So there I was, aimlessly pushing my shopping cart ("trolley") through my local Tesco hypermarket, doing my biweekly grocery shopping. Then, about midway down the milk and cheese aisle (a very expensive aisle indeed, given the price of dairy products here), I stopped dead in my tracks, listening to what sounded like a familiar tune on the store's PA system. Now, as a point of background information, I've found that Asia in general likes old American soft rock and pop music from the 70s and 80s. I clearly remember sitting in a restaurant in Bali once a few years ago, amazed when "I Honestly Love You" by Olivia Newton-John came on the stereo, followed by an early Backstreet Boys song. So I've come to expect this. I was in a store the other day and found myself humming along to Kenny Rogers' old early-80s hit, "Lady." But nothing could have prepared me for this.
I literally stopped my cart (oh look, New Zealand butter is on sale this week!) and listened, thinking, "No, that can't be what I'm hearing." It was the melody of "Blessed Assurance," one of the most popular of Christian hymns. My first thought was that something else had just been set to the tune. But no... they lyrics were in English and then the full choir came in, four-part harmony... "Blessed assurance / Jesus is mine / Oh what a foretaste of glory divine...This is my story / This is my song / Praising my savior / All the day long..." I couldn't believe it and resumed my cart-pushing, chuckling away at the dichotomy of this full-on Christian hymn being played over the PA system in a Malaysian supermarket as dozens of Muslim housewives, all bedecked in their colorful headscarves and accompanied by their husbands, navigated their trolleys through the aisles, blissfully unaware of the irony. Now, even though I've pretty well disavowed myself of any organized religion in my adult years, I grew up in the Methodist church and "Blessed Assurance" was always one of my favorite hymns. I never had an inkling all those years ago that, someday, I'd be living in Malaysia, and certainly never in a million years could have imagined that I'd hear that hymn while wandering through a grocery store here!
Jesus Christ, ladies and gentlemen... brought to you by Tesco.