Monday, 20 February 2012
The BHLB reunion
It was a reunion of more than 100 people. There I was with Saw See at the CitiTel in downtown Penang Road and we were walking in with our uncle, Kuan Hai, whom we had met in the car park. Some small talk took us up to the third floor of the building where the reunion of former Ban Hin Lee Bank staff was going to be held.
We were numb with wonder the moment we left the lift. All the familiar faces, all the familiar voices, all the familiar mannerisms. All washed upon us. Happy faces, happy voices, happy mannerisms. Gosh, for many of us, we haven't had the chance to meet so many of us together on a happy, solid occasion. Everytime the lift door opens, the eyes of everyone near the lift automatically turns to face it. Who else would be walking in?
We were supposed to register ourselves first, but who cared about the formalities? First order of the evening was to greet my former colleagues like long-forgotten pals. In fact, they were long-forgotten friends. No longer colleagues, but friends. No racial barriers between colleagues but bonds between friends.
Many are still in Penang but many are already living in the other states. Don't know whether anyone among us there are working overseas, though. A big number among us had even made the journey from down south. As far south as Johor Bahru and Malacca.
A sizeable number among us are retired but many are still working. Either still in the banking industry (many are) or in other lines. One of my old pals, Pak Chun, told me that he had retired just the day before. Another old pal, Hiong Wah, said he had a few more months to go. These are the ones that had chosen optional retirement at 55 years rather than slog another five more years for their present employer.
And inevitably, there was the close scrutiny of each other's health and physical self. Concern over former colleagues who were not in the pink of health. Passing notes to compare our common ailments. True, we acknowledged that we were no longer spring chickens. Everyone in the lobby either had white hair, were losing their hair or had lost their hair. Creases on the face, lines crossing the foreheads and showing up when we laughed. Only the ladies looked, well, still fresh enough despite the years.
We rolled back the years over dinner and then one of the highlights of the evening: a nostaligic trip down memory lane with a presentation of the old Ban Hin Lee Bank days. And above everything else, a night like this will never be complete without our evergreen Soo Hock crooning out some songs, just like 10 years ago, 20 years old. Friends, pang yeow, that's what he sang to close the evening...
(Above picture courtesy of Ng Khye Wai)