Aamir and his wife Ruksana sat munching popcorns in the dark auditorium of Grand Cinema in Cuttack. It was one of the city’s earliest cinema halls, and the show was houseful.
Ruksana was in the final stages of her pregnancy and good news was expected any day soon.
Both were big movie buffs and Bollywood fans. The film they were currently watching was Sholay. It had released on Independence Day that year. After an initial lukewarm response, the movie had picked up, due to rave word-of-mouth reviews and it was now talk of the town.
Thus, going by the early feedback Aamir had decided to give it a miss. But when he saw the long queues in front of the box office, he decided they must watch it! After trying in vain a couple of times (including skipping office in the morning to stand in line), Aamir had finally managed to book 2 seats for the noon show.
All though he was not too keen on taking his wife along, (keeping in mind her health and especially since this was her first pregnancy), Ruksana had simply disagreed. She had pleaded and cajoled him to buy a ticket for her too, since she had loved the Amitabh Bachchan -Dharmendra camaraderie in the movie Chupke Chupke released just a few months earlier.
She loved the big screen with its larger-than-life magic which transported her to another world. In there she forgot her pregnancy blues and mundane household chores. Not to mention the small doses of mirth these movie outings provided sometimes.
One such incident she remembered in particular, was Aamir booking tickets for the movie Julie. He had heard the movie’s songs umpteen times on the Vinyl Record Player at home until they had grown on him so much that he kept humming them; especially when in the bathroom. So, when the movie hit the theatres in April that year, his exuberance took over and he also booked a ticket for his mother Saima.
Imagine his embarrassment when the movie with its bold theme made him squirm in discomfort in his seat. It reached a tipping point when the much-awaited Kishore Kumar song “Bhool Gaya Sab Kuch” came on screen. To the real-life couple’s horror, the reel life hero-heroine indulged in a passionate embrace and suggestive love making.
To make matters worse the song continued for a good 4 ½ minutes which seemed never ending to them. Ruksana, who was sitting next to Saima did not even dare steal a glance at her mother-in-law for fear of getting scolded in the theatre itself! To compound her situation the child in her womb seemed to be suddenly kicking around in joy as if enjoying her discomfort.
Now, back in the present moment as she watched Gabbar Singh, in a thirst for revenge mercilessly kill Thakur’s family she felt a sudden thirst herself – but for something to drink. “Aamir, you need to get me a cold drink quick. The baby is making me feel a bit uncomfortable.”
Aamir with his eyes still glued onto the screen fumbled and moved in the dark to the small shop just outside the door. When he returned to his seat with 2 colas in hand, he saw 2 things simultaneously which gave him a shock. Not only 5 members of Thakur’s family were lying dead on the screen covered in white, but also his wife was writhing in pain with the lady in the seat next to her, fanning Ruksana with her saree pallu.
“Aamir, quick take me to the hospital. I think the baby is coming!!”. People were already gathering around curious to know what was happening and Aamir with his heart pounding rushed in the darkness towards his wife.
The hall usherer with his torchlight on, scampered in too and he had already alerted the theatre manager. Soon enough the wailing sirens of the ambulance could be heard outside the gates of Grand Cinema.
As a visibly shaken Aamir was leaving the hall, he could not help but steal one last glance at the screen. “Yeh haath mujhe de de Thakur!” yelled a ferocious looking Gabbar as both his swords came down on Thakur in one swift flash of movement.
JD Nursing Home, Cuttack
“Yeh bacha humein de de upar wallah” murmured Saima nervously as her fingers were quickly moving over the rosary beads in her hand. She had severely admonished Aamir for taking out her daughter-in-law to the cinema towards the fag end of her pregnancy.
Her heart had skipped several beats when the family had heard about the mishap in the theatre. All that she wanted now was the safe delivery of her grandchild who would be her 7th and she considered that to be a lucky number. Moreover, Aamir one of her 5 children was her youngest son. Naturally she was inclined towards him and very fond of him.
All the family members had now assembled at Dr. Joshna Devi’s nursing home. It was a small but efficient set up housed in a 2-storey red brick building with white borders. Word of mouth had spread about the lady gynaecologist’s proficiency in handling even the most complex cases.
As a result, it was gaining popularity amongst families who did not mind shelling out additional money to receive superior service as compared to Government Hospitals. Moreover, the lady herself attended personally to each patient and her comforting touch had relaxed many an expectant nervous mother over the years.
Meanwhile Aamir was nervously pacing up and down the veranda. The nursing home was mostly silent, and it was only occasionally broken by the wailing sound of an infant in many of the rooms there.
Despite the turmoil in his mind, Aamir realised It was a pleasant autumn afternoon. He was now standing near the steps which led to a small garden in the clinic. He was a nature lover and found great solace when he was close to it – even if that meant a few shrubs and trees.
To his right was a large Sapodilla tree with a couple of chikoo fruits on its branches. He wondered if they were ripe enough to be plucked. They certainly looked so.
Just when that thought came to his mind, he immediately heard the cries of a newborn baby. His 1st child!
He rushed towards the O.T. room eager to catch a glimpse of the apple of his eyes.
What he saw amazed him. A tiny baby boy lay on the cot besides his wife who had an exhausted but beatific smile on her lips. The baby’s hair was abundant and shining black and his cheeks round and full. His skin was an earthy brown colour just like the Chikoo fruit he had seen moments earlier in the garden.
But what caught his attention were the size of his ears – they were big in proportion to his tiny face and gave him an odd endearing appearance.
The father’s joy was unbridled. Very nervously he picked up the baby and gingerly placed his hand under his neck and held him with fascination. “Such a sweet baby. Just like that chikoo fruit” he said.
That drew some smiles from the nurses and Dr. Jyotsna Devi herself, who had one more successful delivery to her name.
As was the practice in their religion, Saima quickly came close and whispered the azaan* in the baby’s ear.
*call of the muezzin for prayers in a mosque.
In those days, most households especially in the Eastern part of India had the practice of giving 2 names to a child – a pet name and a formal name.
“Let’s call him Chiku. What do you say Ruksana?!” said a visibly excited Aamir.
His wife only smiled in affirmation.
It was the same year that PM Indira Gandhi had declared Emergency in the country and somewhere in the world David Beckham/Tiger Woods, and stars like Angelina Jolie / Kate Winslet had also been born.
So, it was in such an eventful backdrop that the protagonist of our story had arrived!
Dear Reader, This story will be about the teenage years of Chiku involving his friends and cousins. It will try and capture those fun, roller coaster years of adolescence when not only the mind but the physical body too evolves and responds to the wonderful and myriad stimuli in life! The story will be based in the 1990's. For all Illustrations in this work of fiction, I am collaborating with the ever talented and ever improving Kishor Mistry. Those who follow my work, know Kishor is a graduate from NIFT Bhubaneswar and you can follow his Instagram account kishormistry_ for some wonderful art!
Copyright © 2021 Wasim Jawaid
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