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Peace Watch » Editor's Take, Kashmir-Talk, Memeiors » OF SLIPSHOD DAYS AND MATINEE SHOWS



Z.G. Muhammad

Z. G. Muhammad

Should I call them slipshod days?  No, they were carefree day,   really happy go lucky times. I had just passed my matriculation examination and joined Islamia College of Science and Commerce- a college founded by last Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad. It was a fantastic job he had done for our birth burg.  It was first Commerce College in Kashmir. Those days most of the boys aspired to be doctors and engineers. And Islamia College was making a remarkable contribution by sending more than sixty per cent boys for engineering and medicine. I remember most of the boys who took admission in commerce had not heard of the subject before and had very little knowledge of this discipline. Except for children from a few small-time business families, most of the boys who took admission in this college were from lower-middle-class families. Many of the boys were first-generation educated. It was not out of fluke that Bakshi established a college at a site that had been earmarked for a slaughterhouse- he had a vision- a clear vision to provide future business leaders to the state from the families of artisans, craftsmen and other working class. Many captains of business that played a role during the past three decades were a product of this college.

I did not go for commerce but chose science as my subjects- joining college was a dream realized. My peers and I during our schools days dreamt of entering college, not for a big reason- the advantages that we saw in joining college was that no schoolbags bulging out like belly of potbellied theology teachers would sling from our shoulders. We would not face any cane charge from drillmaster for not coming in uniform to school- there will be no uniform. There would be no taboos on our movement.

On joining college, “Let Us” was the first new word that we learnt. We had heard phrases and idioms like let up, let down, let on, let out and even parroted phrases like ‘let the cat be out of the bag’, ‘let sleeping dogs lie’, ‘let the genie be out of the bottle’  but this word we had heard never. This word that meant truancy for us had been coined by some student but had become very popular with boys in other colleges also. This unique idiom had its wings. The moment some boy whispered it in the class- it travelled like an electric current from one corner to another. For different boys, it meant other things.  The word ‘let us’ for a group of boys meant playing cards during practical class under the canopy of a Chinar tree in the backyard of college- some boys preferred near by graveyards for shuffling cards. For us ‘Let Us”, meant skipping practical classes and going for a matinee show in the Shiraz Cinema and sometimes in the Neelam Cinema. Mostly we missed practical classes in Physics. Prof. Ubaid Ahmed, our physics teacher, was from UP. He was a perfect gentleman.  In our college days there   Srinagar had five cinemas, the Regal, the Palladium, the Neelam, the Broadway and the Shiraz and three more cinemas were under construction, the Khyam, the Firdous and the Naaz. Matinee shows mostly started at 11 A.M and ended up at 1.Oclock. During matinee shows the cinemas would mainly exhibit English films and some cinemas would show old Hindi films.

I remember having seen some best English movies on Roman and Greek history and Second World War during matinee shows. The matinee show was most ‘suited’ to us. After watching the morning show, we would return to college and attend classes. Those days’ parents would hardly allow their children to watch a movie- watching a movie was seen as good as promoting obscenity and immorality. It was unimaginable during our college days to watch an evening or night show in a cinema. Still, many boys from our Mohalla who had dropped out a school level and had taken to carpet weaving and other crafts had the liberty to watch the evening shows and even late-night shows in cinemas. It was always interesting to listen to them after they had watched a new film. Many of them had mastered the craft of storytelling, and it was as good as listening to a soundtrack.

I remember, a boy who was nicknamed as  “susral”- after a film by the same title that had Rajinder Kumar in the lead role. The film was a big musical hit. And every boy in the Mohalla wanted to see this movie on its first day.  The boy nicknamed ‘susral’   was working as a coppersmith. He saw the film on the first day of its showing.  To boast of watching this movie on the very  first days- he told his friends, ‘ I am the person who saw ‘Susral’ on the first day, I got the first ticket, I was first to enter the cinema, and I occupied the first row in the hall.’ For his boasting he was nicknamed as ‘susral’- most of the boys in the locality knew him by this name only and I never even tried to know his real name- and remembered him by the same name.

I remember Habibullah Najar, a walnut wood furniture maker in our locality. He was total illiterate but was a great lover of Hollywood movies. He never watched any Hindi films and called them trash, but he hardly missed a Hollywood movie. He was the only person in our locality who did not admire Dilip Kumar but was a great fan of actors like Gregory Peck, Omar Sharief and Anthony Quinn. I often thought he was watching English films just for the sake of it and understood nothing. I many times spotted him inside the Shiraz Cinema watching a matinee show. One day after leaving the cinema, I made a point to know what he understood from the film- no moment I touched the subject, he narrated the whole story. The film had communicated him better than me. He perhaps had a far better an IQ than me and understood the language of gesture better than we understood word of mouth…..The beauty of our birth burg was that many an unlettered had a far better grasp of social and political issues than literate, and cinema more particularly films on the second world which they called “German War” communicated to them better than they did to us.

Filed under: Editor's Take, Kashmir-Talk, Memeiors

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