Bring back the Beca Muar
By Badrolhisham Bidin
PAK Jenal was already in his 50s when he began his career as a trishaw puller in Muar in the early 1970s.
His main source of income was derived from transporting children to school and back and women returning from the wet market.
For a mere RM15 a month, Pak Jenal, like any other rider, never failed to fetch schoolchildren from home to school, come rain or shine.
Later in the night, he would join the rest in front of Cathay and Rex theatres, waiting for movie-goers to leave.
Taxis then were only available for long distance trips, to Pagoh, Bukit Kepong and the surroundings while trishaws were for short distance trips.
With both the theatres ceasing operation, he was no longer seen hanging out, waiting for passengers.
The trishaws that used to ply the roads in Muar also soon disappeared.
Trishaws were Kings of the Road, long before Mat Rempit were born, as the operators swerved in and out of the traffic to get to their destinations. Accidents involving trishaws were almost unheard of as motorists would not dare come close to any of them.
If there was an accident, it would be wise for the driver of the car to seek shelter as the camaraderie among trishaw pullers was strong.
In no time, they would come in droves defending their injured colleague.
Those were the good old days in Muar where pedal power ruled.
But not all were “thugs”. Pak Jenal was an exception, working day and night for a few ringgit of fare.
Apparently, his wife did not like to see him sitting idle at home and “forced” him to pedal.
He could only return home if he achieved a certain target set by her. But that was some 30 years ago.
Trishaw pullers are as extinct as dinosaurs in Muar today.
It was reported in the 1960s to the 1990s, Muar roads were filled with trishaws and the Muar district council had allocated 11 spots for these trishaws to be parked.
Beca Muar was so popular that Muzium Negara had one model and due to its popularity, has become an icon.
Now, tourists and locals can only admire a gigantic Beca Muar built at the cost of RM50,000 in 1999. A few bus stops in Muar are also modelled after the beca.
When the trishaws slowly disappeared from the scene, the town was missing something, the unique attraction that only certain places had. But then the situation in Malacca is a stark contrast to Muar. Here, the Beca Melaka has not lost its following.
In fact, it is gaining popularity with some 250 of them, brightly lit and equipped with the loudest amplifiers and speakers, carrying tourists around the historical city.
Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Chik, the then Malacca chief minister, had brought the mode of transport to fame, advising the riders to beautify their vehicles.
They were given due recognition for their effort to ply the historic section of the city that include A Famosa.
On good days, tourists had to line up to get rides around the section.
Many of the trishaws are powered by batteries that also power up the lights and CD players.
Hence, the move to patent the Beca Melaka is a brilliant move, aimed to prevent the unique design and decorations which differs from one trishaw to another from being reproduced.
State Agriculture and Entrepreneur Development chairman, Datuk Hasan Abdul Rahman had said each trishaw was unique as the decorations and lights on the pedal-powered three-wheeler was an innovation from the creativity of its owner.
“A patent protects the owner of the patent and has the exclusive right to stop others from manufacturing, using and selling the owner’s invention in Malaysia without the owner’s consent or permission.”
While many Muarians in the past described trishaw pullers as a menace, it would be good for the council to reintroduce the unique vehicle, regulate the riders and ensure they behave on the road.
Their designs may be different from Beca Melaka, but the trishaws can be a crowd-puller to the town famous for its lontong, satay and asam pedas.
Read more: Bring back the Beca Muar – Columnist – New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnist/bring-back-the-beca-muar-1.299068#ixzz2W9bKRmE3