When I visited the Singapore Philatelic Museum last year, I was pleasantly surprised to find a mock-up of a mama shop:
The explanatory notes accompanying the exhibit was as follows:
Indian Mama Shop - A sundry shop or general provision stall traditionally operated by Indians, especially the Tamil ethnic group. Colloquailly refers to as "Mama Shop or Stall", the word "Mama" means "uncle" in Tamil.To pre-empt my philatelist friend Wee Kiat who never fails to point out relevant stamps, there was even a Singapore stamp issued in 2006 which featured the mama shop:
Such stalls were commonly found in Little India, the enclave of the Indian community in Singapore. Operating in very small and tight space, it is amazing that these stalls could sell a wide range of products - cigarettes, sweets and tidbits, fruits, toiletries, drinks, films, batteries, medicines, and lottery tickets. These stalls were indeed the convenient stall of early days.
With barely a metre depth of shop space, the stalls were usually stashed away at street corners along the five-foot-ways or along side alleys. It is however hard to miss the stalls because the display of colourful magazines and newspaper, strung across the stall with strings and cloth pegs, are very eye-catching. This display method has also become the trademark of the mama shops.
Urban redevelopment, introduction of modern convenient stalls and escalating rental fee are some of the causes that lead to the vanishing of mama shops in Little India. Today, very few mama shops are still in operation.
It was one of ten stamps issued in the "vanishing trade" series.
Today, there are probably less than 10 mama shops still running their trade in Singapore. I managed to hunt one down yesterday with my camera:
Can you guess where this mama shop is located?