Ominous outing

Did the Almighty smile benignly on my puerile pursuit of pleasure?
Last Updated 16 April 2014, 17:50 IST

To see, or not to see, that is the question! Is it right to enjoy a movie during the most sacred season of the Christian calendar? “No!” I seem to hear my late father roar, taking me back to April, 1977.

It was ‘Good Friday’ and my brother and I were eager to watch the Gregory Peck-starrer ‘The Omen’ the following evening. ‘It’s about Satan,’ we told our father, hoping that this biblical being would lend a spiritual slant to our irreverent yearning for pre-Easter entertainment. “Devil... devilish...” sputtered father furiously, as brother and I fled.

Munching hot-cross buns, we deplored adult unpredictability. Our father had not always been averse to amusement this time of year. Even when Holy Week happened to be ‘Holi’ Week, he had never foiled our fun. My brother and I had grown up in a defence services neighbourhood in Delhi, where people of different communities celebrated every festival. The two of us had been ‘Holi’ terrors!

That period was past. We were old enough now for solemn reflection, but the only thing we were contemplating was our next move! Our cousin, studying Medicine in Ludhiana, was spending the weekend with us. Could she overturn the parental proscription? “Audrey,” I urged, “Tell Dad that after months of cutting cadavers you need an ‘Omen’ break!”

Audrey triumphed, and on Saturday the three of us were at a theatre in South Delhi. The film almost scared us out of our seats, but more frightening was what followed. Stepping outside, we could not spot an auto-rickshaw. When Suresh and I told Audrey that we would have to walk the short distance home, she protested. Apparently, she had sprained her ankle a month before and was still in discomfort. Suresh and I looked around in desperation. Darkness had fallen, with not a soul in sight. “We must keep going,” I insisted, painfully aware of my responsibility as the eldest to get us all back safely.

As Audrey limped along, an ambassador with three young men suddenly drew up. “Care for a lift?” called the driver, leering at our pretty cousin. When the car moved on, we sighed with relief, only to find it stationed farther ahead. “Care for a lift?” repeated the gang, and Audrey burst into tears. Once again they left, but had they really gone?

At last an auto came by and we piled in thankfully. When I think of the horrific events that take place in our country with alarming frequency, I realise how blest I am to be relating these incidents thirty-seven years after they occurred. Did the Almighty smile benignly on my puerile pursuit of pleasure? I rather think so. After all, if divine thunderbolts were hurled whenever mortals acted childishly, there would scarcely be anybody
left standing!

(Published 16 April 2014, 17:50 IST)

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