We are a nation of voyeurs. We love to watch, period. It could be a monkey dancing to the tune of his master, it could be a poor rickshaw driver getting beaten up by a passer by, it could be a man scratching his armpit or it could even be ‘Tulsi’ on TV getting worked upon by one of her great grandchildren!
Malls have come up everywhere and I and my group of Neanderthals have lately been very supple in making our way to one of this hotspots in the city to see and rejoice! Now, you may ask me that malls are for buying, splurging, getting stoned on fashion or some such hip and happening thing. God! How outdated can you be!!
Malls are for checking out, seeing others at play, gazing at celestial beings on earth. Malls are for getting the grand idea of how much we are missing in our daily buns, I mean the slurpy ‘maska’. You guys have still not got it. Let me tell you of my last and lasting experience at one of our leading malls here in Pune.
The Neanderthals and I decided that we should hit this mall at a very strategic timing on a very sunny and sticky Sunday. The car was brought out. As usual, the wifey was driving. The rest had decked themselves up in the ‘loose and let loose’ fashions that are prevalent these days. So, they daintily crammed themselves at the back of the hatchback. We negotiated the mall going crowds on the roads. It looked like everyone was rushing to the nearest mall to take the serious fix of ‘shoppers’ toxin’ and the high that it gave along with the Pav Bhajis, SPDPs, Papri chats, Samosas, Dosas and chutneys that were being doled out at all traffic intersections as if the country was just going to war with Bangladesh and we were like camels stocking adequate rations within our body during the food famines that were to follow during wartime! Needless to say, the traffic was unmoving, what with all the rations being piled onto soft stomach linings!!
We reached our ‘Imposing mall’ only two seconds after one hour later than when we had decided upon when we left home. That was perfectly acceptable. The Neanderthals had, by the way, decided on their agenda in the car itself. The ideal route was always through the bargain sections of the various showrooms. I understood the need for a neat little scramble when the mind and body is fit and willing. So, I gave into this very obvious proposal.
So, we headed towards a very nicely placed fashion store that had 50% discount emblazoned on its 8 inch glass door. The smiles of the Neanderthals were seen to be believed. We waded in. Legs and torsos competed for strategic spaces and everybody was browsing and checking out the choices of the others. The were a lot of people fighting their way to subtly placed Trial rooms and announcing their outfits to the approval or dismay of all the others in the place. In fact, a few women had very strategically placed themselves near the trial rooms and were rushing towards the origins of every approved dress, not worrying about their colors, cut, look and feel. The game was to try the clothes on offer. Of course! The good ones did not have any discounts attached to them and so had to be discarded very unwillingly. The men in the meanwhile had parked themselves near the women racks and were checking out the aisles rather then the racks! It was like the “shaadi.com” franchise had opened right there. A lot of informal checking out was being done, sometimes rudely interrupted by their spouses or lady friends who wanted them to comment on some fashions that they did not have any idea of.
The Neanderthals invaded my sight seeing with some obviously naughty choices. I desisted from commenting. So, they themselves found suitable faults and returned those discount rags to their bins. The idea was to look, not buy. Buying was for the rich, the Bollywood strains of mankind, the Dubai returned. We do not fall in that category; so, we shifted location and now were in a music and book shop that was crowded to the gills because of a Season sale.
The hip and happening suburbia was here looking, clucking, gossiping, laughing and generally disregarding all the rules that a nice bookshop would have. We again banged our way in. I stood perplexed as to which way to go and for what? I could always come back on a weekday for a favorite book avoiding this BO nirvana. But the Neanderthals had managed to set themselves near DVD stalls that promised “Bheja Fry” at unheard prices. Mine was already getting fried for free because of the din. But, as I looked around I could see many groups of watchers avidly ogling away. A group of programmers were checking out a group of Art girls across the aisle. A couple of History middle-aged men were peering over their unopened books at some very fetching twenty somethings near the Fiction racks. And so it continued. I desperately looked out for the Neanderthals. The wifey had settled herself with a Good Housekeeping magazine near the bargain rack and was oblivious to the bargaining stares. I did some muscling and reached her completely hot and bothered. But before I could mumble anything, there started a shouting match near the door. We turned to see that an old citizen who was similarly bothered like me was admonishing a very blond haired specimen who apparently had passed a highly charitable comment on some PYT in there. The crowd left all the readings, browsings, meanderings and other doings to concentrate on the verbal lashings. Good time all around at the blond’s expense!
We banged our way out. Still no Buy!!
The Food Court was nearby. We had to refuel for the rest of the extravaganza coming along. So, we selected a very dirty table and sat down hoping that somebody would take the trouble to clear it. I motioned wifey to order. She, naturally, ordered all the fries, sauces, chutneys and grease that was on offer. Now, we had to serve ourselves. So, while I jostled at the counter, the Neanderthals got back to watching. Yes, that was that people were doing apart from gorging away at grease unlimited. I made a dozen trips to the food counters and somewhere along the way lost all appetite for the gooey stuff. So, amid the ruins of a bad meal I sat and watched my folks go gluttony. When tired of them, I watched the others. The papas, mammas, betas, bablus, pinkys, bhabhis, uncles, annas, bablis and sweetys clamoring for divided attentions.
I saw forlorn shop owners who probably did not get any sale in this entire din. I saw a gift shop shut early for lack of patrons. I saw the caustic look of the shampoo counter girl who had only given away samples but no sale to speak of. I understood the real meaning of a Mall Experience! Just that “ EXPERIENCE”
Thankfully, I look after an ‘experiential place’ and thrive on people arriving to feel the joint.