Basheer Ahamed, founder of Basheer Graphic Books in Bras Basah Complex, dies at age 83

Mr Basheer Ahamed opened his bookstore in the early 1990s and it soon became a haven for Singapore's design community for its selection of books and magazines not found in mainstream stores. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Bookselling pioneer Basheer Ahamed, who founded the iconic Basheer Graphic Books in Bras Basah Complex, has died at the age of 83 after a fall.

"His death marks the end of an era," said his son Abdul Nasser, 54, who runs the bookstore today. "Of all the booksellers who carried books to the offices in the 1980s and 1990s, my father was the last one."

Mr Basheer, who moved back to his hometown in Tamil Nadu, India, after he retired, died in December 2018 after a fall down the stairs. He was surrounded by his family, who were spending the holidays with him in India.

"It was very sudden," said Mr Abdul Nasser. "He was very strong and stubborn and would ride a big motorbike even though he was 83. We thought he would live more years."

Mr Basheer leaves behind his wife, 81, five children and 12 grandchildren.

The family held a low-profile funeral and the bookstore posted nothing on its social media. It was only when long-time customers asked Mr Abdul Nasser how his father was doing that news of his death spread.

In the 1980s, the muscular Mr Basheer would lug his wares, rare books and magazines on art, design and architecture around in heavy suitcases. Accompanied by Mr Abdul Nasser, who joined the trade as a 19-year-old, he went from door to door to show the books to clients.

He opened his brick-and-mortar bookstore in the early 1990s, and it soon became a haven for Singapore's design community for its selection of books and magazines not found in mainstream stores.

His customers fondly remember his kindly manner and patience in letting them browse. He would often let design students and young professionals buy books on credit and pay him back in instalments.

"The Internet was not available then and a reference book like that would help us a lot," said illustrator James Leong, 55, who first met Mr Basheer 30 years ago while in a junior role at a small advertising agency. Mr Leong went on to become a regular at the Bras Basah store, visiting it at least once a month. "He took the trouble to bring in books that were exclusive and not easily available in Singapore."

The bookshop has struggled in recent years, hard put to match the prices set by online sellers and forced to close outlets in Hong Kong, Jakarta, Bangkok and Malaysia.

"We just keep moving on and try to understand the needs of the new generation," said Mr Abdul Nasser. "My father would have loved to see more years for the bookstore, to know that all his hard work has paid off."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.