NST news 2012: SOMETIMES fate intervenes which changes the course of our destiny. I was born in a shop house in Jalan Wong Ah Fook, Johor Baru, and studied in the English College (now known as Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar). My dream was to be a lawyer when I was young.
And I would have been a lawyer if my father had not been diagnosed with lung cancer. I was 19 and studying law in the United Kingdom at that time. I had to come home to Johor Baru as my father, who was funding my studies, could no longer do so. I have two older sisters and a younger brother. My wife and I also have four children — two daughters and two sons. My sons and daughters are all married and I have seven grandchildren.
After I came back, I had to look for a job and found one at a factory in Tampoi, Johor Baru.
It was here that I decided to convert to Islam because I made many friends of the Muslim faith at the factory. Unlike some converts who had problems with their families after they converted, I was lucky as my parents and siblings were all open-minded. My late mother, who passed away 27 years ago, would keep a set of cooking utensils specially for me, and she would take out this set of utensils to cook for me and my family during Chinese New Year.
Even after my conversion, I still go home to Johor Baru for every reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s eve. After I left the factory in Tampoi, I went to Kuala Lumpur to work for an assembly plant that assembles electrical products. We are a close-knit family even though we are of different faiths. My younger brother, for instance, is now a reverend after having graduated from the Trinity College.
My mother told us that we had to help finance his studies, and we did just that. Although my mother is no longer with us, my siblings and I still gather for the Chinese New Year celebrations. This is one of the reasons I ventured into the halal food business five years ago, with the opening of my first outlet in Shah Alam.
At that time, I did envision I would one day have 18 halal restaurants offering Chinese cuisine. But this is how fate would have it. I started a restaurant because I missed my mother’s cooking so much. I now have restaurants in nearly all the states, in places such as Johor Baru, Klang, Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, Kuantan and Cyberjaya, among others. I also wanted Muslims to savour authentic halal Chinese dishes. I know many Muslims do not like to eat duck, but there is a small number who loves it. My roast duck dish is one of the signature dishes of my restaurants.
And I am working on a special recipe which I hope embraces the 1Malaysia concept, and will be enjoyed by all the races in the country. A few months ago, I opened my 16th outlet in Jakarta, Indonesia, and my latest outlet (18th) opened in Kota Baru, Kelantan, on Dec 12.
Sharin Low Abdullah, 66, is the owner of a chain of ‘halal’ Chinese restaurants. He is also the chairman of the Selangor Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA Selangor).