The first melody I learned to play on my harmonica as a youngster was the ‘Red River Valley’ and often as I played its sad, melancholic tune, wondered what the lyrics meant. It was only recently I heard the reason behind the strange title, and why the lyrics were written.
“More than two hundred years ago,” the narrator said, “hunters from Europe gathered in the forests bordering the United States and Canada, in an area called the Red River Valley where they hunted animals for their fur.
The fur sent back home made them a fortune, but it also took time to build that fortune, sometimes decades during which time they left their families behind in Europe and lived alone in the wilds of Canada.
But man hates to live alone, right, and so most of these white hunters took Indian wives, mostly from the Metis tribe, who looked after them and even bore them children. In return, he sheltered, fed and cared for these poor women.
But finally, the man left. Back to home, hearth and original family, leaving behind a hurt, frightened woman, from whose lips the original song is said to have first sprung.
Come and sit by my side, if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
Just remember the Red River Valley
And the woman who loved you so true
From this valley they say you are going
We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile
For they say you are taking the sunshine
That has brightened our pathways a while
They will bury me where you have wandered
Near the hills where the daffodils grow
When you’re gone from the Red River Valley
For I can’t live without you I know!
But she learned to live without him, and also learned over a period of time as women became educated as much as their menfolk, that there was no need to get into such temporary arrangements to survive, that they could do well for themselves, and most importantly, by themselves.
Our women in our own country know this! Over the last seventy-five odd years after independence, our women are as knowledgeable, and strong as our men. They are not fools to fall into the arms of any man who comes their way. But how do our men treat our women?
With every law that we make in the guise of protecting them, we are sending them back hundreds of years. Laws such as ‘love-jihad’ and those on inter- community marriages are only throwing them back into the dark ages of the Red River Valley. These laws say, “Women are weak! They are like the Metis Indians of the Red River Valley!” It’s time every single woman in our country realizes what is happening, or sadly I will have to take my old harmonica from it’s case and play same sad tune, only calling it the, ‘Red Nine Yards Sari..!”
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