Somewhere in the middle of the 500+ songs in one of my pendrives, which I listen to on my daily commute to and from office, is a folder named ‘oldies’ which contains favourites mostly from the 60s. It’s one of those folders I rarely listen to mainly because my cheap Chinese-made car mp3 player does not give me the option to select/choose and play from different folders. Once I plug in the pendrive, the songs automatically start playing from the beginning. The only way I can select a song is to keep on clicking the forward button till I get to the song. Which is why I rarely listen to the ‘oldies’ because they are somewhere in the middle of the pendrive which means I have to click more than 200 times to get to them in the first place.
This morning, with several heads of state from Pacific countries in town and traffic slower than usual, the smooth golden voice of Engelbert Humperdinck from my ‘oldies’ folder telling the world ‘there goes my only possession…’ suddenly filled my car as traffic crawled slowly opposite Maurya on SP Marg.
Humperdinck gave way to Dean Martin’s ‘Blue Spanish Eyes’, followed by Tom Jones’ ‘Green Green Grass of Home’ and I suddenly found myself back in the early 70s, in Mission Compound aka Old Churachand. In my mind’s eyes I saw grandpa HL Sela, white-haired but looking fresh and spry, his signature hnang lukhum (bamboo hat) on, smartly dressed as always, with pipi at his side, as always, walking home from early morning prayers in church. I pictured myself sitting in the big living room where my putes (maternal uncles) kept their most precious ‘record player’ with their collection of the latest Neil Diamond, Humperdinck, Tom Jones, Jim Reeves, CCR as well as various Gospel LPs neatly stacked on the side.
One by one, I saw my putes’ faces from long ago. Pute Rayson, Pute William, Pu Lien, even Pu Royal (just back home on retirement from the Army). I saw Pu Zalal’s ever smiling face from long ago, before he joined the Army as a chaplain.
I clearly felt Pi Kim hugging me as I waved to my parents and brothers leaving me for a month-long trip to thingtlang. I still have no idea why I did not go with them on that trip but I still recall, as if it was yesterday, the extra care all my putes took to make me feel at home that month.
With Tom Jones singing of how they laid him ‘neath the green, green grass of home’ I felt myself transported back to a time when time hardly mattered and life and love and a bright future seemed to be there for the taking. I was young again.
All too soon I found myself rolling down the parking ramp in office, looking for space to park my car. I sat for some time in my car, unwilling to let the feelings go and return to reality. Listening to nostalgia.
Then, suddenly, I saw mom, young, beautiful, smiling, waiting for me as I walked home from school.
That’s when the tears came……