For the last ten years or so, India has been arriving at the world stage only to retreat again. Every time something nice happens in India, the media hails “India has truly arrived at the world stage” The euphoria lasts for a couple of days after which the columnists strike back and remind us on how we have not “truly” arrived because 400 million of our people live on less than $1 a day. We as a country are so hooked with karma that anything nice happens again, the cycle repeats!
So NRIs who haven't been around for a while might be wondering what is new in India. Let me sum it up for you in one word – Mall. Progress is now measured exclusively in terms of how much money the middle class spends in the shopping malls. The politicians have figured out that people don’t care about infrastructure, healthcare or public transport as long as they’re getting their paychecks every month and there is a mall in the neighborhood to spend that money. People in cities are so happy with the malls that Election Day is just another day they can go window shopping!
Chapter 1: The Great Indian Mall
The Great Indian Mall is crowded with people of all ages, sizes, shapes and genders. Kids who ought to be playing street cricket wearing Bata slippers can be found hanging out at the gaming arcade wearing Nike sneakers. There are old people sitting in one corner because they are either too tired to walk or just not amused. The fairly rich shop almost every weekend but the other 95% just dress well and show up because they have nowhere else to go and nothing better to do.
I am not one of them mind you. I am here to buy a spare toothbrush. If you’re wondering, “Who goes to a mall to buy a toothbrush?” Congratulations, you’re still thinking straight!
Chapter 2: Changing the ‘Sub’ject
Personally, I don’t like Subway. May be it’s the way I’ve been brought up but I expect food to be cooked before it is served! Having said that, there are times I eat at Subway. Now that I think of it, subway is not that bad!
Anyways, every time I go to Subway, I invariably run into people who have this distinct attitude while placing their order. An aristocratic air in the way they describe how they want their cabbage while bragging about how health conscious they have been lately. It makes feel like yelling, “It is raw cabbage for heaven’s sake and no matter how you fold it, it still sucks!” but I have learned to control these impulses. But that is not all. Chances are that you can overhear these people order their sub with extra mayo, cookie and diet coke!
Dear pretentious person, if you’re eating a veg sandwich with a lot of cheese, extra mayo, and chocolate- chip cookies in the name of healthy eating, I don’t think the diet coke is going to bail you out!
Chapter 3: Buying the Tooth Brush
Department stores are very lively places. Small families, happy families come here to spend quality time shopping for groceries. Shopping for groceries, as we know is not a trivial task. It requires the efforts and expertise of at least three consenting adults. The father to push the cart, the mother to do the shopping and grandma to mind the kids while the mother is at it! What better way to spend time with your loved ones than at a department store dragging a trolley across for two hours?
The kids love their little seats on the shopping carts. Besides, they get to pick chocolates of their choice. Otherwise they will yell with all their lungs and throw a tantrum and the parents would then have to buy the chocolates anyway. Chocolates for the kids and no embarrassing moments for the parents – It's a win-win situation!
After placing enough stuff in the cart, the family then "patiently" stand in the queue for about an hour and a half to pay the bill. The kids hate this part and use this opportunity to throw more tantrums. I hate it even more because I am always behind such people in the queue!
Standing in the queue behind the happy family, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the families that live in places where there are no department stores yet. A world where grocery shopping is not a family decision but the monopoly of mothers. A world where groceries are delivered in the first week of every month at their door steps by the friendly neighborhood kirana store. Their kids never to get to ride the shopping cart!
Chapter 4: Mineral water pani puri and other such atrocities
Mineral Water Pani Puri is pani puri for people who can’t handle the pani. Served by a dude wearing disposable gloves, the Mineral Water pani puri costs a bomb and tastes like crap! The MW-pani puri consumer does not know that the secret ingredient for tasty pani puri is bhaiyya’s wet hand. You take that out of the pani puri, you take away its soul!
If you thought mineral water pani puri is ridiculous, think again because there is this All New American Sweet corn. It always makes me wonder, what is so American about corn in a cup? And since when is America known for its awesome healthy food products?
The American Sweet Corn is probably the only food product that is marketed as all American. Even Mc. Donald’s had to introduce Mc. Aloo Tikki to sell but these corn people are selling cups and cups of corn for 40 bucks a piece! (5 bucks for the corn and 35 bucks for putting it in a cup and printing out a bill) I always thought Indians are marginally smarter but the malls have proved me wrong yet again!
Chapter 5: Alright, So what’s your point?
In continuation of my campaign to make the world a better place, I give you some new rules:
- Big Bazaar is the second worst place to buy a toothbrush. The worst is Craig’s list
- If you’re spending 500 bucks to watch a movie in the multiplex, it better be worth it. Not Golmaal 3!
- If you have ever self-congratulated yourself on facebook for buying new headphones or clothes – it's high time someone told you shopping is not an achievement!
- If the above facebook status got more than 3 likes – please pass this message to your friends as well
- If you’re paying EMI on your Levi’s jeans – you should be imprisoned as a preemptive measure because clearly, you can be talked into ANYTHING and anything includes arson, homicide or whatever keeps you inside the longest!
- If the best part of your week is shopping in the mall – you need help