"How old is he?" I asked the scented-stick maker's son.

He laughed.

How old is Mahathir?" he said.

His father laughed as well, softly, squatting on the floor, bent into his work.

I could only smile.

"He's older than Dr. Mahathir.”

He pointed to a photo of his dad when young. Face like a film star’s, hair high and slicked back, the jaw sleek and angled. His wife in the same picture is a matching beauty. For some reason this image in this shop in historic Georgetown brought China’s Shanghai to mind.

For eighty odd years the only times the old man’s hands have rested is one day each Chinese New Year.

Mr. Lee is famous, he appears financially sound. Yet he labours all day, every day.