Kuch Khattee, Kuch Mithee

Huh… done with today’s purposeful outing at a mall !

A little over a decade ago, malls were so exciting; particularly, when our generation became salaried 🙂 . It was then when the ‘mall culture’ began across Indian cities and big towns. Almost every weekend or at least the alternate ones used to typically start at some fashionable mall, pace through a royal lunch, then had us fly high in car or bike rides or hooked up at a hi-fi cinema hall, and finally rolled into discotheques or pubs or late-night chit-chats on the open terraces. For some ‘poor guys’, the daytime meant office-over-the-weekend and at nightfall, they would join rest of their folks- again at some mall or pub. Only a few among us earnestly managed their weekend time and energy to learn an art or render services at charitable institutions.

 

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Well, the plus points with well-designed and well-located malls still are “relative” degrees of safety, dust-free environment, clean washrooms, one-stop junction for varieties of food, etc., saving of horizontal space (including parking facilities), streamlining distribution and management of infrastructural resources, increasing levels of employment, ground of opportunities for the ‘modern people’ to practice and teach mannerisms to their kids 🙂 and… good malls may sometimes, plainly map all its sparkle onto empty souls !! The last point acquires great significance when the youth venturing into career options, whether studying or working, in far-flung cities stay away from their families and confront various types of struggle or face loneliness during such trying phases of life; then they are usually prompted to visit a dazzling mall (alone or with friends) and ‘just chill’. That’s definitely a wiser thing to do than idling away in gloominess !

Moreover, malls are also excellent ‘match-fixing’ (matrimonial match-making) spots 🙂 … In many cases, not only the prospective couple but both the prospective families also meet without any hassle or raising their envious neighbour’s eyebrows. The same convenience is explored even for ordinary get-togethers among friends and their families because then the host just has to co-ordinate and make the payments only; he /she does not have to bother about the nitty-gritty in this minutes-starved world. This has therefore become quite an acceptable lifestyle in India.

 

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Hence even if one doesn’t wish to really shop, malls are somewhat good spots to catch friends up all on the quick gossip or catch rays of hope…

But over the last few years, I find malls and cinema halls terribly suffocating. This, even when I need to make serious business. In fact, nowadays I don’t visit malls alone because often I sweat profusely and feel dizzy at times… I don’t know if its the ever-increasing crowd or the insatiable cravings of many people over sales /discounts /offers on various items (branded or not) or their superfluous definitions of modernity or the crazy video-games counters or the jam-packed food-courts or the concrete roof or the artificial lights or the over-lapping loud noise or the pungent perfumes or vague constraints of space and time or an almost total absence of interpersonal warmth, or… a mix up of everything !!! And of course, it deeply concerns us to see many children and youth left unguided for taking appreciable interest in story books, classical music or other forms of art, physical activities or integrated development programmes; rather they too, knowingly or unknowingly, seem to be caught in perturbing rat-races and gibberish talks !!

Neither I enjoy the various online shopping options, particularly clothes because we cannot feel the texture, let alone checking proper fittings. And one usually finds all those famous wholesale or factory outlets stretched along ‘old city’ areas; reaching those spots means manoeuvring huge tasks through the motionless or erratic traffic, dust, noise and stench from nalas (drains) or chemical and leather processing units !

Wish we could still retain the old-fashioned simple layout of shops in lanes and by-lanes of approved market areas in a few places; primarily, to facilitate bad shoppers like me 🙂 and secondly, may be to cherish memories of by-gone days… In any case, at least employment and business would be guaranteed.

I so much miss my hometown shops: the open vertical space around the by-lanes which let us breathe well even in a crowd, see the starry or blue sky and experience the drizzles.. the bindaas thele-waleys (carefree vendors of portable stalls) making hot, mouth-watering snacks and serving tea in little earthen pots.. the fruit-sellers and the florists from the beautiful countryside selling fresh produces.. the fragrance of the incense sticks and neatly stacked items in shops were always so attractive.. the greetings of the shop-owner and his staff (mostly well-acquainted faces) were so warm.. and the music- whether a bhajan (devotional song) sung by a beggar or the flute played by him or a pop number reverberating from a tape-recorder, always stirred up the dullest of spirits. In general, life’s vivid hues graced the senses wherever they turned to. And often, they taught us something wonderful.

I am sure every Indian city or big town has its own charmful notes in this context. Shopping, for any occasion… for any number of friends or relatives or for oneself, was so enjoyable then………..

One Episode, Two Realizations: an Emotional, a Funny

Every year on Rakhsha Bandhan, I remember the early morning gift (a Raakhi and a Coconut) from the priests of Jagannath temple at my hometown. (In this festival, this is also a ritual between temple priests and yajmaans (hosts); the yajamaans in turn gift them due dakshinas.) Being the only child, I used to much look forward to it because to celebrate the occasion, I neither had a brother nor I was/am a brother to someone. Actually, I more desired that someone tied a Raakhi to me ! Moreover, my near cousins were either too young or too old or resided in remote terrains or atheists.

Hence to fill all sorts of emotional gaps on this day, my sister-in-law has now made it a point to include a Raakhi for me too in her annual Raakhi parcels to Bangalore. I was indeed elated with her idea…

Last year, she sent a beautiful gem-studded Raakhi. But while it was in transit, thieves stole it 😦 !

So this year, she sent a ‘Jaga-aakhi’ Raakhi (based on Lord Jagannath’s eyes). As usual, thieves have torn the envelope but it seemed the ‘Jaga-aakhi’ deterred them !! My sister-in-law’s trick worked this time 🙂 .

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The other realization : chor adat se toh majboor hain hii… saath mein, police-ke-dandey aur divya-netron ke ” sirf ahesaas” se bhi majboor hain 🙂 ! (no doubt, thieves have a habitual compulsion… at the same time, they also have another compulsion owing to “mere realization” of police-batons and divine-eyes !)

Mallika-e-Ghazal

Hamri Atarya Pe Aao Sanwarya
Deikha Deikhi Balam Hoey Jaye”

An all-time favourite, this wonderful ghazal, in the still and chill winter nights of the early 80s, permeated the air with an amazing intensity !!

Merely a child then, I never paid any heed to the lyrics or theme. Nevertheless, it was a composition to be thoroughly felt in love with the poignant music, profound tone and style of the eternal Begum Akhtar.

Truly, ‘Mallika-e-Ghazal’ !!!

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