Monday, 14 February 2005

Reminiscence of an incurable old romantic

London
14th Feb 2005
There was the unmistakeable ringing tone signalling a message. The girl sitting opposite me on the no: 7 looked at her handphone, and a smile spread across her face as she recognised the sender. She turned bright pink matching the scarf around her neck as she read the message.

Penang
14th February 1979
The young girl sitting uncomfortably in the rickety trishaw, as it zig-zagged its way at suicidal speed across Light Street, ripped open the padded envelope with the registered London stamp, and pulled out a tape. She inserted it immediately in her small tape recorder, pressed the play button and put the recorder close to her ears. She smiled as she heard the message but turned bright red with anger as the trishaw puller increased the volume on his transistor, drowning her recorded Valentine's message with Mohamed Rafi's rendition of Junglee, filling the evening air.

Yes, how time has changed, thanks to technology! A press of a button and your loving message, complete with kisses and smooches emoticons, reaches your loved one. In those days, I had to wait days, if not weeks, before I received those much awaited bulky letters that brought much laughter, tears of joy and the sweet pangs of sorrow that comes with long distance relationship. In the absence of dirt cheap phone cards that are available now, international calls were resorted to only in times of emergencies.

Nowadays, there's the yahoo instant messaging service, the sms and cheap phone cards that bring people together.

However, looking back, nothing beats old traditional letter writing. They were worth the wait. And now, 25 years on, they are neatly catalogued and kept in a bag under the bed.

Working at the old office in Light Street, Penang had certain advantages that outweighed the disadvantages. One advantage was of course, the package as described above was flown from the London office, where the love of my life was then based, together with other official documents to the head office in Jalan Riong. A conspiracy with the then Personal Secretary to the Big Boss, meant that the package was slipped discreetly in an envelope and flown out by the old Fokker Friendship to the Penang Bureau. Danny, the office boy would sort out the documents and again discreetly put the package in my drawer. Mission accomplished.

The downside was of course, ordinary letters were not delivered directly to the office. I had to cultivate Danny's friendship to fetch the letters, which used to come in threes, from the Penang Post Office. I could guess when there were letters. The hint of a smile on his boyish face as he walked up the creaky stairs of the old building, and he'd pretend to do other work, while my heart was bursting with suspense and agony.

"Wah! Manyak lorr!" he'd beamed as he finally handed me the letters. If there were morning assignments, the letters would have to wait, though I'd disappear regularly to the ladies to satisfy my curiosity.

Most of the time, I'd wait for the tea break, took the letters with me and sat myself down under the big shady tree in front of Ho Peng Cafe. Danny, young, trusty and dependable Danny, just knew that I needed to be in the right mood to devour the contents of the letters. He'd choose some of my Abba favourites from the old juke-box. Or most of the time it'd be Hopelessly Devoted To You, over and over again as I read and reread his jottings, his jokes, his diary. Nothing mushy.

"Play it again, Danny," I'd murmur dreamily as I reread para 4 of page 20. Danny would faithfully drop a few more coins in the box, and as the ships passed by unnoticed and the mee goreng mamak that I ordered remain untouched, I'd continue reading, with Olivia Newton John tirelessly belting out Hopelessly Devoted To You.

Oh, did I say phonecalls were for emergencies only? Yeah, he did call one night to propose. And I breathlessly said, "Yes!"

29 comments:

Mutiara said...

How romantic!!I think those letters carry more feelings than the txt messages on the cell phone. I like to think so. You can read the letters over and over again and of course between the lines too.
Wonder where Danny is now? Did you ever bring the letters to read when you go to eat "mee Agong"??
Very nostalgic.

mokciknab said...

Sweeet! And what did Awang Goneng do (to you) today?

Thanks for the wish, and of course Selamat Hali Cinta to you too!

And I was very happy to see you write in a proper column again -- about the love story of our time - Camilla and Charles!(It was a nice photo, BTW and you do not look old at all, heh heh. No, seriously, it was cute)

atenah said...

aaaahhhh

wynn said...

Ahhh.. those were the days.. emoticons and polyphonic songs cannot replace the cards and letters written by the loved ones. Or songs specially compiled and recorded for you to hear and sing..

budakkampong said...

nasib baik baca kak teh punya blog...lupa hari ni 14/2... bukan lupa hari ni 14/2 actually ingat yaya 1 year and 2 months.

wah kak teh gila punya romantik...

Kak Teh said...

oooh aaaah, yes, was down the nostalgic road quite early this morning before the morning rush. Mutiara: the last time i went to the NST office which is now in Chulia St, i believe, Danny was out. But i heard he got married..My life then defended on him!
mokcik: thanks again for dropping by. awang? does he know abt valentine's day? I think he has selective memory. Men!
And yes, that pix in Sunday Mail was variously described by my siblings, too horrid to print.
atena: kak teh sorang saja dok ooh and aaah! dia dok mengeroh lagi! Men!
wynn: thanks ..yes, I quite agree that somethings are irreplaceable.
orang darat: ish takkan lupa kut! Men!

Yasmin's Mummy said...

wahh so romantic. give us more..!

atiza said...

i'm picturing you in your red baju kebaya, smiling away while reading those love letters.

cun jugak kak teh nih ;)

RG said...

Sweet.

About Blogreader said...

Eee yuck. So lovey dovey cannot tahan one!

Kak Teh said...

aiyah, blogreader..u say that because he far away what!!! Tell me that u dont wait for his phonecall and sms!! hehe!
yasmin'mum: cannot give more - my children might read!
atiza: i still smile when i read!!
rg: thanks for dropping by.

Ms.B said...

Aww, Kak Teh .. despite my lack of enthusiasm for Valentine's .. but if it brings back all these wonderful tales from years ago, then bring the saint on!!!! ;)

Yes, nothing like letter writing. Unfortunately, hubadubs and I didn't get to do very much of that. I DID write and get long letters from my boyfriend before that though. He was in ITM Shah Alam doing landscape architecture, I was doing law matriculation in UKM. Not as though it was so far away, but at the time, no one had handphones or the like. It was always letters, letters and more letters. Then hubadubs came and swept me off my feet and I chucked the pen for passion!! LOL!!

red said...

weeehhh...kak teh...
saya tabek 3 kali kat kak teh...
romantic betol....

i like the part about you keeping the letters, till now?
eerr...mine is being kept to hold me to ransom...by my wifey...heh..heh..

Captain Barbell said...

JANGAN BERGERAKKK!!!
*ANDA TELAH DIKEPUNG*

Hazel said...

Sigh ....

Kak Teh said...

blabs, we dont celebrate as well - but if only we can parcel up those memories and keep them in a box too.
red: thanks for visiting. I bet she is ticking what promises have been fulfilled and which one still outstanding!! To tell u the truth, i cant bear deleting emails fr my loved ones.
hazel: is there a cure?

wynn said...

Kak Teh.. I keep all the letters my EX wrote masa courting dulu smpi skrang. He kept the letters I sent him until we divorced. Then he gave them to me and asked me to keep them. Kak Teh agak2 kenapa ek, dia soh sya simpan? Dan smpi bila sya harus simpan? Sya tak mo "Sweetheart" baca/jumpa seandai nya dia jadi suami kelak. Shud I just give back to EX and ask him to do watever he wants with it? (Dia takut bini dia baca kot..)

Sunflora said...

KakTeh may the romance continue flourishing over the years ahead :) Good thing you have all those letters, I lost all my emails. :(

shidah said...

20pages kak teh? wah lau wei....jiwang sungguh...& danny tu kira 'posmen' yang canggih le time tuh.....

Kak Teh said...

sunflora: tu lah, emails boleh terdelete.
wynn: that is a tough one...no, don't keep - give baaaacck!
shidah: yes - sometimes more...but emails and sms spoils the beuty of letter writing.
Now my problem is what do i do with them? what will happen to them when i am gone?

Nadia said...

Kak teh...i buang dah all our letters masa balik msia thn 99 ke 2002 dulu. husband jenis tak suka simpan brg. huhuhu...

d'arkampo said...

I know where is Danny now...

He is the CEO for Hallmark's Card Company.

Imagine 20 pages of mushy mushy love letter.Now i know where he got the wordings from..

NajMie said...

*weeping* laughing*weeping*laughing*weeping*laughing. isk isk*

Lollies said...

I like TRUE love stories. Because it's true bukan rekaan

Kak Teh said...

nadia, its okay as long as u treasure the memories.
najmie, once you recah my age, then you rely on memories and become nostalgic quite easily.
d'arkampo - ish you didn't read properly - i said 'nothing mushy!'
lollLies: its fun though writing that, i know that hubby took a peep cos he had this sheepish smile.
okay, okay enough is enough...can't update blog cos must finish some work first

MamiJarum said...

How romantic... What treasure, what romance...

Ida Hariati Hashim said...

Kak Teh,

I prefer the old school ways of corresponding better than this hi-tech mumbo jumbo..

I used to keep all of the love letters, flowers and gifts from a couple of the prince charming wannabe's..too bad, my hubby trashed them away...I sedey tau, but I did not want to create a conflict pulak, maklumlah baru kahwin..

So now, I am left with nothing about my past..just fragments of lukewarm memories..but it will leave on within me..

Kak Teh said...

mami jarum, Kak teh baru nak jawab yr old comment, thanks. Missing you., your son must be big by now.

Kak Teh said...

Ida i sitll have all those letters - entah apa nak buat when we are both gone. I think I will have to do something - perhaps we can busy them.