Chandigarh has perpetually seemed ever so beautiful to me for a covert reason. Championing her feminist cause vociferously to make her hearth-bound niece see the world post completion of matriculation, my maternal aunt, Prem Lata, had extracted a hard laboured go-ahead from my orthodox grandfather.
Born and brought up in pastoral setting with only an imaginary understanding of how city life looked like through books and movies, visiting the country’s first planned city left me awestruck as I marvelled at its chic random ways. My aunt painstakingly cared for my stay lest I should feel stifled in the sophisticated bubble of an urban milieu. To match me aesthetically with her two up-to-the-minute kids, she took me to the market to buy a new set of outfits besides making me partake of mouth-watering ‘gol gappas’ and ‘tikkis’ and myriad street food options. The mesmerising spectacle all around was transformed into a paradise with everything appearing new and exciting wherever my glance fell.
The most fascinating among them was the visit to a theatre to watch the movie, Noorie. My aunt’s tug at my arm broke my reflecting spell over where else a movie could be seen besides the TV. She escorted me into a big dark hall, where only the usher’s face was barely visible. He split our tickets in half before pointing us to a row a few steps up. My aunt made her way into the tight aisle and the crowd’s panicked rush left me behind. My heart was thumping with a horrifying pound until her familiar voice comforted my edgy nerves.
My feet hesitantly stepped into the dark with my hands unmindfully feeling heads, faces, arms, and shoulders of strangers and that unintentional ill-mannered act ended with my helpless flopping onto the lap of a woman. Thankfully, a timely apology from my aunt silenced her agitation.
Soon, the silver screen lit up to an ear-piercing sound, so did my eyes and ears in utter astonishment. The enormous size and sonorous dialogues of artists seen only on a few inches screen hitherto blinded my visual senses, while the deafening sound numbed the auditory nerves.
The film’s ending brought much-needed relief as I headed out in the fresh open air, leaving my aunt in fits of laughter for I, utterly buried in my own thoughts, failed to recount the basic storyline let alone voice my opinion about it. In lieu of ranting over seemingly wasted money, she was glad that I got an unprecedented experience worth narrating back at the village.
Over the years, my circumstances changed for the better and were marked with frequent visits to City Beautiful. Each time, while on the way to surprise my aunt, I would rewind the same story to the boredom of whoever accompanied me.
A recent visit to her was the most painful. Bidding a tearful adieu to an unexpected ending of her mortal journey flooded my mind with pleasant memories and no prizes for guessing which one is among the most unforgettable.
Sitting in the car, my gaze suddenly fell upon a highway signboard announcing the arrival of City Beautiful. My eyes welled up and the heart sank for all those familiar spots and landmarks stood ‘alive’ at their original places but the loving aunt who had introduced them to me for the first time was gone forever. firstname.lastname@example.org
The writer is an Una-based homemaker