Friday, July 16, 2010

NST (16/07/10) - News vendor's true grit

KUALA LUMPUR: He started selling the Straits Times and Straits Echo when it was just five sen a piece on a bicycle.

V. Murugeson, one of the country's pioneer newspaper vendors, who died on Sunday at the age of 100, started to distribute both papers around Lumut, Perak, in the late 1940s when he realised that no one was doing it.

His son, Ipoh Barat member of parliament M. Kulasegaran said his father, who was initially a rubber tapper, spotted an opportunity to improve the family's livelihood.

"At that time, no one was distributing papers, so my father took it up as he spoke English.

"His job transformed our lives. We had all kinds of newspapers and magazines in the house for us to read."

He said everyday, Murugeson would make the journey to the Batu Gajah railway station by bus to pick up about 100 to 200 newspapers, which he would later distribute to the people of Lumut.

The enterprising Murugeson even roped in his five sons, including Kulasegaran, to help to distribute the papers when they reached the age of eight or nine.

"We will go house-to-house to distribute newspapers and collect the subscription in the mornings before school. After school, we have to help out as well, either selling ice- creams, lottery tickets or nasi lemak made by our mother."

As business improved, Murugeson set up a stall to sell newspapers and magazines before moving into a shop in the 1960s.

The shop, called Murugan Store, is still in operation in Lumut. It is currently run by Kulasegaran's youngest brother, M. Sethupathi.

Kulasegaran said his father had a "military rule" -- he insisted that the newspapers had to be delivered regardless of the weather.

"Once, I had to deliver newspapers to the house of the Lumut district police chief. Not only was the house located on top of a hill, there were fierce dogs as well.

"I was chased and fell down the hill, injuring my arms and legs.

"After I recovered, he asked me to go back again to deliver the papers."

Looking back, Kulasegaran said starting work young helped him to pick up skills like book-keeping and learning to deal with a variety of people, traits that became useful later in his career as a politician.

Although his father was a staunch MIC supporter, Kulasegaran said he was open about him in DAP.

"Deep in his heart, he would have preferred us (to be in MIC) but he realised we need to follow a new path."