Make good of the time you have
"I started cooking at a very young age. I had no choice. We were a family of many daughters. Every daughter took turns cooking for the family during the week. That’s how I became a good cook.
I made a lot of friends from the “club” (Young Muslim Women’s Association). We learned how to sew and do floral arrangements. What else could a young girl do at that time?
If someone asks for my age, I will say I am 200 or more. My answer is a prayer. If I give a higher number, Allah will bless me with longevity. Why lie about being younger? Why must we be afraid about being old? Do not fear!”
Always remember God. Don’t be easily influenced by others. Don’t wish ill upon others. Be kind. Follow your own path. Sit at home, cook…sew…use your hands! Make good of the time you have."
Madam Bulkis Yahya was born in Singapore in 1915. She grew up in a Jewish neighborhood around Wilkie Road. Her best friend, Sophie, taught her some recipes for baking and cooking. She married at 21, and the couple toured around Singapore, as newlyweds, for their “honeymoon”. Madam Bulkis’s lifelong passion is sewing. She taught her granddaughters to sew during their school holidays. She was 95 when she made her last item—a knitted hat (as shown in the photograph). Family members describe Madam Bulkis as a highly creative person who was always doing something because she has trouble “keeping still”. These days, Madam Bulkis enjoys sitting in her chair, reciting verses from the Quran and people watching out of her window.
Text by Adlina Maulod.
Commissioned to take portraits of Singaporean centenarians by the Centre for Ageing Research and Education (CARE) for their recent conference titled 'Are Centenarians the Realisation of Successful Ageing: Insights from a Global Study'.
These portraits also feature as an exhibition together with the conference titled 'SG100: A Celebration of Our Centenarians'. A great honour and deeply humbled by this experience. Big thanks to the CARE team.