’t mind the light layer of dust that covered most items; I picked up many things, turned them around in my hands. In the end, there weren’t many old relics or special items but we were in a stationery shop and we love stationery. After several rounds within the shop, we decided to buy a couple of things.
After paying, the shop-owner wanted to chat, and he told us he was last in Singapore in 1964. He stayed near Chinatown, and then he came back to Penang. He said something about Singapore being strict; we smiled. He told us he was in his 70s, and he missed the days when he was the youngest among his siblings and he could have anything he wanted. He said his siblings were almost all gone. He told us it was a shame that Singaporeans nowadays didn’t know much of the dialects, and we said we could understand but were not quite good at conversing.
Then, his phone rang and we left after an exchange of goodbyes. Now, for keepsake, we have this colourful Faber Castell sharpener.
It is mounted at the side of the study desk, and other than being useful, it makes us smile.