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DAILY MUSINGS: THE ACCORDIAN PLAYER

By January 08, 2015 , , , , , ,


A short drive away from where I work lies two rows of shops where the bank, post office and chemist are housed. The tree-lined shopfronts and beautiful blooms in spring all show the quaint little town that it is, despite the urban sprawling that has brought in new money to match the McMansions.

Every morning I visit the bank and the post office on the main street. I walk past the newsagent that sells stationery too, but more expensive than the big supermarkets; The milkbar where we used to get sandwiches for staff lunches (but not anymore); the café where the morning joggers unwind, then the bank. I punch a few buttons on the express deposit machine, drop off money, the machine prints a receipt, and the transaction is complete. Easy, quick, mechanical, monotonous, soulless.. It was the same routine, day after day. During that 10-15 minutes trip out of the office, my mind is always elsewhere or not anywhere.

One day, I stepped out of my car and heard La Vie En Rose to the sound of accordion. I traced the music and saw an elderly gentlemen busking in front of the bank. I slowed down my footsteps to enjoy the rich, reedy sounds from the instrument and even hummed along to the tune. When I walk past him, he played a trill that sounded beautiful, but an unexpected addition to the Edith Piaf classic. The disruption made me look up and I saw an elderly gentleman with snowy white hair, olive skin and kind eyes. He smiled and at me and said: “ni hao!” (“How are you?” in Mandarin) I smiled at him, amused at his attempt to speak my mother tongue. I did not want to interrupt his music, so I gave a little curtsey, and went on my way.

The following week, he was there again. I was glad to have the music to accompany my monotonous routine. This time, he played the start of a Chinese folk song just as I walked past. Week after week, Grandpa Accordian became the soundtrack to my routine. Occasionally, he would sing in Italian. Sometimes it was a trill. Once or twice, he tried out a few phrases in Mandarin that was incomprehensible, but I smiled and nodded at him nevertheless. But rain or shine, he was there every Thursday ready with happy tunes for everyone.

Then one day, he wasn’t there anymore.

As the holiday season approached, people’s footsteps became more frantic. The bank’s sidewalk where Grandpa Accordion used to busk was replaced by people sorting out their financial affairs. I felt forlorn at his absence. I miss the joyful tunes and his old world charm. I sincerely hope that he took short leave from his stint to be in the company of his children and grandchildren. Yet in the back of my mind, a small voice reminded me that.. god forbids… but he may have been struck down by sickness, or his mind and body has simply gave away to the cruel yet ever present death.

..... 

Today, I parked my car and went along my daily routine. My daily trip has become so monotonous that my brain was on autopilot, until I heard the unmistakable sound of accordion and the velvety, mellow voice:

Quand il me prend dans ses 
bras Il me parle tout bas, 
Je vois la vie en rose. 

Grandpa Accordian is back! I slowed down my steps. Today, he asked me have I have eaten, in Mandarin, to which I replied: “Welcome back!”

I still don’t know his name, but I felt like I just met an old friend after long time. My encounter with Grandpa Accordion made me realise that music transcends age, culture and language barrier. In this day where terror and religious hatred are abound, I wonder.. maybe music is answer to break down the fear and make us embrace one another as brothers and sisters.

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