25 July 2013: Muar – Tributaries and Transitions

In an attempt to discover, we found a priceless treasure.

muarThe Muar of today is at a crossroads; the lure of Singapore has drawn away the youth in search of better prospects, while nearby Malacca and its UNESCO World Heritage status has attracted more visitors. The senior folk are happy with the slower pace of life there but heritage buildings are at risk of damage from being readapted for swiflet farming. Will Muar share the same fate of other old fading towns or will it forge a new identity for itself? The answers to what Muar was, is and well may be lie in the book Muar – Tributaries and Transitionsby the same Universiti Malaya–National University of Singapore team behind the earlier Taiping study.

muar-2The study covers areas like general infrastructure, residential and commercial heritage buildings, food, people, environment and concludes with projections and a postscript. The section on the Chettiar business is particularly interesting, as we know so much and yet so little about these group of Indian moneylenders and their quaint way of life. The prose and illustrations make reading a joy. Early on in this book, one of the writers compares Muar town to a pushcart: there has always been movement towards and away from it, from the time of Parameswara until today. Another describes Muar’s size and placement in a map “like a sparrow which though small, is complete with all its visceral parts – tiny organs yet perfect!”

If you like Muar – Tributaries and Transitions, you may also want to read Returning Taiping.