The movie ticket

  • She lived, through the movies, all the emotions that she was forced to bottle up in a dark and dusty corner of her heart. And all she had to do was buy a movie ticket
- Nitya Pandey
fiction parkThere was only one word to explain the experience—liberating. It was as if the bygone days had been gifted back to her in a glorious three-hour package of romance, drama, comedy and tragedy

Jan 3, 2016-Gayatri was not a narcissist. If she loved her eyes, she should not be judged for that. How is it fair that she could not praise her own eyes but somebody else could? Unlike most people, Gayatri had always been satisfied with her appearance. What was not there to love, anyway? In her youth, she had beautiful complexion, a cute nose, full lips, lush hair and a curvy frame. She often used to bunk school to watch movies. She loved to see the female actors on silver screen. She loved their hair, clothes, jewellery and shoes. When she was alone in her room, she mimicked their smiles, dialogues and dance moves.

Gayatri’s family was very strict in raising the girls. All the females in the household woke up at the crack of dawn, took a bath, chanted prayers and entered the kitchen to cook. Only the married ones were allowed makeup. After breakfast, the girls went to school and the older women got busy with other chores. This was the routine round the year. And this day was no different than any other. Or so Gayatri thought.

“Gayatri, I have talked to your teacher. I need you to stay home this morning. You can go to school after lunch,” her mother was a heavy-handed woman. Gayatri never dared to question her.It was not that she minded missing school. For her, going to school was like being shifted from one prison to another. No matter where she went, she was bound by rules. She had to talk quietly with her eyes downcast, smile but never laugh, walk softly and eat in small morsels with her mouth closed. She was also supposed to let the men dine first and

never look at a man straight in the eye. “Somebody might hypnotise

you before you blink your lashes!” cautioned her mother.

That is why Gayatri loved movies. This was an entirely different world from the dull and dreary one that she lived in. For the three hours that she was inside a theatre, she was transported to a moving canvas of vibrant hues. She got so lost in it that she felt like melting into it. She loved it when the hero serenaded the heroine. She cried her eyes out during sad scenes and laughed until her sides hurt whenever there was a comic one. She lived, through the movies, all the emotions that she was forced to

bottle up in a dark and dusty corner of her heart. At the theatre, she danced, sang, giggled, clapped,travelled and romanced as if she were on a roller coaster.

And all she had to do was buy a movie ticket.

The man and woman sitting on the sofa were in their late forties. The boy sitting between them was their son. Gayatri heard that he was twenty-five and a banker. She was eventually asked to bring in tea and snacks. Her mother had insisted that she kept her eyes to the floor and remained silent until she was spoken to. So, all Gayatri noticed about her would-be-husband was his foot. And for the next thirty minutes, while the most important decision of her life was being taken, all she could think about was how ugly his toes were.

Gayatri sighed as she poured juice into the glasses. It had been twenty years since that day.She was a good housewife. Her husband, sons and in-laws had never had a reason to complain about her. She could wash, clean and cook well, and was always properly dressed. The guests were welcomed with warm cups of tea and the prayer room never ran out of incense sticks. People praised her knitting and embroidery. She was a dream wife, a great mother and a perfect daughter-in-law. Her parents were proud of her and her relatives were envious. Nobody, not even the nosiest neighbour, could find a fault in her.

But was she happy? Nobody had ever really given a thought to that question. Except Gayatri herself.She set the breakfast on the table. She was on the verge of humming but stopped just in time. It was not decorous of a daughter-in-law to break into random melodies. Within a few minutes, the atmosphere was filled with the sounds of clinking forks, plates and glasses. Gayatri dutifully added curry on her

husband’s plate, helped her younger one with his chapatis and got fresh tea for her father-in-law. After the men had gone to work and the kids had boarded the school bus, her mother-in-law told her that she would not be able to accompany her to the satsang that afternoon.

“It’s such a pity, Gayatri.You know how I hate missing it. I tried to reschedule the appointment but the dentist is flying out of the country this evening,” her mother-in-law looked dejected. But Gayatri suddenly felt happy and buoyant. It was as if a weight had been lifted off her heart. She felt a joyous smile creeping onto her lips but she held herself firmly.

“I shall go, mummy. It’s just one day. You won’t miss much,” her voice was laced with innocence.Her mother-in-law seemed placated.“Sometimes I wonder what I would do without you.” Gayatri quickly plastered a reverential expression on her face.It had been a long time. Nobody in her family was fond of movies.

Her husband was a workaholic and her in-laws, in Gayatri’s opinion, were simply boring. The kids loved video games more than the cinema and Gayatri’s yearnings for movies mostly remained unfulfilled.But today was different. Gayatri stared at herself in the mirror. She looked lovely in a blue sari. Unlike most women, she never dressed to please her husband, only to entertain herself. And this occasion was no different. She threw a shawl over her shoulders and made her way towards the biggest multiplex in town.

There was only one word to explain the experience—liberating. It was as if the bygone days had been gifted back to her in a glorious three-hour package of romance, drama, comedy and tragedy. She took off her shoes and put up her feet. The crowfeet around her eyes and the silver strands on her head seemed to disappear. She wolfed down popcorn  and sipped coffee.

This was true bliss.All too soon, the movie was over. She checked her watch. She had time for lunch before she took the bus home. She entered a nearby cafe and had a cheeseburger. She was just paying the bill when she saw her mother-in-law leaving the cafe.

An unfathomable emotion clutched her heart. She followed the older woman out into the street. Gayatri’s mother-in-law seemed to be in a hurry as she boarded the bus home. However, just as the bus was moving, she fished a piece of paper from the depths of her purse and threw it out of the window. The paper landed at Gayatri’s feet. She picked it up.

It was a movie ticket.

Published: 03-01-2016 09:23

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