Saturday, October 24, 2009


Rushing around in between jobs today, I threw myself into a cab. The driver had snow-white hair, parted with a dramatically sweeping fringe and cascading down his collar.

"Where to?" he studied me in the mirror through over-sized gold rims.

"Serangoon Gardens," I told him.

He nodded knowingly. "Ahh, trying to send me straight into a jam ah?"

Apologetically, I told him what I did for a living, why I needed to go there and surprised, he craned his neck backwards. "I'm a very famous taxi driver, you know. I've been in the newspapers before!" And before I could open my mouth, he reached into the flap-mirror above his head and un-wedged a stack of laminated photocopies. I fanned them out in my hands.

There he was in the papers in 1997 and again a year after. The singing cabbie.

The stories talked about how the karaoke junkie would warble to passengers as he drove them about, cheering them up and amusing them. He smiled back at me in the pictures, debonair, less wrinkled, with darker hair. His passengers had spoken about how they found it strange at first, but quickly warmed to his crooning.

"Is that really you?" I stared at him in surprise. "Do you still sing?"

"Of course!" He waved a hand expansively. "I used to be in a band, The Falcons. We played at Ladyhill. In fact, I have a song coming up for you right now."

With a finger, he punched a button on the cd player, drawing a swooning minus one into the air. And then, he launched into a glorious rendition of Portrait Of My Love.

It was beautiful. His voice, mellow and tender with age, carried a beautifully burnished vibrato.

It was surprising, coming out of such a slight man, and it filled the cab with a cosy warmth.
I applauded frantically when the song ended. "Uncle, that's amazing. People must be so happy when you drive them."

"Well," he tried to look blushingly modest. "Once, two girls told me they wanted to kiss me on the cheek. And another time, one makcik said that if she wasn't already married, she would marry me right away." He even showed me an autograph from an air stewardess, a self-proclaimed fan. I was laughing in the backseat, delighted.

And then, he twirled his finger over the stereo buttons with a flourish. "Now, I have a very romantic one for you," he said, courtly and spry. He sang a lovely version of Can't Help Falling In Love With You as I harmonised silently in my head. He was clearly enjoying himself and I was feeling just as joyful.

I had reached my destination. "Thanks very much, uncle," I told him, dishing out the fare. "Keep on singing."

"I will," he said, counting out my change. "I sing every day."

"Really?" An idea tickled me. "What if you're in a bad mood?"

He chuckled to himself. "No lah. I'm never in a bad mood."

And we looked at each other in the rearview mirror and smiled.

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