Sandwiched in the cinema hall

Chintan Girish Modi shares snippets of a Mumbai life

Sandwiched in the cinema hall
The Kareena Kapoor - Arjun Kapoor starrer Ki and Ka has got the worst reviews ever but that did not stop me from watching the film. I went to Kasturba Talkies, a cinema hall named after Gandhi’s wife, for a late night show. I assumed I would have just myself and popcorn for company. But once I was at the hall, it was a crazy ride from the start.

I was sandwiched between two couples. To my left was a man who kept quarreling with his female companion. Every time, Kareena was mean to Arjun, he would say, “Aurat zaat hoti hi aisi hai.” Sometime after the interval, she got so annoyed with him that she left the hall. He might have thought she would come back but she did not. Eventually, he too made his way out. Sometimes, it is better to keep your mouth shut, isn’t?

And to my right was a guy who seemed to be at the hall to get some sound sleep. I had to pat him on the shoulder thrice, and request him to stop snoring so that I could enjoy the film. My cousin, who hates Arjun for his deadpan expressions, says that the man was snoring because the film was crap. Come on, that’s not true!
Individuals are easier to relate to than ideologies


It was around 5pm on a Sunday. Christina, our house help, had not shown up yet. I was a bit worried because she usually calls up if she gets delayed. When she finally reached around 6, she told my mother, “Bhabhi, main mandir gayi thi. Late ho gaya.

I asked her to repeat what she had said. It did not sound right. I know she is Christian by faith. Where had the mandir (temple) come from? “Aapka church, hamaara mandir, sab ek hi hai na?” she said. And then, while describing her day, she began to talk about a puja she was part of. My ears perked up again, and I realised that she was talking about the Mass.

I was the outsider in that conversation. To Christina and my mother, both unfamiliar with the language that is common currency in academic discussions, there was nothing peculiar about that chat. A church that was called a mandir could easily have been called a masjid or a gurudwara or an agiary. They had their own shorthand to talk about their faith. It didn’t matter that my mother follows Jainism, a non-theistic religion. And Christina believes in God, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit.

I feel a bit stupid now because my mind was working over-time, and quickly set up a check list of questions: Did Christina’s ancestors convert from Hinduism to Christianity to escape the tyranny of the caste system? Was Christina speaking the language of the employer to be found more acceptable in our home? I had to interrupt the thought process, and say, “Shut up,Chintan! Just chill. You are reading too much into this. Go, take a break from your books, and get a life.”

I decided not to tell my mother about this interior monologue. I know what she would have said: “Zyada parhne se yehi hota hai.” Well, she did an M.A. too but I guess she is way more grounded than I am.

Vivek Agnihotri
Vivek Agnihotri


Tell me something. What do the words ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ mean to you? I would really like to know. I find myself being greeted with a “Namaste, Modiji” quite often since the current government in India came to power. And frankly, it’s a bit exhausting when people cannot look beyond my surname. “Aap toh bade left-wing nikle! Modi aur left-wing! Haha!” Yawn.

Anyway, the last time I checked, I found every political party to be a scam. Somehow, individuals are easier to relate to than ideologies. The other day, I got a chance to chat with Vivek Agnihotri, a filmmaker who has come to be known for his controversial remarks about leftists being “intellectual terrorists”. I must confess that I did enjoy the conversation though I disagreed with a lot of what he said.

What really struck me was the fact Agnihotri’s angst comes from the feeling that being progressive is equated with challenging old and cherished traditions. “If you don’t eat beef, wear a tilak on your forehead, or fast every Tuesday, intellectuals will immediately label you as being regressive. Attacking religion is seen as some kind of virtue.”

Isn’t that something worth thinking about? When was the last time you saw someone in a burqa, and muttered to yourself, “so backward”, or ran into someone with a long beard, and assumed that the person was a wife-beater, child-molester, and jihadi? Okay, I am not making this up. I hear Pakistani as well as Indian friends say these things all the time. And it’s more scary when they call themselves liberal.

Chintan Girish Modi is a Mumbai-based writer. That he shares his last name with a Prime Minister is purely a matter of coincidence. He tweets at @chintan_connect