I assumed wrongly that Bagus is a Muslim surname…turns out Mr Bagus from Bali is a Hindu Brahmin. In Batam as part of service staff of a resort, Mr Bagus was all set to meditate at the Maitreya temple on the island the next day. He posed happily for me near this vintage car and wished me a great day before sauntering off to attend to other clients.
Our ferry from Batam ploughs through the Straits of Singapore under a blue and beautiful sky
A visit to Nongsa village in Batam, Indonesia led us to Ahmed, a small-time snack vendor.
Apart from feeding us sweet tender coconuts, he surprised us by playing a Hindi song from the 70s. Fitted with a crate full of icecream, his bike also has a tape recorder that belts out emotional Indian songs.
“Main na bhoolonga” he hums — “I will never forget”…originally sung by Indian singers Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar, this song was released in 1974 (even before I was born!).
Little did I know that I would hear it in a small sleepy village in Indonesia more than four decades after it captured the hearts of millions of Indians — and that too hummed by a Muslim vendor in a Muslim-dominated nation during the month of Ramadan amidst calls for prayer and fasts…and acts of violence in the name of Islam.
Not particularly religious, I have always believed that human beings define their faith. It’s not the other way around. Ahmed reinforced my belief in his own sweet way. Thank you, Nongsa.