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Monday, April 09, 2007


The last blacksmith

The unofficial name of the street I'm currently living in is Harmony Street. In this street there are quite a range of temples: Taoist, Hindu, Moslem and Buddhist and also a Methodist church. The mosque broadcasts prayers over the PA several times every day. Apparently these times are negotiated with the other temples so there isn't a clash. Hence the name.

The official names in the street change for every block and relate to the shops that traditionally filled the street. One block is Jalan Tukang Emas -- Goldsmith Street. Our part of the street is known as Jalan Tukang Besi -- Blacksmith Street. I'm told there was a time when the shop-houses in the block housed mostly blacksmiths. When I first visited Melaka in 2004 there were only two left. They were still active and could be seen working every day.

Two days ago the second-last blacksmith died. Apparently he was only in his late fifties. Blacksmiths' lungs are perhaps not in good condition with all the coal vapours they breathe. The only surviving blacksmith in Jalan Tuking Besi, I'm told, is over sixty. Each of these guys was the last in his line. Their sons have followed other careers.

I wonder how long until Blacksmith Street is only a name.

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