My son hates sitting and watching TV. No, it’s not what you think. He likes TV, but he hates sitting. Even if you tied him up on the sofa, he’d probably break free like Houdini. This is how he watches TV: He dances and waves his arms, running from one end of the room to another, eyes firmly glued to the TV. No matter how far or near he is; there’s an invisible thread running from his eyes to the TV screen.
Then there’s the beanbag. He keeps it in front of the TV and uses it as a Drop Zone: Jumping and falling on it non-stop. (Even his small friends have perfected that art) The beanbag has been repaired endless times. If it had any legs and life, it would have run away long ago. The rectangle in front of the TV is an irresistible playground that gets activated once you put on the idiot box.
Now all this makes my poor wife quite dizzy, especially the Hopping Maneouvre. That’s when he does a hopping marathon all over the room, till my wife can take it no more. So it would be apt to say that my son loves playing and watching TV. I should do a YouTube commercial “Walk when you watch” (TV) much like the “Walk when you talk” campaign.
While all this is fine (at least he’s not a couch potato, but a Jumping Potato), I dreaded the thought of taking him to the movie hall. How would he sit in one place for hours on end? Wouldn’t he get quite fidgety? In his fifth year of existence on this Earth, I decided to brave it and take him, just father and son. I was pretty apprehensive, I must say. All my life when I watched movies in halls, I was the first person to glare at parents of noisy/crying children and even indicate that they leave the hall if they couldn’t shut them up. Here was my bad karma ready to do a rebound and come down on me like a ton of bricks.
I failed to convince my son how watching an animation movie on a big screen was better than TV, but he agreed to come along as the multiplex was housed in his favorite mall. At the entrance to the hall, he asked me, “Do we really have to go in?” I’ve never seen a kid that less interested. Once inside he looked around and said, “So this is it, eh? Why is this place so dark and gloomy?” He then proceeded to run and slide all over the place. I lost my breath as I tried to keep up with him. (I don’t know why I bother)
“People will protest. They’ll kick us out of this place.”
“You always say that, but no-one ever says anything.”
I grabbed hold of his hand and said, “Time to go in.”
“Do we really have to go in?” he repeated.
Once inside he said, “This place is even darker and gloomier.” He then proceeded to run up and down the giant steps. This time, I exercised my will power and ignored him. When the movie finally started, I grabbed hold him and made him sit next to me. It lasted for maybe a minute. He was off again. I whispered loudly at him and stopped as a few people glared angrily at me. I watched helplessly as he started arranging the fallen head cloths of all the empty seats (and there were many of them!). No one seemed to notice or mind as he went past them in his marathon arranging expedition all the while saying loudly, “What a cinema hall! Nothing is in its right place.” (His grandmother’s strict fussiness for cleanliness and order fully coming to the fore)
I decided to brave it again and dragged him next to me. This time I succeeded for almost 5 seconds. He saw that one of the exits had been chained and locked. He ran to it, grabbed hold of them and started screaming at the top of his voice, “Let me out! Let me out!” This would have been a very cute scene at home and a heart-rending scene in a tragedy movie, but here, I was sure that we would be thrown out. Funnily the guard didn’t bat an eyelid and everyone else continued watching the movie in ignorant bliss. I hadn’t been to a hall for a couple of years. Had things changed? Were people more tolerant nowadays?
Then Praise the Lord! He finally decided to sit next to me. And I soon regretted it. It was “A question a second time”. While I still manage to handle his questions, the problem is that they would begin with a shrill and loud “Papa!” (Reminded me of the time when he did the only solo act of his Montessori class on a stage. He tapped the mike and found it to be off and screamed “Papa! The mike isn’t working!” just as it was put on!) And this time people did start staring at us, but more out of amusement than anger. When I felt that my head was about to explode, I whispered threats in his ear. He kept quiet but had an amused look on his face.
I guess he went to his next plan and started laughing at the top of his voice at every dialogue. He laughed and laughed and laughed and soon I couldn’t hear a single dialogue. Imagine a large dark cinema hall with everyone sitting in pin drop silence and one solitary child in the centre erupting in shrill laughter during a serious scene. The cringing father sitting next to him is me… (And still no-one threw us out)
Luckily it was interval time. I told him firmly that we were going home thanks to his behaviour. He looked at me condescendingly and said, “I never wanted to come here in the first place. You dragged me!”
When later his grandmother asked him how the movie was he said, “The bathrooms were nice bright and airy.” (The only thing he liked about the whole (mis)adventure)
After that I stopped taking him to movie halls, but my wife took up the challenge. Thank God he’s not indifferent now: He gets totally immersed in the plot. He watched open-eyed and open-mouthed Hrithik Roshan’s antics in Dhoom 2, wailed like if he was attending a funeral at Shah Rukh Khan’s death in Om Shanti Om and his shrill laughter still pervades the atmosphere of the hall when there’s a comic scene. The questions come loudly and frequently. He still takes off unexpectedly every now and then in the middle of a scene: Once a Jumping Potato, always a Jumping Potato.
Things weren’t any different when I took him to the planetarium. This time the man sitting next to him kept staring at us. Every question got a stare and I finally whispered to my son, “Keep quiet. See, you are disturbing that poor man there.”
The man leaned towards me and said, “Let him ask questions no! They are very interesting! Even I am enjoying them!”
Another round went to my son and I felt as if I had just lost the right to ask him to Shut Up at any hall for life.
© Sunil Rajguru