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The Great Indian Mall

The Great Indian Mall

November 17, 2010

If the best part of your week is shopping in the mall – you need help.


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


  • Khadija
    16.05.12 04:14 AM
    "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."

  • Rajpriya
    15.05.12 02:03 PM

    I think you did not want to test your spare tooth brush before you took it home. If you visited the Men’s toilet for this purpose you could have added your hilarious experience to "The Great Indian Mall".

    We in Germany have a guest toilet at the front entrance in almost in every house. A (visitor’s) toothbrush, towel, soap and all other normal things that would make any guest feel at home. Most of the male visitors lift the toilet seat before they need to empty their bladder standing.

    I had to use the toilet last Dec. at the Express Avenue in Chennai. Great I had the opportunity to squat or use a modern toilet. Walking into one of the stalls I found the entire seat covered with drops of deep yellowish liquid. So I decided to try the next, the next, the next and the next until there was no more to try.

    Coming out disappointed I passed a door that had the sign of a wheel chair on it. As I was musing with the idea of using this one, the door almost opened on my face. A burly man around his forties walked out shrugging shoulders.

    I stood aside and watched him walk with no signs of any physical disability except that he was two and half times my size. Well I decided to wait till I got to my hotel room to use the toilet.

    Except missing this important aspect of a Mall you provided enough entertainment as usual.
  • Keshav
    14.05.12 11:13 PM
    There's another upcoming trend in these departmental stores with scores of happy 4-member families milling around. Kids speak in English to their parents and if they seem to forget this essential piece of etiquette, they are subtly veered back into the orbit by their nagging parents who wont utter a word of their regional language till their children realize the mistake!

    I had to spell check "etiquette". Damn my parents for not teaching me anything useful! :P
  • Avantika
    30.09.11 04:31 PM
    Just chanced upon your article while googling for what Indian kids these days are shopping for.

    And as much as I am a fan of Subway AND going to the mall :) I think you've got it brilliantly right! The most entertaining bits of your writing were those little things that Indians do, like ordering a thousand calorie meal with a diet coke or standing FOREVER in the Big Bazaar line and terming it "family time"!

    Very observant, honest and witty! Was refreshing to read this piece :)
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    20.11.10 05:03 PM
    @A Singh: Roadside is not the only other option from the malls.

    There are dozens of traditional General Stores (Kirana) in each neighborhood and they sell almost everything you can find in a department store and at the same prices too!
  • A Singh
    A Singh
    19.11.10 08:31 PM
    Yeah, but have you ever bought a toothbrush roadside. They are rubbish. I had to throw mine after a few days use...
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    19.11.10 07:50 PM
    @Sourav: I'm telling you, nothing can beat roadside food in India ;)
  • Sourav Roy
    Sourav Roy
    19.11.10 04:14 PM
    Brilliantly written Jayanth! Laughed my heart out :)

    These days the progress and development of the cities are miscalculated as the number of malls sprouting up in every locality. The prices of the real estate are determined by its distance from the nearest mall. As byproduct, there are traffic jams! There are hours of load sheddings in the neighborhood while the malls remain bright and cold with lights and air conditioners! And there are long lines of water at nearby chawl while the mall floors and glasses are washed everyday!

    In an experiment conducted recently, I calculated the ratio of people carrying shopper bags in these malls, to the people who have not purchased anything. I stood at the top floor smiling at my observation! Most people visit malls just for the sake of it. Except for the discount sells and festival seasons, these malls are deprived of ‘buyers’ due to exorbitant prices, even though they appear crowded. The food courts are less crowded than the neighborhood restaurants serving idli-vada. The failure of these malls to do business is more and more obvious these days. They either fail to kick-start or to withstand the pressures exerted by the new players!
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    19.11.10 01:26 AM
    @Libertine: Not everyone's that smart. Most people end up buying stuff there.
  • Libertine
    18.11.10 07:28 PM
    Malls can be put to good use if you want to buy something. These are the steps that are followed
    1) Go to a mall
    2) Look around for what you want. Ask for a demo/trial and you'll be obliged. See if it fits you
    3) Use the clean washrooms. Rehydrate yourself
    4) Go to the store in the lane next to your house and buy it

    You'll also begin to appreciate the price differences more.
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    18.11.10 04:30 PM
    @Addy: Thanks man!

    @Srinadh: That is always there but I did not mention it because I have already covered it in my blog on a related note -

    @Helen: It is pretty much the same in
    India too during the season :)
  • Helen Back
    Helen Back
    18.11.10 06:44 AM
    Actually surviving shopping is an achievement. Go to 'Malling not squalling'at for an idea of New Zealand malls.

    The toothbrushes are ok.
  • srinadh
    18.11.10 03:27 AM
    Also a coke for 50 bucks with popcorn, which is just some 10 bucks outside!
  • Addy
    18.11.10 02:49 AM
    Great one g2, I'd write more, but I need to buy some sticky notes, to remind me of the shopping I have to do this weekend (FROM THE MALL). Where am I going for the sticky notes you ask? Duh! from the mall ofcourse! :D
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    18.11.10 12:43 AM
    @sashi: You seem to remember your childhood very differently from what it actually was because most of my memories involve me getting whacked by mother because of MY brother's mistakes!

    @Barnaby: I got my toothbrush but as I mentioned, it was a spare one, never used it till date, so cannot say if I am satisfied with it :)
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    17.11.10 10:04 PM
    But... did you get the toothbrush? And were you satisfied with the same??

    Also," rel="nofollow">why is the rum gone?
  • Sashi Tadinada
    Sashi Tadinada
    17.11.10 08:41 PM
    Kids are privileged ... They can wail and get stuff done and I don't see them getting whacked in public anymore thanks to the increasing image-consciousness of parents ... I remember getting whacked by my mother all the time - mostly because of my brother's mistakes !!!

    In the defense of buying boiled sweet corn, the big lights and grand facades confuse me. Ok ? Nothing wrong with my intellect.
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    17.11.10 06:52 PM
    Yeah, that was the point I was trying to make with the subway. I'm glad you got it :)

    They wrap the food in subway that way because it is convenient for the construction workers to carry it to their site!
  • sharell
    17.11.10 05:06 PM
    Those 95% of people who hang around malls make shopping almost impossible on Sundays. It's an absolute chaotic nightmare to be avoided. :-(

    As for Subway, it's like it's some fabulous gourmet food store in India, where as in the west it's just another run of the mill fast food outlet like KFC. Nothing worth pretension at all. ;-)

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