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The Up-down Market

Posted on Trivia – The Spice of Life on 11/12/2021

The up – down market

This post is not about the vagaries of the stock market. I have little competence to dwell on bullish and bearish trends. It is about something more tangible though not completely down to earth!!

The Bazaars of Hyderabad
Image Courtesy : https://quizizz.com/

Recently, one of the (online) school projects (oh no, not again!!) was to click pictures of a local market and a mall, juxtapose them, add catchy captions, print, scan and upload. The trigger for this assignment was the famous poemIn The Bazaars of Hyderabad – penned by the nightingale of India – Sarojini Naidu – in 1912 which was being taught.

This poem has been called an ‘oriental gem’ – which it undoubtedly is. It captures the vibrant atmosphere of the traditional Indian bazaar – which is almost a microcosm of India. COVID-19 has for more than a year and a half deprived many of us of the joys of frequenting such bazaars. The best part of the traditional bazaar is that there is less of packaging and more of lung power on display. There is no computerized billing, no branding, no price tags displayed, no air(s!!) conditioning, no standardization. To make up for these, there is haggling, the personal touch, the small talk and negotiable quantities. This is typically what the poem of Sarojini Naidu is all about. The concept of the bazaar is pretty indigenous. It is also showcased as a part of our heritage in places like the Dilli Haat. – which of course is not the commoner’s but the rich man’s haat, meant more for the well-to-do tourists. Even though my love for the local market is immense, the proposition of clicking pictures, at random, standing in one, seemed quite embarrassing and clandestine. Nevertheless, since it was a school assignment, I was compelled to click a picture or two without making it too obvious. I was relieved that no one questioned me. Having won half the battle, it was time to experience the ambience of the mall and repeat the feat there.

Within ten minutes, the shopping environment underwent a sea change. There were swanky automatic sliding doors, all COVID-19 protocols listed outside (though that alone did not guarantee compliance), exotic potted plants, a security guard to usher in and simultaneously size up customers. Is this not what all malls look like? The shopping mall is quintessentially a Western concept which has been wonderfully adopted by us Indians. It is a large covered shopping area with several air conditioned shops selling branded goods. There are food courts and gaming zones to attract shoppers of varied ages and interests. With their parking garages, controlled environments, fashionable escalators and elevators, exclusivity and private security guards, they are the best weekend getaways for the upwardly mobile classes. As I reached a close by mall, I felt awkward at the prospect of requesting the guard for permission to click a few pictures for a school project. My fortune favoured me; the guard was rather affable and obliged without much ado. I clicked a picture of him too, as he sported a masked smile.

The Mall Road of Mussoorie
Image Courtesy : http://www.mussoorietourism.in/

Come to think of it, there is yet another variant of the mall in India, largely attributable to the British – the Mall Roads – which are found in several hill stations, nestled in the Himalayas. The Mall Roads are found in other cities too that had a major British presence – such as Kanpur. There is confusion about whether the Mall of the Mall Road is an acronym or not. Some believe that the mall stands for Married Officers Accommodation Living Lines. The British built accommodation for married officers on this road. Still others believe that Mall is the anglicized version of maal (माल) or goods. The street on which these goods were traded over time came to be called the Mall Road. Irrespective of its history and nomenclature, the Mall Road was and still is the happening place of every hill station and town that has one.

Coming back to the upmarket shopping mall, I thanked the guard and left. I was amazed at the different shopping locales and options available in India. It is up to the individual as to where he wants to put his money. I however love a little of all – the bazaar, the shopping mall and the Mall Road. The crowds of the bazaar, the aroma of the (overprized!!) coffee brewing in the mall and the old world charm of the Mall Road in hill stations sans the cacophony of vehicles – all of them leave me spellbound in equal measure.

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