Just for the record

When a bunch of English-music lovers and an old-timer meet in a music store

Although our college had a beautiful and impressive building, our common room was rather small in comparison. Nevertheless, it had one attraction. There were an ancient record player and some nice records, which all of us had access to. So, although we preferred to spend our free time in the vast college garden, we dropped in now and then to enjoy our favourite songs. But most of the records were in Bengali. There were a few English ones. I was a student in the first year, but my friend and I knew a few seniors who also loved English songs. We asked them if they could do something about it. Sarah, who was one of the shining lights of the third year, took up our cause and got the Department of Culture to permit us to buy some ‘suitable’ English records for the common room.

Incidentally, those were the days of 78 RPM records. CDs had not yet come in and Extended and Long Playing records were rather expensive for the common man. Luckily, there was a record shop virtually next door to our college and we went there for shopping. There were just eight of us — six from the third year and two of us from the first.

The shop was dark and tiny. As we looked around, it seemed at first that they stocked only Bengali records. But Roma, an avid pop- music fan, located a pile in a corner of the shelf that had some of the latest favourites — Elvis Presley, Pat Boone, Tony Brent, Doris Day, Connie Francis, among others. She let out a wild yell, startling the owner of the shop and an elderly crony who was visiting him, who frowned in intense disapproval. The young salesman grinned at her and asked her which ones she wanted. We had already made a tentative list. Roma, the cultural secretary, made the final selection, helped by Sarah. “Please give me ‘Bernadine’, ‘Que Sera Sera’, ‘Little Serenade’, ‘It’s Now or Never’, ‘Never on a Sunday’, and ‘Cindy Oh Cindy’,” she told him. Everyone felt that they had made a good choice.

The owner looked gratified at her enthusiasm, but the elderly gentleman was plainly disgusted with the whole incident. It was outlandish to see a troop of young girls gallivanting alone without so much as a respectable escort with them, all of them chattering away like magpies! He said so, adding, “Ki deen kaal poreche, mashai!” (What’s the world coming to!).

The owner of the shop tried to pacify him by saying that the ones the girls had chosen were quite the rage these days. He grunted while we made for the door happily. However, Roma had forgotten an important record. She waved at the salesman, smiled apologetically, and said, “Oh, and ‘Remember you’re Mine’, please.” There was an explosion from the elderly gentleman who glared at Roma and said, “Isn’t that a rather tall order, miss, considering you’ve just met him?”

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Just for the record

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