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No mall rats back then

Large shopping establishments were unknown in the past, and people had no money to splurge

Large shopping establishments were unknown in the past, and people had no money to splurge   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Large shopping establishments were unknown in the past, and people had no money to splurge

Though I live close to a mall, I rarely go there. One of the rare visits was to pick up a gift for a baby’s naming ceremony. After much deliberation, I selected a moderately priced toy and was awaiting my turn at the counter, when a smartly turned-out child skipped gaily across me to where the toffees and chocolates were on display, and in one swift smooth action, picked up and handed over one of the pricier ones to her mother, to be added to the shopping bag.

Seeing the nonchalance with which the entire transaction was done, my mind went back several decades to when we were children living in Bombay. Malls were unknown then, the only place that came close to being called one being Akbarrallys near Flora Fountain, which was way beyond the reach of a lowly paid government servant that my father was. As children, we satisfied ourselves with small pleasures such as visits to the sea face, where we would brave the jagged rocks to get to the water’s edge to sample its brackish taste.

Air conditioning was a rarity then, and I still recall tentatively pushing open the door of an “air-conditioned” Chandu Halwa outlet that had come up near our house and gingerly stepping in, pretending to be “customers”. We had no money on us — children didn’t get pocket money those days, at least not in our house; hence, after ogling at the mouth-watering sweets on display in glass cases, we trooped out, feeling satiated at having experienced the cool air inside the shop.

Even when our parents took us on those rare outings such as to watch Ben Hur or Guns of Navarone, eating out or buying biscuits or chocolates from a shop were pleasures far beyond our reach.

Imagine our joy, therefore, when returning home one evening after a social visit, my father veered off the pavement with us in tow into a shop which had a neon sign announcing itself as J.B. Mangharam and Sons. Alas, our expectation that father was going to buy us a packet of those crisp and creamy wafer biscuits that this brand was famous for, was a short-lived one. In one of his lighter moods, he asked the man at the counter if he had inspected the neon sign in front of the shop lately. Upon seeing the quizzical look on his face, my father told him that part of the lighting had gone on the blink and the shop now proudly announced itself as J.B. haram and Sons. With that, he guffawed loudly and walked out of the shop with us reluctantly bringing up the rear, our longing for creamy wafer biscuits still unfulfilled.

srinivasan.bhashyam@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 6:08:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/no-mall-rats-back-then/article30890450.ece

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