The other day I went to see a movie at a mall situated on the outskirts of Gurgaon. My aunt, 55 and my niece 22, came along. While we were waiting for the doors of the theatre to open, a middle aged man came up to me, introduced himself as Mr Gupta and complimented me for my show, Hum Aise Kyun Hain on DD. He went to bring his wife, his school going son and daughter to introduce them to me. I was happy to note that that my aunt and niece had already heard the acclaim but still drew them closer so that they miss no part of the adulation to come. Mr Gupta came back with his family. Hearing the praise, my aunt was preening and didn’t forget to tell them that I was also doing a column in the TOI, Gurgaon. And they had read it. They praised it and also praised what the paper was trying to do. Soon the theatre doors opened and we moved towards the hall. I found that their seats were also adjacent to ours. Anticipating another round of hero worship and sat in my seat like an idol.
The movie started. Some time later the silence of the audience was broken by the ringing tone of a mobile which sang, Mein Hoon don…Mein hoon, mein hoon mein hoon don. The caller took the call and in brazen disregard of all the audience started a longish and loud conversation. I turned around to see who it was. He was a well-built, strapping young man with three others like him. All of them looked rowdy and their body language and behaviour left no doubt that they were local goons. Seeing that our group was a poor match for them and because I didn’t want to upset my mood- the plot was thickening- and assuming that he will finish in a minute or two, I thought that I will bear it.
But his chat just went on. Mr. Gupta’s family was also getting irritated. I could sense this through their shifting in their seats and whispering among themselves. I also guessed that they must be hoping that I will be taking the lead soon and will bring this interruption to a decisive halt. But I found myself wishing somebody else will don the mantle (After all I write and speak on how to grapple with such problems- isn’t that enough?).
Some time later Mr. Gupta who was sitting next to me sighed and said, “God knows when will these people learn to be considerate to others?” I said, “Why don’t you ask him to stop? I will support you”. He replied, “Pareshaani to hoti hain, par kaun muunh lagey enke. Hum hi thoda bear kar lete hain. Thak ke khud hi chup ho jayega?” That typical excolonial response of a public which had to bear inconveniences but could not protest. He added, “I suggest you also don’t say anything. Writing a piece in the news paper or doing a TV show is one thing. But tackling these louts real time is quite another. Mein to es lafde main nahin padna chahta”.
So he deserted the ship. But not before pressing my hot button. I had to now prove that I was not just some paper tiger. I began with turning around and conspicuously glaring at the offender. Well sensing my glare he moved the phone from his right ear- the side from which I was staring at him- to his left. Mr. Gupta said, “Mujhe maloom tha ki woh rukega nahin sirf kaan badlega. Rehne do-article likh dena”. Gupta really knew how to turn me on. I found myself telling the offender very firmly “Bhai Sahab bahar ja ke baat kar lijiye” He defiantly replied, “Aap parde par focus karo, bahut der se peeche ghoor rahe hon. Koi faaltu baat nahin kar rahen hain. Movie ke baare mein hi baat kar raha hoon. Aap ko pareshani hai to ticket ke paise de doonga. Agla show dekh lena”.
I told him, “Agle show mein bhi koi aap jaisa mil gaya to?” He replied, “Mere jaisa koi nahin hai. Guddan naam hai mera. Jab bahar nikolege to pura introduction doonga”. His group started making menacing noises. My group was growing panicky. By pretending not to listen Mr Gupta was confirming his desertion. My aunt & niece
were also wanting me to give the confrontation up. After a few minutes I left the hall to evaluate what help I could muster. The lobby was empty. Someone followed me out. I thought it was Guddan coming with his introduction. Thankfully it was not him. But it was a familiar face. He walked up to me and introduced himself as the reporter from a leading Hindi daily. His name was Satyendra. We had met several years ago. He said that he had been listening to the argument and took me to the in charge there. Introduced himself and me and explained the issue. The in charge took a peep at the gang and decided that he needed reinforcements. He went back to get some guards. Came in once we were settled in our seats and asked Guddan and his gang not to use the phone in the hall. Guddan and gang tried to still argue and wise crack but yielded sensing that they were outnumbered and outmuscled .
The rest of the movie passed peacefully. My aunt was happy with me again. Driving home I was thinking of Gupta. If he had supported me in the beginning we would have had a faster and smoother win. I was also thinking does some remnant of the likes of Gupta still breathe in me/in most of us. Clapping from the sidelines not entering the ring. And then I thought of Satyendra. Once the movie was over he had walked us up to our car. His intention was to ensure that finding me alone Guddan should not strike back. How cute. Thinking of him I felt happy and proud and secure. I remembered he had told me in the lobby, “Don’t worry Sir, you are not flying alone”. Thank you partner.