I've dated quite a few men, and most have left zero impression on me, except for sometimes when they left behind a song that became seminal to my life. I thought I'd have an attempt at putting those songs (and some of those men) in chronological order. An archive of my musical tastes, as it were.
Age 11, Nothing My Love Can't Fix For You Baby by Joey Lawrence
“See this singer,” said my cousin in disgust when I was visiting him during the summer holidays, “All the girls think he's so cute.” I gave the screen a desultory glance. “I don't,” I said. “That's because you're smart,” said my cousin.
Oh, hubris! Not three months later, I was so obsessed with Joey Lawrence I could tell you exactly when he flipped his hair in his video, I kissed his face on the cover of his cassette, I waited obsessively for someone to bring out a Joey Lawrence poster like they did for Michael Jackson or Guns N Roses, but to my great indignation, no one thought he was worthy of a glossy poster at Archie's. Or maybe 11-year-old girls aren't exactly big spenders. Who knows? He was the Justin Bieber of his time, though.
Age 12, Uptown Girl by Billy Joel
I was “going around” with someone very inappropriate (far too old), but lucky for all involved, this just meant walks around the market and occasionally listening to him talk on the phone. I gave him Can't Help Falling In Love by UB40, the reggae stylings of which thrilled both old white men and my little pre-teen heart. He gave me my first Billy Joel listen-- “and when she's walkin', she's walkin' so fiii-iii-iine.” It began a long tradition of me trying to be like those girls in those songs, and knowing I could never be so mysterious, so aloof, so womanly.
Age 14, O Sanam by Lucky Ali
Not tied to one boy in particular, but it was the year that I yearned. My heart just always seemed like it was dangling on a string, and I can't remember being unattached for a single moment. I jumped from crush to crush to crush, all with equal intensity, all making me press rewind and repeat on the much-abused cassette player. Nothing captured my heart more than O Sanam though. It was one of the few Hindi songs I had, and that I knew all the words to.
Age 17, Rockafella Skank by Fatboy Slim
To be fair, this was also the age of pool parties, of sneaking out in the middle of the night, of going to Delhi parties full of Delhi teens. For the first time since I was twelve, I was actually dating someone, but this time for “real” and all that involved. Right about now, the funk soul brother played on tinny speakers as boys borrowed their parents' cars to drive us home in and girls enjoyed our last years before the mobile was everywhere and your parents could reach you at any time. Good days.
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Age 18, Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve
The summer before I went to college, two things happened: a) we finally got a music downloading website, which really wasn't technically legal, but still, and b) I got cheated on for the first time, by someone I didn't think was capable of such great change. He was just so chill. But before he cheated on me (then we got back together, then he cheated on me again, soap operas have nothing on teen romances) he'd play me this song over and over again on the phone, while we talked because I was obsessed with it, and because my internet was too slow and I couldn't own it. It was a real romantic gesture, but I should've seen the end coming. It was right there in the song: a bittersweet symphony, that's life.
And that's all the space I have for memory lane in this instalment. Look out for part two next week!
Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan is the author of five books, most recently a YA novel about divorce called Split and a collection of short stories about love called Before, And Then After. The views expressed here are her own
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:45 PM