This is an excerpt from HABIB TANVIR’s Memoirs, translated by MAHMOOD FAROOQUI, to be released this evening 7 pm at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi.
Memoirs by Habib Tanvir, translated by Mahmood Farooqui, Penguin Viking, Delhi, 2013; Rs. 599, pp. 400
First of all there was the bioscope. A woman wearing ghaghra and choli would roam around from mohalla to mohalla calling out to the children and gathering them at a chowk or in large courtyard, would take out a long stool from her arm pit and place it on the ground, would remove an octangular and muddy looking tin box from her head and place it on top which had a small mouth covered by a black cloth which the child would remove and peer inside. The women usually came from Rajasthan. The box would contain ten or fifteen cards of photographs, she would show them one after the other and also introduce them in a particular musical speech, ‘see the Rauza of Taj Bibi, see the Lal Qila of Dilli…etc.’ At one time only one child could see the pictures, which would be projected through a lens and lit up through a bulb inside the box which would make the photographs appear larger and more dramatic. When one child was through another would take his place. A large and restive crowd of children would be gathered around waiting their turn. Even the elders would be eager to see Hindustan through these pictures. She would charge two to three chhedams from everyone who took a peep. When the show was over, she would hawk her way to another mohalla.