LUCKY Blind Foot Reflexology, which is run by blind masseurs, is now facing a bleak future following the ongoing conditional movement control order (CMCO).
Established in 1994 in the busy Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong before moving to an offshoot road at Jalan Sungai Ujong in 2010 after a fire broke out, it is arguably the only centre of its kind in Penang.
Another centre using the services of visually impaired or blind masseurs is run by the St Nicholas Home in Jalan Gottlieb.
Lucky Blind Foot Reflexology is famous for providing foot reflexology and body massage services at a reasonable price.
The owner of the current premises, however, intends to take back the shop after renting it out for 10 years.
One of the masseurs Johari Saad, 49, who has been working at the centre for more than 20 years, told Buletin Mutiara that their current monthly rental is RM 1,900.
“We understand that the owner has given much leeway to us all these years. To be frank, they would have already taken back the premises last year but the owner is lenient to us out of humanitarianism.
“Now, we have managed to find a new shop, which is a few doors away from here. The design and layout of the new place is exactly the same as the current premises but the monthly rental as agreed by both sides is RM2,800 after a few rounds of discussion.
“We have no choice but to agree with it as we need a place to sustain and continue our business. The new rental price of an additional RM900 will definitely take a toll on us, especially with the current unresolved pandemic.
“I just hope the rental could be reduced to a reasonable price in this challenging period,” said Johari, who stays in Batu Ferringhi.
His colleague Awang Mohd, 54, who stays in Padang Tembak, echoed Johari’s concern, saying the path ahead would be tougher for them.
“All of us here are visually impaired and we only depend on our skills to earn a living. We don’t have anyone to turn to but strive to make ends meet by depending on this job.
“With CMCO coupled with the Covid-19 fear, our ricebowl has been largely affected. Moreover, we have our own families to take care of. I’m afraid that the high rental price for the new shop will be a burden for us as we need to cover many other expenses.
“To make matters worse, we only have about two to three customers only from morning till night. During normal days before pandemic struck, each of us might have about four to five customers.
“Everything has changed now,” Awang, who is one of the senior masseurs, told Buletin Mutiara during an interview today.
Another masseur, Mohd Asri Saad, 45, pointed out that his daily income has dropped by about 60% since March this year following the movement control order (MCO).
Looking dejected, Mohd Asri said he has been having sleepless nights over whether they could sustain themselves at the new premises.
Mohd Asri said he also feels for the centre’s owner, Mohd Asri Abdul Ghani, for having to fork out a substantial sum for renovation purposes and to keep the business going for the sake of every masseur here.
“Each of us here could not imagine what would happen if we could not cope with the new monthly rental rate.
“We are now just hoping for the best,” he added.
Noorhasniza Ishak, 45, who has been working at the shop for two years, said she was worried as she has two sons, aged 17 and 20, to support.
The single-parent is keeping her fingers crossed.
“The main concern here is paying the rental for the new shop. It’s extremely difficult to sustain, especially during this time,” she said.
Mohd Sulaiman Mohd Ali, 28, a relatively new masseur since joining the centre in July, said he is bracing for a very difficult time after getting married a few months ago.
“Previously, I worked in Sungai Petani but have relocated here since my wife is from Penang.
“Fortunately, I’m still receiving the RM400 monthly disbursement from the state Welfare Department.
“”I hope the state could provide the necessary assistance,” said Sulaiman.
Story by Edmund Lee
Pix by Alvie Cheng