Now that GST has brought independent store owners to their knees, one must make peace with malls — whether in agreement with them or not.
Compared to the world, malls arrived late in Indian cities. This is perhaps why they interested us so much that it was enough to spawn chains dedicated to mall culture — from Bhatinda to Bangalore and beyond.
Let’s take a closer look at why malls are such fun buildings to visit.
1. Aesthetics & Warmth
Back in mid-90s Bombay, my mother would drag her cranky child to shops in Dadar and Colaba if I ever needed a new frock or other clothes.
These were family-run shops whose owners knew us on a first-name basis. Each shop in the local bazaar was tastefully decorated and radiated a warm vibe.
This human shopping experience has largely eluded the grey steel, glass and concrete monstrosities that modern malls are. Besides, why do all malls look like they’re competing to be the ugliest buildings?!
2. Enter to Exit
Malls have turned into high-security military zones, except there are no snarling Rottweilers tugging at a leash and no barbed wire electric fences.
Judgements are made because you’re wearing shorts and flip flops, even though it’s a humid bloody Tuesday afternoon.
The metal detector always beeps, an unsolicited pat-down comes your way, and stern-looking guards deprive you of your lighter as if you’re a convicted arsonist he last saw on India TV. Don’t even get me started on the exit and parking lots. This Seinfeld episode has said enough.
3. Sights & Smells
Stepping into a mall’s lifeless white lights — compensating for their lack of energy with numbers — is like Simi Garewal’s seraphic TV show set, where an unwitting Amol Palekar having a bad hair day has just sauntered in.
Pretty much everything is white enough to feel like you’ve died and reached consumer heaven! The smell of rancid butter from a popcorn kiosk mingles with jasmine-scented candles from an art store, creating an unholy stench.
4. Shop till You Drop
I’m not a window shopper. Usually, I head straight to that one fantastic bookshop, get what I want, and get the hell out.
Malls are designed in a way that visitors have to pass through several irrelevant stores before reaching their destination.
On weekends, this tedious shopping experience is exacerbated with the collective din of MCs howling into microphones, families with pesky children, video game noises, and a hundred other specimens of the hideous mall culture.
5. Eager to Please
Aiming to get everything under one roof requires tremendous effort. It also requires a battery of foot soldiers.
Specialising in advanced ambush tactics is a hallmark of the army of over-eager salespersons manning almost every counter, store, lane, and escalator platform.
I empathise with the tough job conditions these hardworking people face.
However, when I’m involuntarily doused with the latest niffy perfume or startled by a voice behind my ear when looking through a stack of jeans, I will draw the line and walk away in search of the enigmatic exit gate.
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