Mustafa Centre and its founders are the stuff of folk lore of the Singaporean Indian Community. From a small store in the 1970’s as my mariner uncle tells me to a behemoth on the entire Syed Alwi Lane, Mustafa has come a long way. A recently read a couple of articles in the Indian Media on Mustafa Centre. It hit upon the right notes; it is crowded, a package tour ‘tourist’ haunt, can shop for veggies and masalas from Chennai at 3am in the morning. I agree with all these observations. For a recently returned Indian Expat from Singapore, Mustafa means a lot more. It means a one stop shop, and a place to buy masala maggi and badam milk for me. But it is not the most inexpensive place to buy stuff, in Singapore. Convenient but not Cheap, i would quip.
A place to hang out on Deepawali and Hari Raya eve, having dinner at Usman and having chai at Mustafa Cafe at 2.30 am with friends. Priceless moments.
By the end of my stint in Singapore, i had a mind map of Mustafa at the back of head; what is available in B2 to where can i grab a bite on the top floor. The eateries around Mustafa- A Sagar Ratna to Bombay Cafe to Salimar- the menus were learned by rote.
A microcosm of South Asia can be found at Mustafa Centre with chirps of Bangla, Urdu and Tamil making up the cacophony which is a delight to my ears. It is a unique diaspora experience. The next cup of chai at Mustafa Cafe has to be soon.