We were standing in the midst of complete pandemonium, crushed by a sea of raging men and women, pushed and dragged all through long and yet I stood my ground with persistence like the rest of the crowd. No one was willing to drop their guard, nor to let it go. Things were not easy by any means and we all have come expecting that this would happen. I had my wrist watch already slid in my front pocket and didn’t carry any valuables. This was the den of pickpockets. There was a force of thousand men pushing from behind who were standing in what we would have liked it to be called a line which was not a line in any sense. And as the clock on the wall ticked minute by minute, the uproar got even louder and more impatient. The grinding that these people went through was going to be rewarding in few moments. Few policemen were deployed to control the chaos and would waive their lathis on the unruly few until the line became straight. I had my fist tight and inside the fist was three bills of Rs.10. I could not see through the iron counter window where I could put my hands nor could I see the face of the man behind. There was just one small window hole where four, five or may be six hands were stuck in.

…considering the meager pocket money our parents would give us then. The elation was similar when Dev was paid RS. 350 for painting the zebra crossing and tells Nandu- “Yeh dekh Nandu, Meri Zindagi ki pehli kamai…”

When one somehow pulled back his hand out, two pushed theirs in that 6×6 inch window. Reaching this far was no less a feat to be cherished. From inside the counter I opened my fist and indicated the ticket counter person with two fingers. He pulled the Rs.30 from me, tore two green paper tickets and put it in my palm. Now the last milestone was to pull my right hand out of the wrought iron window grill and it was out after some push and thrash with the rest. I managed to fight out of the melee and called out my friend from the line signalling that I have it. Yes there were bruises but we managed to get the first day second show of Amir Khan starrer Mann. That was some good old sunny day in June 1999 when we were in the 1st year of our Secondary and skipped our classes to be right there at the Bijou Cinema Hall in Police Bazar, Shillong. Cinema watching used to be an adventure and rewarding then. But you’d live that romance only if you were not buying from the touts selling at a price five times the face value, considering the meager pocket money our parents would give us then. The elation was similar when Dev was paid Rs. 350 for painting the zebra crossing and tells Nandu- “Yeh dekh Nandu, Meri Zindagi ki pehli kamai…”

The hi definition screen was lit and the lights dimmed but the small LEDs on the red walls, the Dolby Atmos sounds to make us feel we were inside the action. There weren’t many seats I saw ahead and even fewer occupied unlike any other cinema halls we had been to. These were recliners positioned in pairs. As the credits rolled on the huge screen, some more people made their way to their seats navigating through the strips of LED on the floor marking the row numbers, gradually filling the mini auditorium. We had the best and widest view from the last row which happened to be the most pricey seats. I was more curious with the fancy buttons on my right arm rest which could stretch to a mini bed of that seat and could also call the usher. There was a beautiful lamp behind the shoulder, a nicely packed golden sheet on a side table, a cushion and a small bottle of packaged water, also a menu to order food. I was just trying to pamper my wife that Jan 1st 2017 on the occasion of our sixth wedding anniversary and brought her to the PVR Gold in Ambience, Gurgaon. We were watching the Amir Khan starrer Dangal.

Cinema watching has changed over the years. The transition from old theaters to multiplexes has changed the experience of enjoying our three hours of journey to the world of reel now turned to digital. I don’t really have much to tell for the latter part because there’s isn’t much of a tale in it. You just book your show on your mobile app and you have the tickets texted or emailed to you. Just as Omkar said: “Tum dono ke chakkar mai meri class lag gayi“. Geeta replied: “Teri to class lagi hain, hamara to syllabus hi badal gaya…” Growing up with cinemas, I still miss the old days. What good old days it used to be minus the convenience and the neatness of how we book movie tickets today, yet the joy to get hold of the tickets in which goes one’s sweat and bruises.

 

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