Small dreams of a small town boy

In the mid seventies, Lucknow was a small peaceful town and walking on the streets or the footpath used to be an enjoyable activity. While going to school , I used to walk past the majestic street of Hazratganj ( walking up and down this stretch of half a km used to be called ‘ganjing’ ). However , while walking alone on the streets of Hazratganj I used to be apprehensive of one danger , which was always lurking around .The danger of ‘ganjing’ was that someone, who knew me directly or indirectly could spot me there and derive his or her own interpretations about my character. So even while browsing old books at the pavement shops, I used to look around over my shoulders to make sure that I was not being observed before flipping through the coloured pages of the magazines. Such was the case while looking at the posters of English films in Mayfair or Besant talkies also. Once in a while driven by my fascination for cinema, I used to quietly slip into the darkness of Mayfair theatre to watch films like Sara Aakash, Garam Hawa, Bhuvashome, Ka Purush Maha Purush and Ankur. All these films not only created a latent desire in me to become a filmmaker, but also made me dream of the city of Mumbai.

The main activity that occupied the mind space at that age was only to become something in life and migrate to a world of power, money and prestige. Therefore, focus on academics was nearly a full time activity so much so that there was a hand written weekly calendar pasted on the wall over my study table designating how many minutes were to be wasted on daily chores including eating and bathing. As my father was in the employment of the state government, his dream of seeing his son as an IAS officer was drilled into my consciousness day in and day out, without ever bothering to know what was lying beneath the upper layer of my porous consciousness.

 So much was the pressure to get into IAS that I landed up renting a room in the University hostel, to live separately so that I could devote my entire time to studies. One day, my father along with an ex-army friend of his decided to do a check on me and dropped into the hostel for a surprise visit. It so happened that at that time, I was studying with a friend of mine sitting in his room. Infuriated at not finding me in my room, he assumed that I had gone for watching a film and left after slipping a long piece of lecture written on the inside cover of a used envelop and declaring that I had gone astray and my future was doomed. His anger was reflected in the unusually large size of the letters he used in that piece of admonition and advice. Then one day when I had come out of the hostel to have a cup of tea at a restaurant, which for no fault of mine, happened to be located near a girl’s hostel, one of my relatives happened to pass by and he dutifully informed my parents that I was loafing around a girl’s hostel whistling at girls coming out of the hostel. So much for the small town and its invisible prying eyes.

Published by

O P Srivastava

A banker-turned filmmaker based in Mumbai. India.

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