This winter I didn’t watch Dr, Zhivago. It was a long hard winter… too cold for this sunny state of Florida.
I have always loved winters. So when winters come, on an appointed day I bundle up in my warm clothes, sat myself down in front of TV and begin the annual rite of watching Dr. Zhivago. It didn’t happen this year. Not because of winter blues or any other winter related reason. It just didn’t happen.
I was scheduled to go under my Surgeon’s scalpael and because of Holiday Season … Holiday Season? how ironic!! Anyways, because of the timing, I had to wait, I was put on hold, to wait for my turn on the assembly line. I was left with apprehensions, what ifs and… Ok, enough. I don’t want to sound bitter, which I honestly was not. I went from shock to anger to self pity to resignation and in this choppy state of emotions, I did not watch Dr. Zhivago. I didn’t want to adulterate my feelings associated with this movie. Finally the Holiday Season was over and the good Surgeon was back from his vacation. The assembly line started moving and I braced myself for whatever was in store. By the time I came back home and started recuperating, the short lived Florida winter was almost over. I don’t mull over the loss of a rhapsody. But watching it has always been like renewal of an old promise.
Speaking of Dr. Zhivago, there was another favorite movie. Come September with Rock Hudson, Ginalollo Brigida, Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin. It was the late sixties when it came to our town. It was Rock Hudson that made all the girls skip class and head for the movie theaters. At least this is how it was in my college. Girls swooned when Rock Hudson’s name was mentioned (no one knew at that time that Mr. Heart Throb was gay). I have a friend, a University Professor whom I love and respect dearly. A while back we were talking about movies, favorite movies and not so favorite movies. Come September crept up in the conversation. HE HADN”T SEEN THIS PICTURE! NOT EVEN HEARD THE NAME!! Sacrilege, Blasphemy are the words I am sure my friends would have uttered if they had heard him say that. But of course he liked to watch Marilyn Monroe. We understand.
Another rage was Ben Hur. That also came out in sixties. That was also watched, vanishing from Ms. Ali’s English Lit class. Half the class feigned a stomachache. Asiya, the college canteen owner was blamed for feeding the girls her gone-bad sweet potato and chana chaat. Poor woman swore on her mother’s head that everything was fresh and as always, prepared in the morning. (sorry Asiya!) This excuse was fabricated in Bhai Sahib’s workshop. Bhai Sahib was a very tall girl who had broad shoulders and heavy arms, hence the nick name. She was in our group and loved – to the point of addiction – watching English Films. Always telling us about which picture house was showing what. If you don’t see Bhai Sahib in our English Lit class at 11 in the morning, she surely could be found in a Cinema place watching some foreign movie.
One day, our brother came home early from the office. He had taken half day leave from work. He had a surprise for his two college going little sisters. Would not say what the surprise was. Office transport came in the evening and the three of us left the house. After a short drive we were deposited at the gates of one of our local Cinema Houses. SURPRISE!! We had come to watch Ben Hur the second time over. But of course, he didn’t know anything about the stomach ache that would only go away if the girls watched a Certain Movie…
By the time it finished and we came out , the night had fallen. Our driver was no where to be seen. We waited for him to return from where ever he had gone but it didn’t happen. People for the next show had started forming the lines when our brother hailed a ‘tanga’ (a horse-drawn carriage) and we started our long journey home through the dark, unlit streets of the town. At one point my younger sister asked him why he was taking the back streets. He said “shush, khamosh”…
“Why?” She was surprised at this sudden change of mood.
“Don’t you see we are cutting through the residential areas. Its late and people are sleeping.” He sounded very stern and serious.
“What about the horse’s clop, clop?” she wouldn’t stop.
“Be quiet” He beamed his search light on her face (he never left home without his search light). My sister looked at me.
“What’s wrong with him” she whispered.
“He is scared” I whispered back. and we started giggling. Suddenly a dog barked somewhere.
“See you are waking the people up!”
“It’s a dog, Bhai!”
“Be quiet, I said be quiet” he hissed again, and again and we almost rolled off the back seat. Poor man really was scared riding through the dark by-roads with two young and beautiful girls acting irresponsibly, not listening to his commands and going into fits of laughter with each new threat. The tanga wala once or twice tried to intervene on our behalf but was rebuffed sternly, so he retreated, only once in a while talking to his horse which made our brother grumble some more… under his breath, of course!
At last our brother’s ordeal was over and we reached home safe and sound. We both jumped off the tanga and ran inside the house and into our room. we were rolling on the bed when we heard our brother complaining to our mother…
“… and mother, I promise, I, never, ever am going to take them out anywhere … again. there is no use doing anything good for them. ungrateful…” which sent us into new fits of laughter.
PS: does any one remember a very old song Those were the days, my friend… We thought would never end …. it was Mary Hopkins… or was it?