8.3.1980. I had finished my MCE and was waiting for my result. Sudirman came to town.
He was my idol of sorts. I remember trying to sing like him, dance like him, dress like him and be like him. When he got back from a tour in Japan, he transformed himself from being just another Malay singer to a Malaysian superstar. I remember his curly hair, baggy pants, linen vest worn over linen shirts complete with a long scarf over his neck.
As a kid, I was overwhelmed by Sudir. And so, on 8.3.1980, he had a concert somewhere near my town. I borrowed my friend's bike and rode it to the concert even though I had no licence!
He was a real superstar. He had none of the attitude which would turn you off. Friendly. Chatty. Earnest. Watching him live, I could almost felt his honest desire to entertain the folks. Singing, to him was not merely a profession. It was a mission. A mission to entertain the audience. Communication came as second nature to him. He made you laugh effortlessly, the young and old. He would make you shed a tear or two when he sang a sad song. He would coax an old man to dance with one of his dancers on stage. He would sing English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese songs to make his show as multi-racial as possible. I think he was the first Malaysian artist to command a truly multi racial audience in his concerts. He was just, a superstar of no equal.
During a break, I sneaked backstage. I was stopped by a guard but fortunately, Sudir saw me trying to gain entry and he signaled the guard to let me in. And there I was. Alone backstage with Sudir. He was smaller than I thought. A lot smaller than the singer I saw on stage. He smiled and extended his hand. I shook it. And I told him my name.
He asked me how old I was and I told him I was 17 and I had just finished my MCE. He smiled. "How was the exam", he asked. "Erm...okay", I said. He looked into my eyes and asked, "what do you intend to do after MCE?" I hesitated. "What would you want to be?", he followed up his earlier question. " I don't know, I just want to pass my exam..." I answered nervously. "Probably I want to be like you...a lawyer and a singer", I continued. He smiled. "You will be okay", he said. "I know you will...", he said as if my future was foretold.
I had to have a memoir from that meeting. It meant so much to me. Here, in front of me, is my idol. A person who encapsulates success to me. A law student and a great entertainer. If only digital cameras were already around those days.
I put my hand inside my pocket. Pulled out a one ringgit note. "No, please don't give money to me", he said with a smile. I looked at him and I said "no, I just want you to autograph it for me". He smiled. "How very original", he said. He took a marker, wrote my name on the note, with a message "Hormat dari" and signed "Sudir" on the note. I later added the date with a ball point pen.
That moment lasted a lifetime to me. 28 years later, I still have that note. As crisp as new.
Sudir, thank you for all the memories. Thank you for all the good times. You are missed.
May God bless your soul. I am sure you are smiling at me now. And if you hadn't known, I am okay.