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The Ugly Duckling’s reopening in the hip Muslim-owned Makan Empire coffee shop in October is a second chance. A second chance for the former pasar malam stall (and its now-defunct sister cafe Sunday Market), which made its name selling good-value duck confit burgers and fusion Malay-Western grub. It's also a second chance for its founders, 44-year-old Girda Bin Bandi and his identical twin brother, Gardi Bin Bandi.

The pair was convicted for the possession and consumption of drugs in 2017. Gardi, the elder sibling by five minutes, was sentenced to nine years in prison, while Girda got seven as he was carrying less drugs. This led to the closure of not only The Ugly Duckling pop-up stall, but also their industrial-themed cafe in Kovan as they couldn’t find anyone to manage it.

8days.sg speaks to Girda, who was released in July this year after he was granted a conditional remission on his sentence, on his journey to reopening The Ugly Duckling alongside Gardi and their childhood pal, Noorman Bin Omar, who both have a stake in the biz.

“I was having relationship problems, and met some old friends who were into [drugs]. It was stupid – I didn’t think the consequences through before taking drugs,” the father-of-two tells us. “Gardi also regretted that he didn’t stop me, but joined me instead.” The pair was caught a few months later.

“I lost my family. I lost my face and my business. I had to stop doing what I love,” he shares. “I realised that I had to become a better person.” The secondary school dropout made his time in prison fruitful by completing his ‘N’ and ‘O’ Level exams, before being released in July. “The biggest regret is the time lost – to see my kids grow up, and to do productive things for myself,” he shares.

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