The family had a rollicking time at the PVR in Vasant Vihar. The film was engaging… the ambience wonderful….the chocolate popcorn and cola refreshing…..

As the family drove out of the underground parking, nine years old Sahil asked the much expected question to his grandfather Gafoor who sat with the kid in the rear seat. Gafoor thought for a while and then said-

“We had many cinema halls in Kashmir, in fact me and your grandmother used to watch one movie every week.” Gafoor smiled faintly and touched his wife Mumtaz on her hand. The ensuing eye contact of the old couple appeared to have taken them back to the good old days….days when they were younger and Kashmir too had the facility of cinema halls.

“Your Abbu also accompanied us for the movies…” Mumtaaz said and looked adoringly towards her son Omar who drove the vehicle.

“I remember…the excitement that those flimsy pink or red coloured cinema tickets gave me….” Omar said.

“I always went for advance booking for all movies …” Gafoor remembered.

By the time Gafoor could explain the concept of advance booking to little Sahil, the youngster had gone to sleep.

The car drove past a busy market of Delhi and more memories of old Srinagar came flooding in their minds.

“Omar, do you remember having kebabs after the movie in Downtown?” Mumtaz asked.

“Kebabs……yes of course…I can still smell them.” Omar smiled. Gafoor spoke after a pause…

“And, then someone decided that movies were un-Islamic…..strange because movies are an everyday thing in Muslim countries. Also, one can watch anything on the mobile phone, computer or TV but not in cinema halls…..strange dictate…..and even stranger that we all are accepting it.”

“What an irony…still a number of movies are shot in Kashmir but cannot be screened in Kashmir….Kashmir, the place where so many Bollywood hits were shot does not have movie halls.” Mumtaz lamented.

“Anything that does not suit the extremists becomes un-Islamic. Now they are threatening the sarpanches and ward members to resign… being a public servant un-Islamic? …. And why are they forcing burkhas or abbaiyas on girls?” Omar wondered.

“Anything that is progressive and peaceful does not go well with them….elections, development, open markets, normalcy….everything…” Gafoor brought out the moot point and then added – “Even the ceasefire on the line of control is bothering some people…..sitting in the safety of their houses in Srinagar, they want firing to continue there… selfish and inhuman.”

“Well, in violence and chaos is their survival. Interestingly, they are themselves so divided…their ideologies do not match…..they will not be able to explain what they mean by Azaadi but will keep poisoning young minds on this theme. Look at things here in Delhi, there is no special provision like Article 370 here but look at the spectacular growth and development. It is we the common Kashmiris who have to understand that these separatists, extremists and stooges of Pakistan want disorder so that their industry of terrorism flourishes. They have no love lost for Kashmiris…we are cannon fodder for them. Remember, you used to tell me about the real test of a friend?” Omar asked.

“Yes, a real friend is one who is happy when you are happy.” Gafoor explained.

“On the contrary, these people are totally unhappy with the peaceful situation in Kashmir, the development, normalcy… they are not our well wishers….period!!” Omar said.

“What is advance booking grandpa….” Sahil had woken up.

While Gafoor again started explaining the concept of advance booking to the youngster, Omar was thinking the other type of ‘advance booking’. Could Kashmiris get an advance booking done for ‘peace’? Till when will Kashmiris be reacting to the machinations of the separatists, politicians, extremists, Pakistani schemers? When can Kashmiris instead of reacting be proactive and say enough is enough…..have the courage to challenge funny dictates…have the resolve to move on?

Out there in Srinagar, Palladium Theatre, stands as a testimony of misplaced ideologies ….a clash of self interests and larger good… a saga of imposed radicalization……a sign of choked desires…..a grave of good sense….a grim reminder that guns can control smiles….

History is replete with examples where the resolve of masses has overshadowed the threat of guns and achieved great things for the benefit of society…….will Kashmiris be able to get the cinema halls open in Kashmir?

Agar zindagi jeena kufar hai to main kaafir hun

Agar khush hona kufar hai toh main kaafir hun

Agar film dekhne se hi koi kaafir ban jaata hota

Toh dozakh mein kaafiron ka majma lag jata hota……

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