Saturday, May 05, 2007

A New Mall, and Some Thoughts...

It’s a bit scary. I went to the newly opened plus multiplex-cum-shopping complex in New Bombay. Glitz, gloss, soft lights, escalators, an Adlab multiplex that can show three movies at a time, shops, shops and more shops. And that too shops where Mammon is admired, nay, treated as God.

There were miles of aisles displaying clothes (by the look of those dirtied denim I wonder who wears them? There are denim material that looks as if it has vitiglio.), shoes, cassettes, jewellery, watches, computers, and oh yes, cameras. Food is not forgotten. There is a food court that would suffice to seat a wedding party, coffee shops, all enclosed in glass, while the technicians continue to work on the unfinished part of the mall.

Since the complex has just opened there are a lot of gawkers like me, and I meet friends I would not have met otherwise. I bump into Sue who worked with me in an outsourcing unit who is with a business newspaper. I meet Sam whom I trained in the work of a knowledge process unit, and who is heading it now. I meet the same company’s human resource manager, all within the huge complex. (Sam and Sue aren’t their real names, they are outsourcing pseudonyms we had given them, and it seems the names stuck.)

Now I come to the scary part. Outside is very warm (you know, global warming and all that), inside is very cool, and to enjoy the cool you need money. Otherwise the security who is watching through close circuit television cameras would hustle you out. That’s the scary part and every minute I expect someone in a uniform to come, tap me on the shoulder and do that. The products, watches, computers and cameras beckon you. But, you hesitate to whip out your credit card, fearing the unpaid amount that is already due. The food shops welcome you to indulge while a woman from the village somewhere hesitates at the escalator when her husband has already reached the top. Poor lady, she doesn’t know what to do. I motion toward an attendant to come and rescue her.

I am not a newcomer to malls. I have seen malls in Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jeddah in the eighties and nineties. But malls right here in Bombay look so out of place, you have a funny feeling they don’t belong. The gawkers, such as me, can’t afford it when our trains are so full of people that they would probably burst some day, the road outside is so dirty and hot that you feel the great difference between what we are and what we are trying to emulate. The smoothness of the inside versus the hideousness of the outside is too disturbing.

There are food bazaars that economize buyers in bulk, so, buy all you need and stock your refrigerator. No more walking to the neighbourhood kirana shop, and having a friendly chat with its owner. The salespersons don’t even make eye contact; you are just another shopper, a non-entity except for the money you pay. If you don’t buy, they aren’t bothered; if you buy they say the usual pleasant things. Yet, I met three people whom I would have never met otherwise, Sam, Sue and the human resource manager. Is this good or is this bad, I don’t know.

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