I W MNIK I A.
That’s: I Watched My Name Is Khan In America.
Only it didn’t feel like I W MNIK I A.
Because things happened just the way they do back home.
The theatre was NOISY. There were people speaking Telugu, Hindi, Tamil, may be Oriya. Didn’t hear any Malayalam, or Kannada. The lobby was milling with people waiting to barge into the movie hall the moment it opened. We (P and I) waited until it wouldn’t look like we were part of the stampede, and for our trouble, earned a couple of frowns from a lady in front of us, who thought her family and friends had brought up the rear, only to find us.
Inside, was India. A few American-Americans stuck out like sore thumbs. Had no idea A-As swoon over SRK the way some of us go for Clooney or Brad Pitt! Rows and rows of empty seats- a couple of them sporting a coat flung carelessly by its owner.Trying to settle into a nice-looking seat, all we heard was, “Excuse me those seats are taken.” The ENTIRE row?” And the one in front as well, the solitary lady waiting for her gang to arrive, informed us crushingly.
We managed to settle down in the last row, against the wall, taking the last two available seats.
There were a couple of seat guardians who were taking their job very seriously. The rules were being read. The kids had to occupy the last seats on either side, and NOT ALLOW other people. People who came together sat together. That is the code of the movie-goers.
Besides, as the lady said to no one in particular, “everyone is reserving seats for their near and dear ones, why pick on me?” She also seemed a good hand at multi-tasking. Managing her brood, protecting the menfolk’s places, and keeping up a steady flow of gossip with the other lady, who didn’t seem to want any responsibility. And ordering young Durga to redirect anyone who bounded towards the empty seats in their midst.
In the row in front of us, the arrangement was – a lady, two seats sharing a coat, a lady in a coat, two seats, followed by another lady. The lady in the middle seemed to be in charge. She spoke to her companions in what I suspect is Oriya, and occasionally slipped into “American” courtesy Rosetta Stone, and even threw in the English as she is spoke back home in India.
Every one grumbled, found other seats, and watched this sideshow while waiting for the movie to begin. Everyone who was not interested was now privy to the details of how the row (of seats) had been reserved and protected. Those who knew Telugu could also have learnt the details of how the family of Durga , two rows away, had spent the day, and who ate what, and , how each of them had made it to the movie.
A conspiratorial silence fell when a lady marched up, a cop trailing behind her. She annnounced “reserving seats is not allowed”, and demanded to know if these two noisy rows had been “reserved”. This was stoutly denied by the Rosetta Stone lady, who casually picked up her coat and bag from the seats next to her, and the other, argumentative one, who was very keen that her entire brood should sit in the same row, and was ordering the husband around to achieve this end.
The lady and the cop left. The coat and bag went right back on the seats, and the muted sounds of argument, seat reservation, keeping poachers off, started all over again. Everyone was an accomplice in this conspiracy of reservation. Those who found other seats, didn’t bother, and those who came in, and stumbled on it, quickly learned to not bother.
We wondered, “who could have complained? Could it have been the American Americans, who, not being Indians, are ignorant of appropriate behaviour when you bump into a bovine jaywalker/ squatter- which is to negotiate a quick u-turn and nudge your friend away , saying, “COW IS THERE, COME PA!”
Reservation (of seats in movie halls, buses, and trains and any other place where seats can be reserved ) is a fundamental right of Indians every where. Handkerchieves are all the time flung into bus windows to reserve seats, and one messes with a handkerchief waiting decorously to be reclaimed by its owner at his own peril.
And then the Indian Standard Time thin happened. The theatre staff came in and announced the movie was going to be delayed by 5 minutes, and we would have to be patient. It wa actually 15 minutes, and the the folks for whom the seats had been reserved arrived at last, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. No one notice the movie hadn’t started yet.
Meanwhile, the Rosetta Stone group let us know in its newly acquired southern twang that two of the ladies had left their cellphones at home, and one of them had just got a good deal on a used (?) car for his dad. they were also going to have popcorn and “waaaaaader” to wash it down.
That is why I didn’t feel I W MNIK I A at all.
At least, no cellphone beeped during the movie, no one textmessaged, or regaled the audience with family fables as Rizvan Khan winged his way to America to tell the President ” MNIK, and I M NAT” and educated us on Asperger’s Syndrome.
(That’s : The End)