Ishak Ahmad, 72, popularly known as Pak Sahak Bomba, is a retired fireman, who spends his time with his grandchildren when he is not offering traditional massage services in his home. Ben Tan interviews.
THE Johor Baru city landscape has changed since I moved to Kampung Pasir from Muar in 1954.
It was once the only major town and became a city and is poised to soon become a metropolis as part of the Iskandar Malaysia economic growth region.
I tasted the best of the past, when the lifestyle was much simpler and the cost of living cheaper.
During the late 1950s, the average rent for a house in Kampung Pasir was between RM7 and RM18.
This is a far cry from the current rent rates but not all homes had electricity then, and we relied mainly on kerosene lamps.
Piped water was practically unheard of and villagers fetched water from the wells.
However, things began to change when I enlisted in the Malayan Armed Forces as a fireman in 1957 and was then attached to a barracks.
I was posted to the Alexander Army Camp in Singapore before being sent to the Tebrau Army Camp, followed by my last posting in 1969 at the Paroi Army Camp in Negri Sembilan.
I left service and returned in 1970 to Johor Baru, where I did several odd-jobs working in factories and canteens for four years. I joined the fire department in 1974.
I was lucky to get the fireman's job, as I was already 34 years old. However, I also had more than a decade's worth of experience as a military fireman.
In my 20 years of serving the Johor Fire Department, which was based in Larkin, I saw many changes taking place.
Most notable was the growth of Johor Baru. Towards the late 1980s, development became rapid, with many residential areas opening-up. More development took place in the 1990s, with the opening of commercial complexes.
As I was nearing retirement, I realised that I needed something to do. A former colleague introduced me to the art of traditional massage and I was interested to take it up at that time. This was about six years before I was due to retire in 1994.
My decision to become a traditional masseur became my retirement plan.
By the time of my retirement, I had already established myself as a traditional masseur in my home in Kampung Pasir, Tampoi.
We had all the conveniences of modern living under one roof, which was different from the old days. As the cost of living was always escalating, I needed to do something to supplement my pension.
Over the years, I have helped many people who have come to me mainly through word-of-mouth.
My job as a traditional masseur took off rather well after my retirement, and the response has always been good.
My 41-year-old daughter Samiah Ishak quit her job and also became a traditional masseuse, for my female clientele.
People from as far as Penang, Pahang and Malacca come to me to treat various ailments, from simple backaches to torn ligaments and sprained ankles.
I receive repeat customers from 10am to 10pm every day.
The only problem I see now is that the younger generation, including my sons and grandchildren, have no interest in learning the art of traditional massage.
People like me are considered a dying breed.