Plenty Amid Poverty

On Sunday evening, a few of my new friends from JNU and I decided to go to a movie. We went to the American-style mall (Ambiance Mall) across from the campus where there is a movie theater (PVR Director’s Cut). None of the party had been there before. We asked about movies, showtimes, etc. and ended up selecting a 9:30 p.m. showing of the movie, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” (the movie was really good and I would recommend it). Then we were told the ticket price- 1200 rupees ($24). Shocked, but curious, we purchased the tickets. We went and had some food in the food court area (complete with a McDonald’s and Subway) and talked about why the movie could possibly be so expensive. After several rounds of speculation, we made our way back into the theater. Upon entering, it was immediately clear why the tickets had cost $24 each. There were approximately 20 to 25 seats in the room, all leather recliners with a remote in the side to call a waiter. Each seat had its own complimentary bottle of chilled juice and water, as well as a new blanket and pillow wrapped in cellophane. We were all horrified. Immediately outside the theater families were sleeping on the pavement like cut flowers and here everyone was enjoying a ridiculous amount of comfort for a two-hour movie. I am reading Atul Kholi’s book “Poverty Amid Plenty in the New India” and it is quite insightful, but nothing really prepares you for reconciling such stark inequality.

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