The Soundtracks to our lives

by Jagdesh

The CD amazingly didn’t look like it was stashed away for a good half a decade ago. The filament of dust was easily cast aside with a simple blow of my breadth. I smiled because I just knew there were some memories waiting to be unlocked by playing anyone of the 15 tracks on it. It was one of those compilations CD, adorned with classic soundtrack theme music from some of the movies I grew up with. Some of these movies were even before I was an appreciating movie aficionado, or so I would like to think of myself rather unashamedly.

I was a bit of a weird teenager growing up, because my taste for music was completely formed around my imaginations of being the small bit roles in the movies I devoured through countless videotapes we had in the 80s. Mind you, for the uninitiated and young, videotapes were rented from rental stores in Malaysia mushroomed in all towns across the country. It was a completely affordable pastime, especially for the middle class wage earners with families growing in small towns. And because it was so cheap, the videotapes were also very easily accessible, and easily played repeatedly at home, at your own leisure. That’s when my imaginations would leap into the world created by the movie makers, the directors, the actors, the animations, and most importantly, the soundtracks.

These soundtracks were played on my walkman (go google what this was in the 80s) as life went on, and as I grew through the throngs of puberty, puppy love, crushes and embarrassing moments of trying to be that weird sidekick of the hero of the movies that I loved. I figured I wasn’t good looking or athletic enough to be the hero, but I could be that rather intelligent shy nerdy best friend who meant the best for his hero friend and who helped him out get the girl. The one that the hero usually saves from being bullied in the beginning of the movie. It was rather awkward because these soundtracks played in my mind as I role played whatever my imagination conjured up to make up the almost multiple personalities I had as a teenager. Imagine playing the March of the Imperial in your head as you walked across the hallway passing by that girl you had a crush on to maintain that ungeeky look for her. Can’t be suave or handsome, just be normal and not disgustingly idiotic. Yes, that was the right soundtrack to cool the nerves down.

I never grew out of this habit of playing internal music in my mind while I experienced every bit that life to offer as I grew up to be the man I am today. It was my own secret, it was something that I was ashamed to share with those close to me, but it was something I was a bit proud of to call my own all by myself.

This CD that suddenly popped up back into my life had a few melodic themes that fit quite nicely into my life soundtrack about 5 years back.

My other better half and I had decided rather unsurely to become a single income family, the 2 girls were at the age that would perhaps gain some attention from their mother as they maneuver through primary school. And both the girls were also getting ready to welcome another addition to the family in just a handful of months later. It was a big decision to make and the uncertainty of how our lifestyles, individually and collectively as a family, would change was getting heavy on my shoulders. My darling wife resisted this decision sternly when it was mooted, but she never outwardly insisted that we would be doomed from the get go. She understood it, didn’t agree with it wholeheartedly, but decided give it a go, seeing that we were already struggling with the few caretakers we had to watch over the girls. She loved her teaching job and leaving it was the scariest thing she ever did. I knew this and the weight on my shoulders grew heavier just seeing her trying to dignify our decision as a partnership. No outbursts, just silent and strong willingness to make it work.

There was this wistful sad rendition on the CD, from a love story I’m sure, about torn lovers and their passion through the sands of time. It had the sort of flashback feeling whenever a movie wants to flesh out the history behind the story. And it played out rather fittingly into a scene I imagined myself, of me 10 or 15 years older, all grey and creaky, and well rather cranky. In the scene, I’m sat with my three adult daughters, they are laughing among themselves unashamedly displaying their love and affection for each other, no more squabbling young girls. I’m there rather relaxed, in a reminiscing mood, as the wife is somewhere in the background, perhaps cooking a feast or writing her novel, and I’m reminded of the decision we made for her to be a stay-at-home mother. The soundtrack weaves it’s way into this scene, and it tugs at the heart strings of a time where my shoulders don’t seem as heavy as they were. This was the soundtrack of that chapter in my life at that point. That point where life was changing rather drastically but never catching us off guard. And that’s how I remembered it when I played the CD very recently.

But, as if there was some cue in my head, a new memory came crashing in, completely overwhelming the memory of those heavy shoulders, like waves wiping out sand castles, wiping out the memory of hope that it would all turn out for the better. This newly registered memory was more precise. It was of a holiday we took, as a family with much lesser to spend from our monthly income. We could hardly afford it but we wanted to make the best of it. Borrowed apartment from a family friend, food at the stalls, the not so glamorous and not so clean beaches of Penang. And then a laughter came in, further adding another layer to the new memory. It was her laughter while doting over my two very young daughters, cleaning them and hugging them as they tried to run away from her playfully to the small waves on the beach. Mom’s voice was crystal clear as the memory took a firm grip and played itself out while I concentrated more,  while the same soundtrack weaved in and out of the imagery, the sounds, and the feeling of sand at my feet. The grip was strong, as I felt tiny droplets of warm tears at the sides of my eyes. It’s vividness was alarming for a few seconds, further making sense of the phrase ‘a blast from the past’. And so strong it was that the soundtrack that was playing now has become the soundtrack of this memory of Mom. The scene is of that holiday when she was there with us and I think it’ll be that soundtrack for a long time, for me to cherish a wonderful and pleasant time when Mom was with us all. The heavy shoulders I had then was so much more trivial than being there with her, hearing her laughter, and of her affection with my family. I can’t help but feel how apt this piece of music is to commemorate this very chapter in my life.


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4 thoughts on “The Soundtracks to our lives

  1. I’m assuming English is not your native language, so I won’t correct errors but I will say it was difficult to read at times. If you ever need a proofreader, I’ll try to help if I have the time.

    Anyway, about the piece itself, it’s a lovely thing to find something with so many memories attached to it. Isn’t it strange how strongly memories imprint themselves into our minds when set to music?


  2. I understand this idea of a soundtrack playing in one’s head. It happens to me, too. The story seemed to meander through time so I had a bit of trouble following it.


  3. I’m a big fan of movie soundtracks, too, and I’ve definitely experienced powerful memories associated with songs. I agree with the other commenters that the story could be a little more concise, especially in the second half. I enjoyed the 80s jokes and getting glimpses of growing up in Malaysia.


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