“Hoshwaalon ko khabar kya, bekhudi kya cheez hai.
Ishq kijiye, phir samajhiye, zindagi kya cheez hai.”
Jagjit Singh’s poignant baritone blares through the record player; his voice unwavering like the finely tuned strings of a sitar.
The tape recorder splutters and stops abruptly, as the spool manages to entangle itself in an infinite warp. Like that of one’s hair, which needs to be tugged on delicately to successfully untangle the mess without tearing it off your scalp.
“IT’S TANGLED!” I declared.
While simultaneously reaching out for a pen that seated itself on a niche carved out of oakwood. The rear end of the pen fit generously into the groove of the cassette after multiple attempts.
I meticulously started rotating the pen inside the grooves. A little to the right. While easing it on the left. The black magnetic spool unwinds itself effortlessly to go back to its former state of perfectly wrapped spool ready for insertion into the record player.
The index finger applies pressure on the play button and the music reels in with a click.
A gentle consistent hum accompanies it in the background.
Record Players were an integral part of Indian households. The gentle hum of music playing from the living rooms were a welcoming sound for bypassers. They would come inside whistling and clicking their fingers to the tune of the beat.
Cassettes could be personalized and recorded over. The sturdiness was unmatched. And the joy lied in the drudgery of flipping the cassette from Side A to Side B.
There were no advertisements that interspersed the music, which modern forms of online platforms tend to do; in a conscious effort to make one indulge in consumables. It would be pushed down one’s throat like a spoon of bitter gourd being force fed to a child. In the assumption that it would perhaps make life a more pleasurable experience.
The plastic cover which encapsulated the spool would not shy away from scratches and dents. It would brave the torrential mood swings and bickering of the husband and wife, while the youngest offspring decided to teeth on it vigorously.
And yet, the spool would roll seamlessly indifferent to the atrocities imposed on its exterior.
These seemingly ordinary pieces of plastic had worlds of music inside them. Music that had the ability to uplift one’s mood or be one’s companion on a lonely night. Choosing the right music to capture the essence of the living room was a herculean task. It involved sifting through covers of music with different layout.
It was like a library that tempted you with book covers in various hues; adorned with illustrations. The back jacket of the book would provide one with a luring glimpse of the contents.
The music emanating from the cassette would determine which song would be stuck in my head. It would refuse to go out of one’s mind, like a piece of gravel stuck in one’s shoes…reminding one of its constant presence while walking down a crowded street, and offering a sense of familiarity.