Life of Spice
Jayarani has a very small shop in the Seremban marketplace, the size of her workplace belying her very large good reputation in town.
Every day, the pint-sized 65 year old, who is better known to her customers as the “spice lady”, sells what are described by hundreds of purchasers as “the best curry pastes, .. ever.”
Having worked in the spice business most of her life alongside her dad since she was 16 years old, Jayarani took over the running of the shop when he passed away.
He began selling spice mixes in the early 1940’s just before the Japanese invasion and it was he who set the high standard of the curry pastes which Jayarani now continues, despite altering slightly over the years.
“I have tweaked them a little bit here and there,” she smiles, as her hand darts into a pile of paste and secures a dollop from one of the six piles of paste, all of which are different colours. Another couple of jabs with her fingers ensures the correct balance of the mix, which is placed atop a fresh banana leaf, wrapped in newsprint and handed over to he customer.
Years of practise talking with her clients about their preferences and whether the dish is meat, chicken or fish, means Jayarani is able to “guesstimate” the correct combination for their palates as she has many regular customers, “Some of them are third generation now,” she tells me.
“A lot of them are from the Portuguese community and their aunties taught me many variations of Devil curry, Vindaloo and others in the 1980’s,” she says.
One of Jayarani’s four children, her one son Rajan, is helping out today and tells me his mum was adopted by his Indian grandparents and that Jayarani’s great grandparents were Chinese immigrants to the area.
“She studied at the old convent school which is now demolished and learnt from her dad about the business.
Jayarani still does it all, buying the seeds, sending them to the mill to be ground, and stocking the store with other food related items.
“I feel happy with the business,” she says.
A recent post on Facebook by a customer shows many others are happy with her business too, with over 1000 likes in a day registering as well as hundreds of positive comments.
You can find Jayarani at the Seremban Pasar Besar on Jalan Tun Dr Ismail nearby where all the coconut shops sell their produce.