MAKING OF A SMOKER & A FILM BUFF
Two great changes happened in my life due to these hours of freedom. One was the old desire rejuvenating and getting deep rooted into a new habit. I mean the old and unflinching desire for smoking. These hours of freedom and the gang that was formed during this time was handy. I started where I left unmindful of the promise I made in my native place years ago. If it was inside a well or a thoppu in those early years that I tried my hand in smoking, this time we had ‘royal connections’. The Thirumalai Naik Palace was very near to our school. In those days it used to be busy since the court was functioning there and people used to throng the whole place. The terrace of the Palace also was free for visitors. Only many years later the courts were moved to a different place and the palace was taken by the archaeology department. Till that time this became a nice hideout for fellows like me to have our first lessons in smoking. The terrace of the Palace was so expansive we had no fear of being caught by anyone known to us or to our parents. As days went by we became more and more 'courageous' that we changed our venue to more and more open places. It was thus I got hooked to cigarette smoking and that continued till 11 p.m. of January 6th, 1990 which started in the early sixties.
The other change that happened also became a habit of lifetime. In those days, I would not be allowed to go for any movies other than the sporadic ones with the family. Now there was ample chance to go for movies without parental knowledge. I still remember the very first movie that I went like that. It was Norman Wisdom’s On The Beat. He was a famous British comedian of those days whom our famous and successful comedian Nagesh could have had as a role model. I mustered courage as well as gathered money for the ticket and one day sneaked out to the film. It was so funny that I burst into laughter when I was having my supper with appa. I was doing my first year B.Sc. then. Appa asked what the matter was. I managed to tell him some cock and bull story. The movie was so good that I became a regular visitor to Regal Theatre, an exclusive theatre for English movies in those days. I became, in short, an English movie buff. The timing of these English movies was also so conducive that one could go to the movies without raising any doubt for the people at home. Unlike the Tamil movies, these English movies would start quite late and would end very soon. So I could start very late from home and reach the theatre in time cycling at the fastest pace and also come back even at 8.30. Tamil movies would end only by 9.30. Only precaution that I had to very carefully do every time was to discard the counterfoil of the ticket without leaving any telltale evidences to my watchful appa. With such preplanning and meticulous operation this habit also grew and became a lifetime passion. Now I realize that of the two changes I acquired due to and during my hours of freedom, at least one habit did some good to me.