It all began when a recently-widowed aunt declared it her secret addiction. At least one morning each week, she would disappear into the dark for three hours. The movie theatre became her neatest escape and her best ally. I offered to join her often, some company’s better than none. She always made excuses until she caved in finally and said she preferred to go it alone.
The only time I ever went solo for a show was as a 20-year-old on my first trip to New York. Les Misérables beckoned on Broadway Avenue, while the cousins picked the shortest play they could find on the TKT menu. I wore a sweater and jeans and cried until the lights came on. Lesson 1: Cannot wear sweater and jeans to a play. Lesson 2: It’s okay to cry, the two gay men next to me were sobbing into each other’s shoulders. Lesson 3: No one offers pitying looks to solo spectators.
I’ve only just begun to watch matinee movies alone. And I’m never alone. The theatre is peppered with young mums, like myself, desperately seeking ‘me-time’. The kids are at school, the husband’s on his way to work, the mum-in-law orders the cook and the ladies escape to a movie hall in the nearest mall. We live in times of extreme socialising. Going out is barely enjoyable when it involves returning a favour or simply ‘networking’. A newspaper journalist’s social life is especially pitiable, we’re always scouring news and looking for people to profile. Date nights are an absolute do-away; after a long day, we’d rather watch Grey’s Anatomy in bed.
The 10am movie is salvation for young mums. It used to be the domain for toddling seniors or canoodling collegians. It is now teeming with trendy young ladies showing off their new day-bags, Zara blousons and thong slippers.
The PVR in Lower Parel is now my weekly haunt. As I walk past the shiny floors of the Palladium malls, the cleaning staff is just beginning their mop. The shop girls at Burberry and Etro haven’t yet arrived. But the cupcakes at Le15 have just come in. I pick one from the famous red velvet tray.
The smell of Costa coffee fills the air as I make my way to the multiplex. There’s no queue at the box office, a lonely vendor punches my seat number. Anywhere I want to sit, it’s only Rs 100.
A few women are in line for their bucket of guilt-free caramelised popcorn. From askance, we check each other out. Last year’s Fendi purse, Tod’s ballet flats from two years ago. Naiice: it’s only posture when women throw on new buys at the break of day. And this Zara shirt with cats printed on it was on sale last week, so she’s a regular. We half-smile. A proper smile would be trying too hard, or heck, inviting her to sit with me.