A major landmark in the most ordinary townscape of Bharuch was Panchbatti (literally meaning 'Five lights'), an intersection where 4 different roads met at a roundabout. It was the only location in town briefly deemed busy enough to deserve traffic lights. But that misconception of popularity persisted only for a couple of months. The municipality decided quite wisely to re-instate a bored looking cop at the intersection to oversee any traffic misbehaviour at the roundabout leaving the signals unattended and unwanted. Right next to Panchbatti stood our favourite haunt from our school days, the cinema hall Relief.
Class-mates from all sides of the town would find this to be the most convenient of meeting locations and besides this was the cheapest of the lot in our town's cinema halls. Right opposite stood "Basant", the shady, run-down theatre which ran B-movies with their usual innuendo filled names and provocative posters. Each of the titles were a hot topic of discussion and amusement amongst us friends. But finding out the title was where our courage ran out. None of us actually dared to cross the road and investigate the story for ourselves. We were content to be on this side of the road at Relief Talkies where 'our' kind of movies played.
Relief was earmarked for all the Hollywood movies that ever came to Bharuch. All the most bloodthirsty creatures and action heroes to have come out of any studio in LA made a stop-over at this corner of small town Gujarat. And keeping in mind their clientele at this halt, they all spoke chaste Hindi! It was an experience that was extremely sidesplitting and aggravating at the same time for us the convent educated lot who supposedly had a better grip on the Queen's language than most of our fellow cinema-goers. It was inevitably entertaining in one way or the other. If you haven't seen Samuel L. Jackson deliver a rousing speech in Hindi and then promptly be bitten in half by a super-intelligent shark, you've really missed something.
All through our school years, starting from early adolescence, this cinema hall would be central in our planning. Parked motorcycles would be our conference rooms as we would plan out the rest of the evening, debating whether it would end in front of the milk shake stall at the railway station or on the grass of GNFC colony lawns after a short burst of cricketing activity. The conversation would taper away whenever an attractive girl swept by to pick up flow again only when she was out of sight. Then it'd be time for the show to begin and for us to enter the dark confines of the hall. It'd be time for an entry into the world of rampaging dinosaurs, lovesick giant gorillas and nubile blondes brought to life by our voluntary suspension of reality.