Thursday, October 8, 2009
Priyanka's Childhood Friend
It was in the early 90s and I had just bought a house in Taman Bersatu Kulim having disposed off my previous one in Taman Bayam as the area, being located just next to an industrial estate, was getting ‘infested’ with foreigners. Being surrounded by so many of these foreign factory workers, I had started to feel alien in my own land. The government had just opened up their entry and their influx transformed the landscape of the area that I had been living in until then; hence my decision to move out. I didn’t mind having to travel the 10 km to work and incurring additional fuel cost so long as I can enjoy some peace and quiet in my new abode.
My last daughter Priyanka was about 2 plus then. Bubbly as she was, she would often spend her time with our neighbour’s son Balbir Singh who was quite fond of her. He was a turbaned Sikh with a good disposition and well mannered. He was doing his Form 4 then but the age gap was not an issue. He treated her as a good friend and she in turn would often hop over to his house with milk bottle in hand to watch TV or to chat with him. Whenever she saw him passing the house, she would call out his name and he would smile and wave back at her. She was proud to have a 16 year old as a friend. We went on to spend about 2 more years there until we moved to Taiping after I secured a job there having opted for VSS at my previous place. With the decision to shift, we found it practical to sell off the house too as we knew that we may not return to live in Kulim again. We thus lost touch with the Singh family although my daughter had often mentioned his name and reminisced of him many a time since then.
Last weekend when we were in Kulim, my daughter reminded me and asked if I would take her to look up her long lost friend. I was initially skeptical whether he was still living in the same house as it had been such a long time since we left. I drove over to the house in Taman Bersatu where he lived back then and noticed that they had a Sikh insignia on the gate. Convinced that it was still occupied by a Punjabi family, my daughter alighted and approached the gate. Calling out his name, she waited anxiously for someone to appear.
A man in his mid 30s appeared. Priyanka could still make him out as Balbir Singh but he was totally at a loss as to who she was as she was still a 3 year old kid when we parted ways. When she introduced herself to him, what a shock he had! I could see his eyes brightening up as he asked “You are Mr. Aravind’s daughter ah?” I could see excitement written all over him as he called out to his mum who was inside, explaining who we were. When I realized that she remembered us too, I got down to greet them. He kept insisting that we should all come in. I explained that we were there to attend to my Dad’s final rites and that it may not be appropriate to do house calls. I promised however that we would surely drop by again during our next visit.
Balbir Singh is now in his mid 30s and is married to a Kaur from Punjab. He has a 1 year old child. Priyanka on the other hand is doing her Lower 6. They had not met in 15 years and his last memory of her was as a toddler clutching her milk bottle.
Posted by aravind at 5:04 AM