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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My Experiments with Truth : Black

I was a very simple, "goody-goody" boy growing up in Orissa, completely oblivious of the big, bad real world. I lived a pretty protected life where most things in life were taken care of for me. So my experience in actually DOING things myself in the real world was very limited. I learnt a lot about life only after I left the comfort of my parents' place in Orissa.

One of the things that got taken care of for me was movie tickets. Somebody would always arrange the ticket beforehand, often in advance booking. Or, even if we reached the hall, somebody else would somehow manage to get the tickets. I would just walk in and enjoy the movie. In a sense, I guess I was quite pampered.

The year 1977. Three of my friends and I suddenly got into the mood to see "Hum Kisise Kum Nahin".

It was the last day before school would re-open after the pooja holidays. The movie had been released a couple of months earlier and had become a rage pretty much all over the country. Almost all our friends had already seen the movie (some of them "first day, first show" - which was a HUGE deal in those days. Arrey yaar, first day, first show nahin dekha to kya dekha ? types ("Hey, if you haven't seen it first day, first show, what have you seen?").

Those who had seen it would discuss all the scenes, the songs - and we would just get more and more irritated. The songs (all nine of them) were hits - some of them superhits (like Kya hua tera vaada, yeh ladka hai allah, chand mera dil, bachna aye haseenon). We knew all the songs pretty much by heart.

Feeling like the only boys on the planet who had missed the show - and fearing for the ostracisation by our other friends, we decided enough was enough. We just HAD to see it. And had to see it NOW. After all, it had been playing for many weeks already.

We informed our parents and set off - the four of us.

The film hall was about 25 km from home. But we had a direct bus to take us, so there was no problem. The idea was to see the 6-9 evening show. What we had not reckoned with was that the busdriver was not seeing the 6-9 show. He had absolutely nothing to gain by taking us there in time.

By the time, we got there it was 5.50.

There was pandemonium all over the place, some people were screaming at the counter, others were dejectedly going back.

The reason ?

The most dreaded sign for any Indian movie-goer who lands up to see a movie at a hall was up. "House Full".

We felt very upset. What to do? We could have reached there earlier but for that stupid bus driver! My friends blessed him with some colourful gaalis (abuses) - we then decided that we would somehow try to still get tickets.

We dispersed - each trying his luck.

A guy walked upto me, "Kitna chaahiye?" (How many do you want?)
I : "Chaar" (4).
He : "Chaar ka bees". (20 for 4).
I was thrilled.
I :  "Ticket hai?" (Do you have tickets at all?).
Just to confirm my luck. This sounded too good to be true.

People were desperate to get tickets. And here was a guy who had four tickets, exactly the number I needed, and who was willing to give them to me.

I said "ek minute, abhi aata hoon". (Give me a minute, I'll be right back!).

I raced back to my friends saying "hey, mil gaya, mil gaya". (Got them, got them!).

"Sach?" (Really?)

"Haan yaar, there is this man who has four tickets and he wants to sell them".


"Nahin, yaar...not black!". I recoiled. How could they even THINK I would buy tickets in black ?

"Kitna?" (How much?)

"Twenty Rupees...Five rupees ka ticket hai yaar. Balcony four rupees ka hai na..yeh DC hoga, five rupees ka". (Rs 20. Each ticket is Rs 5. Balcony's normally Rs 4, this must be the Rs 5 DC ticket.).

"Not bad yaar, Raja...chal chal, jaldi kar....usko pakad nahin to ticket chala jaayega". (Not bad, Raja...come on, hurry up, catch the guy before we lose the tickets).

I felt like my chest had swelled a few inches. Never before in my life had I done anything practical like this - I felt like I had saved the day.

As we approached the guy, one of my friends stopped.

"Wo hai kya?" (Is that the guy?)

"Haan". (Yes.)

"Wo black bech raha hai yaar." (I tell you he's selling tickets in black).

"Nahin yaar....tu bhi kya bakwaas kar raha hai..." (No, what rubbish are you talking!)

"Wo kya bola tere ko? Kitna mein bechega?" (What did he say? How much is he selling them for?)

"Arrey twenty rupees yaar...chaar ticket ka twenty...ek ka paanch". (Rs 20...for 4 tickets...that's Rs 5 per ticket).

"Wo kya bola...chaar ka bees?" (What did he say...4 for 20?)

"Haan." (Yes).

"Yaar...tu gadha hai...awwal number ka gadha hai...saala, uska shirt pant dekha...(Man, you're a real dumbo of the highest order...just look at that guy's shirt and pant, for crying out loud!)

Only then did I actually look at the guy a bit closely. Till then I had just been too excited to notice anything. He did look very unkempt...dirty black shirt..first two buttons open, revealing a very ugly hairy chest. A pant that looked like it had never been washed. Unshaven. Hair uncombed).

"Saala, bet laga black mein bech raha hai". (You want to bet he's selling in black?")

I looked at him, pained.

"Yaar Raja, tu bahut bhola hai yaar...chaar ka bees means he is selling one ticket for twenty rupees, samjha?" (Raja, you are just way too naive...4 for 20 means he's selling each ticket for Rs 20).

"Nahin yaar". My chest had deflated at a very unhealthily rapid rate and my "nahin yaar", uttered in a rather low voice, had a clear mix of shame and disappointment in it.

My friend now took total charge.

"Lagta hai aaj ticket nahin milne waala hai. Tum log ko black dekhna hai?" (It looks like we're not going to get tickets today. You guys want to see it in black?)

My friends immediately nodded. They could not care less.

Yours truly, typical Tamil Iyer, turned red. I could not bring myself to nod. Black was wrong! I could not be doing this.

"Kya bolta hai, Raja ? Ticket to aise nahin milne waala hai. Jaldi bol - picture start hone waala hai. Ho bhi gaya hoga". (What do you say, Raja? We're not going to get tickets any other way. Decide fast - the movie's going to start any moment now. It may already have started actually).

That last bit "ho bhi gaya hoga" (it may have started actually) was enough for me. I hated missing even one minute of the trailers that came before the movie. Even the U certificate for the trailers (with the scrawling of two dates, like 1-11-77 to 1-11-87, on them. You know what I mean).

I said - in a very low voice - "chal dekhte hain". (Ok, let's see it).

In their desperation to see the movie, my friends had already begun negotiating with this guy, completely ignoring my opinion. Thanks for asking my opinion, guys, I thought.

We did not have Rs.80 on us - I think we had about Rs70 or so between the lot of us. That was a decent amount of money in those days, considering the ticket would normally have only cost us Rs 16 for balcony or maximum Rs20 for DC.

My friend negotiated all four tickets for 40 bucks. It was getting to be just over 6 by then and the "black" guy, desperate to make whatever he could would have been happy to get rid of the tickets.

We rushed in - it was already dark. The usher scowled at us, muttering something under his breath. When he went about flashing the torch at our seats - and we made our way, bending so as not to hinder the sight of the guys in the next row - we got a few more abuses coming our way.

But it was all worth it. When Rishi Kapoor sang "Bachna aye haseenon" we forgot all about the world outside the hall. We enjoyed every song (including the 4-song competition) and when we came out of the hall, we felt - yesssssss ! Hum bhi kisi se kum nahin. (We are also as great as anybody).

The next day in school, my three friends told all the other guys in class that we had seen the movie. What they also said was "jaanta hai, ticket bilkul nahin mil raha tha. Raja jaake black mein leke aaya". (You know, we were just not getting tickets. Raja finally got them for us in black).

I tried to look the other way. That was my way of denying it.

All my friends looked at me like "Wow".

It took me a while to realise this but then it struck me.

I had actually grown several feet high in their esteem.

From the quiet boy in the class, I had become a guy who does stuff...who buys tickets in black.

I realised that THIS is what being cool in school is all about. Not being a good student and all that.

"Raja, tu black mein khareeda?" (Raja, you bought the tickets in black?)

"Haan yaar, mil hi nahin raha tha, chaar ka bees bol raha tha..." (Yes, we were just not getting them otherwise, so when he said "4 for 20"...)


Corinne Rodrigues said...

Loved this one....thanks for your comments on my blog. I'm waiting for your next post- while doing that I went through all the others. Cricket sure is high on your list of loves! Write us one about the night of 25 June 1983...that was the season I totally 'fell' for the game :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Raja,
By any chance were you from Kansbahal, Orissa. Your sister Savitri was my teacher.

ravi said...

Hi Raja
Finally tracked you !!!
Great to read your blogs.. especially the ones of experiences..can related to a few of them.
Absolutely loved this post.. brought memories flooding back.. Got me thinking who the 3 buddies were.. don't remember me being on them..funny language suggests Amarjit or Sukhbir .
Lets get in touch
Am in Mumbai with Kodak .. email id ravi04_dec@yahoo.co.in

Shilpi Bose said...

I have visited your blog off and on. Today I found the time to go through it and I found this post where you have mentioned you have spent your childhood in Orissa. I too have some pleasant memories of childhood holidays spent in Orissa as my maternal grandparents lived there . If you do not mind my asking where did you live in Orissa?

Anuradha Warrier said...

I came to this blog through a very convoluted process :) but absolutely *loved* your experience about buying tickets in black!I can relate to the feeling. Thanks for the smiles.

raja said...

Thanks so much, Anuradha. Nice of you to take the trouble to not just read my blog but also comment. Glad you liked this particular post. It was a fun experience. :-)

Archana said...

It was fun reading your Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin experience. Totally loved reading it. I have bought tickets that way for few movies, but that was just a couple of years ago.
When in school, we hardly used to watch movies in theaters, may be 1-2 in a year. It was a small town, we had 3 small theaters. There was no concept of "housefull". The guy at the counter would sell tickets as long as there were people outside to buy them. There were no seat numbers as such, theater would get filled on first come first serve basis. And the rest would come prepared on their own. Some would stand and watch the whole movie and some would come with moodas (stool)and make their own seating arrangement.
Bahut ghar wala atmosphere hota tha ;-)

harvey said...

Absolutely loved to read about your first steps in criminality!
I could really identify with you.
I knew what black tickets were, quite early, because when I first heard of them, I thought that they were really black in colour (or were we discussing black money?) and my elder brother (taking his duties as an elder brother seriously) explained it to me.
Yeah, and they were taboo for us too.
And since I was always in the company of conscientious persons, I never had the opportunity to take such steps. In a similar situation as yours, I would have done the same thing, since I'm easily get pressurized (so much for my morals) in a group.
Absolutely well-written article!