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Come, September
I love to remember…

This morning, for some reason, I woke up with these lines on my lips. They are from an old Malayalam song. Yes, English lines added to a Malayalam song for that extra something, and sung in the typical Mallu accent to boot. Not a great song by any standard, but there you have it, it was on my lips. After all today marks the first day of the month of September.

This song used to be the favorite of a friend from college days. She hummed it day in and day out, getting on my nerves in the process, and if that was not enough, she also played it on her tape recorder repeatedly for good measure. I swear she hugged the radio to herself when the song played. That was how much she loved it. There was a reason to it and it had nothing to do with the lovely sunny days after incessant rains or the festival season of Onam. It was in September that she met her secret boyfriend. Ah, love! It can endear things to you that wouldn’t otherwise have merited a second glance, or in this case, a second hearing. Mediocre songs and months of the year become dear.

But, you wonder, why was it a secret? Ahh my dears, you know not of the India of the seventies. Almost all boyfriends, ninety nine point nine-nine percent of them, fell in the ‘secret’ category. If the cat was let out of the bag, the parents would either start crying and beating their chest at the ‘tragedy’ that had befallen them, be horror-stricken and blame their karma, beat up the daughters to a pulp, and/or lock them up till they had found someone of their liking to marry their daughter.

This is the land of arranged marriages even today, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But in the seventies it was as ‘arranged’ as it could get. There are those who’ll puff up their chests and tell you that women in India had the freedom to choose their partner even in the distant past, when the West was still in its diapers. They will smirk with pride and give you the practice of swayamvar as an example. The reference is to the practice of the kings — some, not all — inviting princes and kings from neighboring kingdoms, and allowing their daughter(s) to choose one of their liking from the assembled invitees. It is conveniently forgotten that the practice was the privilege only of the rulers.

Getting back to the seventies. Almost all boyfriends during our college days were a secret kept from parents as also other members of the family. Family members, and family friends too, were like bloodhounds, trying to sniff out any unauthorized meetings between young men and women. Was anyone getting letters that made them smile? Who were they looking at when their eyes suddenly lowered and a shy smile spread on their face?

Once information was at hand it was promptly presented, ever-so-juicily, and with added garnish of the absolutely exotic kind, to the parents and/or people who had access to them, who on their part were ready to believe the worst of their children (read daughters). Being a snitch was like a common hobby, each one competing with the next on being self-appointed caretakers of morality and culture. Ironically this is the same culture which abounds with tales of unwed mothers who weren’t slaughtered by their parents.

So, yeah. That’s why my friend had a ‘secret’ boyfriend. And as mentioned earlier, they met for the first time in September, which is why she loved the song ‘Come September, I love to remember’. I remembered her this morning when I woke up with her favorite song on my lips. The outcome of most college romances generally have been uncertain. So I was left wondering if she still loves to remember September.

Addendum: Though this was not the topic I had in mind for my very first post for September Musings (Hostess: Ruchi More), this is what the tap-dancing fingers of mine decided it will be, and so it is.

© Shail Mohan 2020