The mall culture is spreading ... The Hindu MetroPlus team is amused to find myriad feelings and comments about the mall experience
Malls (for some they are ‘moles', and others, ‘maals') have been around in the city for some time now, three going on four, numberwise. And what a seachange they have brought to lives not only in the city but the entire State, for people come from afar, as far as Kozhikode, if you believe what you eavesdrop. Why does one pay a mall visit? It's certainly not to shop for what you need. As if there aren't any shops in the neighbourhood! You go there…to make a style statement, to check out the latest in books, clothes maybe and to simply soak in the happiness of all and sundry. Recording the many moods of mall visitors is like opening a pandora's box'. Listen:
This plump woman on the cusp of sixty says the mall gives her a high. “It gives me solace to see so many people fatter than me, that it lifts my spirits. Here I am thinking that ‘I must diet hard if I am to be mobile at all when I see this young man and woman, with so wide a girth and unbelievably heavy, wearing mod clothes, with nary a care in the world. I can't but stare before I realise it's rude, but it gives me so much of confidence to be what I am,.” And then there is this friend of hers, Sneha, who overcame her fears of the escalator once and for all thus: “When I went out with my family first to the mall, they would be caring and each one gave me one bit of advice on how to get on to the moving steps they call the escalator. They confused me and the fears doubled. And then one day, I went all by myself and simply got on to it, without a thought. Ever since, I am quite at home on the escalator,” she says, laughing. But for Preetha Pitamber the mall experience is intimidating. Right from parking till the time she leaves the mall she is ‘frightened' by the number of people, loud music, clashing blaring sounds, the hurly burly of shoppers, escalators, noise and blazing lights. “It is all too much for my senses,” she says. Her son quips that ‘Mummy always cautions them against going to a closed public space for fear of ‘terrorist attack,' and ‘stampedes', a far-fetched worry. Preetha also feels that the mall culture is too western for her conservative sensibility. “Unabashed, over the top consumerism in the malls revolts me. There is not a quiet spot out here. It is a soulless place and aesthetically too the buildings have no architectural beauty,” she says. She prefers the mom-and-pop store where she can haggle a bit, chat and also find out the neighbourhood news. Malls are devoid of earthiness and are just crass commercial ventures, she rues. But Preetha belongs to the minority group. For Anjum, a radio jockey it's too exciting a place to be in. Ask her what she really loves about mall crawling and she replies with a giggle, “Vaanokkifying.” Ahem!
What about the shopping part, the official reason why malls are there?
Though most international brands are yet to enter the market, the malls have brought with them an entirely new shopping culture to the once brand-shy Malayalis. Now, from impulse buying to serious shopping to retail therapy, it is an interesting world out there for those who are willing to spend some hard cash.
So the next time you feel blue, navigate the crowded, air-conditioned interiors of a mall looking for the ‘Brave Red' lip colour from Mac, which, you are convinced, is the only thing in the world that can make you feel better. Or that special pair of black jeggings, which might as well be available in the small clothing store next door. But shopping there cannot guarantee that heartbreakingly beautiful bottle of cleaning liquid that you surely can live without. Or that bunch of wooden flowers that you so don't need. Whoever said money can't buy happiness?
It really is therapeutic to see a mindboggling variety of clothes, makeup, shoes, accessories, dishcloth, saucepans, sticky notes, eatables, cutlery, mobile phones, books, and curious little nothings all under one roof.
But sauntering in and out of shops, gliding up and down escalators, waiting outside elevators, lugging around large plastic bags full of goodies do tire one. “I call it the mall fatigue,” says Anuradha M., a young professional. “Each time I return from the mall, I am so drained, I swear I won't shop for a year,” she says. “But then, it lasts only till I catch myself feeling blue again.”
Malls are the liberators of wardrobe/sartorial prejudices/inhibitions, for women. The malls have helped channelize the inner showstopper.
Now for the look…Ah! First you have to shop for the look (and not at the mall, please. You are not ‘ready' for it, that's why). To acquire the mall look forget everyday clothes – work or leisure. They are a strict no-no. Comfortable? Maybe. But as the couture conscious divas know, comfort has to be sacrificed at the altar of fashion. Don't care about what others, or for that matter your body, say. If your belly, waist and the love handles revolt against the skinny fit trousers you have squeezed yourself into, they will just have to bear it so that you can grin. Lycra was invented for a purpose. And no Indian clothes, puhlease! It's for ‘locals'.
Makeup is important. Every paste, powder and potion invented to make you a diva better be on your face. Looking glamorous is a relative concept (ignore that smirking journalist-type on the escalator). Subtle is out, we are making a statement here.
Treated hair is a must. That makes you hold your neck like you have a crick there. Zombie, some might say but we say it is hep. Never show interest (or pretend disinterest) in anybody else. And NEVER use the lift. Hello! Might as well go in pyjamas because who will see you inside the steel box anyway?
Never scrimp on the accessories. Bling may be out but these bracelets are ‘Bull-Gary', says Bvlgari chettan. Bags? The bigger the better. Gold chains, logos, zippers enhance the look.
Pay attention to footwear. As you glide or stumble off the escalator that's something folks notice. Challenge gravity, your knees and your vertebra, the higher and the pointier the heels the better. Others might rush forward to help thinking you are wobbling. Ignore and channelize your internal Naomi Campbell. And please touch up your makeup before you enter the mall.
You are now ready…go forth and win the mall.
Inputs from Prema Manmadhan, Priydershini S., Shilpa Nair Anand, Anasuya Menon