(From MAI WORD with Padre James Bhagwan, in Mai Life - May, 2011)
During Holy Week last month (that is the week between Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and His resurrection after washing his disciples feet, eating a last supper, being arrested, tortured, interrogated, dragged from one show trial to another, flogged, mocked, tortured again and brutally executed by crucifixion) I was late for a church service and stuck for transport so I hailed a taxi.
As the driver, a rather jovial person (the type who you half expect to burst into song as he drives) was alert and steady at the wheel, which was a good thing as at a particular intersection he suddenly hit the brakes to avoid bumping a figure that strode purposefully onto the road.
At first I couldn’t make out the person who had either laid claim to the road or had special super mutant vision that enabled them to see pedestrian crossings on a different part of the light spectrum, or vibration, or frequency or dimension. This is because my face was busy getting intimate with the windscreen. Point to note, had I not been wearing a seatbelt (for a car not as a fashion accessory) instead of trying to “fix” the windscreen, I would have gone all the way into and out of the windscreen.
However as disengaged my face from I was able to make out the figure of the teen tropical hip-hopper (hoodie, hotpants and flipflops) noticing the white cord running from the mobile phone/discotheque to the earphones embedded and thumping in ... her ear. She kept strollin/grooving/boppin’ along her merry way. She hadn’t even noticed the scream of tyres on asphalt. I joked to the jolly taxi-driver who was shouting out a mixture colourful advice on pedestrian etiquette and one liners, that perhaps she was so busy listening to her theme song that she didn’t know that he was giving his dialogue.
As we raced (within the speed limit of course) to the church and as the driver began his own sing-a-long to the radio (trust me a chubby, hairy, sweaty man singing ‘Touch me touch me touch me, hold me hold me hold me...’ with gusto is not a pretty sight), I looked out the window and as my own theme song for that day or taxi-ride: a medley of a re-worded theme song from Shaft (who’s the talatala that can battle yo demons...can you dig it?),the rap remix of the hymn Trust and Obey and Bob Marley’s One Love; I wondered how many people have their own theme songs running through their earphones or even just through their mind.
Trucktimus Prime, my pickup truck (yes we name everything in my family, the dog is Perseus Thomas Bhagwan) does not yet have a radio installed. As a result my children sing their favourite songs as we travel to school and work every morning. My savant son (all 6 ½ years of him) is currently torn between a lifelong (make that life so far) commitment to UB40 and a rapidly growing appreciation of the guitar skills of Carlos Santana and the percussive talents of his band. His younger sister was part (the Class 1 part) of the school choir for their pre-Easter Service. Music genres, as a result, are varied in the morning ride (sometimes punctuated with “Morningside for Life”) musical.
We would begin with “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus,” followed by “Who you fighting for?” (usually a prelude to the morning episode of who you fighting with?). Reconciliation begins with “I will never forget you, my people” (which could also represent grudge harbouring) and continues with “Reasons why I love you 1, 2, 3 etc”. In the meantime wife/mother mulls over the options: “Happy to be stuck with you,” “This Kiss,” or “Kiss and say goodbye,” and “Someone come and take my kids away for a couple of days and the aliens can have my husband back,” ( well if it’s not a song , then it should be!!).
I am happy to sing along with everyone, just so long as every now and then I get to change some of the word of their songs, hence “Who you fighting with?” “What can wash away the grog stains from Daddy’s sulu?” at which my wife will interject, “nothing but the washing powder and the hands of Daddy!” The fact that my first love in music is jazz, most of my songs are instrumentals, which make for interesting eavesdropping on the morning ride to school:
“What can wash away my sin...(back up – what can wash away Dad’s kani), nothing but the blood of Jesus (back up – only the moisturiser)... You do the lootin’, they do the shootin’ you give the longbar, we eat the long bar.... bukatika bukatika bukatika bukatika tow ka tow tow bukatika bukatika ( a little baseline thrown in) reasons why you love me one – I light your day I’m your number one son... bukatika bukatika bukatika bukatika tow ka tow tow bukatika bukatika... who’s the talatala that can battle yo demons (and the kids shout:) Daddy! Can you dig it?”
Rev. J.S. Bhagwan spends his time splashing in the pool; preaching, teaching and do-gooding in the Dudley Suva Methodist Circuit and driving his wife around the bend. He is the proud owner of a collapsible three-legged stool.