Can you guess what this Bas Tak Sekolah is used for?
If you grew up (or still is) living in some kampung or somewhere that didn’t have a library of its own, you could satisfy your love for books (aka bibliophilism) by borrowing from a mobile library, if you’re lucky that your neighbourhood intersected with its rounds. The selection was limited, for sure, but to a child, the weekly visit from the lumbering book-laden van is as exciting as eating Ding Dang or Tora or Mamee.
You would think that books are now dead and “long live the Internet”, but apparently not…yet, at least. Our public libraries are still sending out mobile libraries to the more secluded corners of the country and more recently, there is this going around town:
You would immediately have recognised it as being one of the older school buses—now replaced by more comfortable, air-conditioned ones—except in white and not yellow, and with the addition of the word “TAK” between “BAS” and “SEKOLAH”, making it a…No-School Bus? Perhaps it was the owners way of making it clear to people that this vehicle is not used for ferrying kids to or from school.
The ghostly version of the school bus from the eighties is actually…a mobile bookstore! Owned by a local publishing company, Thukul Chetak (Printing hammer? Got such thing ah?), it was actually a marketing gimmick to get the attention of potential customers. The mobile bookstore sells books published by Thukul Chetak, of course, on a variety of topics, mostly in the Malay language.
One the founders of the publishing company spoke to Careta.my and said that they spent about 40,000 ringgit buying and refurbishing the bus. “When we got the bus, the engine was in tiptop condition. We didn’t need to spend much to fix it,” Zulhilmi Daud told Careta.my “We only added the racks inside and pasted the ‘bas tak sekolah’ sticker on the outside.”
To those who think that driving a bus is easy, it wasn’t as straightforward for Zulhilmi and his fellow entrepreneurs when they first got the vehicle. “We actually didn’t know how to drive a bus and we forgot how to even start the engine. We panicked and tried to contact the former owner, but he was out of the country. We had to wait for him to return just to find out how to start the engine.”
When they finally got the hang of it, and on their first outing to Publika, the response was so overwhelming that Zulhilmi thought the bus was going to fall apart. People had to queue to enter the rather cramp space.
Malaysians seem to ‘extra like’ buying things out of a vehicle nowadays, and we mean the food truck trend that seems to have swept across Klang Valley. But we’ve always like having goods and services on wheels – ie. the rotiman, the putumayam man, the mattress lorry, the old newspaper lorry, to name a few. If you want to chase down this bookstore on wheels, drop by their Twitter or Facebook account to find out where the Bas Tak Sekolah will be heading to.
A Reading Nation is a Fighting Nation…bold words, there.