Friday, 3 February 2017

MALL-RATS

The new millennium has witnessed a sea-change in social perceptions. The advent of mall culture and the proliferation of IT, BPOs, mobile and internet revolutionised our collective thought process, especially the thinking of upper(middle) class Indians. Today, there's an indiscriminate spread of malls at every nook and cranny of a metro, semi metro or even a relatively big city. I remembe, visitingr the Spencer Plaza of Madras (now stupid Chennai!) in the 90s. It was one of the earliest malls in India that came into being in the fag end of the last century. When Gurgaon, Delhi and Noida began to have malls sprouting like mushrooms, many people would visit to have an experience of how it felt to be at a mall. They'd buy nothing and indulge in window-shopping. Now, people, especially obscenely rich bored housewives needing a retail therapy to get rid of their boredom, throng malls and squander away their hubbies' hard-earned money.

These mall-rats are permanent fixtures at any mall. The basic concept of hi-end integrated shopping under one roof was not a bad one, but the problem is that any symbol of elitism and upward mobility creates a huge discrimination. David Fisk's 'Study of North American Mall Culture' in the mid seventies underlines the social chasms and criminal waste of money. He wrote, " A departmental store is as good as a mall. Yet people would like to visit the latter because this is the way to show that they're resourceful and have a standing in the society." He was right more than thirty years back because when you see the growing mall culture, rather 'mall-menace' in India, you feel that if you don't go to a multiplex or a mall, you're indeed a backward person having no status in the society. There was a time, when going abroad was not so common. People would flaunt perfumes, chocolates and other 'foreign goods' brought by a relative's rare visit to a foreign country. Those products were not available in India. Now thanks to malls, all the products are available in India at malls where every item's prohibitively costly. Unlike big bazars, malls don't have a centralised governing body regulating the merchandise available there.


 That's the reason, a bottle of Moet costs around Rs. 11,000 and Champagne in even a higher bracket. Moreover, you never know whether the products available at malls are really genuine and not duplicate. One of the malls in Delhi has an expertise in showcasing only the duplicate watches of international makes. Perfumes are the most dicey things that you can have at a mall. Bottles of perfume are often filled in Honkong and other South East Asian countries that prosper in concocting duplicate goods. Like an ingenuine custom notified shop anywhere in this country, products at malls are often unreal with surrealistic price-tags. According to a market survey by Financial Express in 2009, one hardly finds original Swiss chocolates at malls in India. 


A year back, Calcutta's famous South City Mall  was in news for stocking fake products of GUCCI. In fact, the owners were not exactly at fault because the middleman supplied spurious products to them!! Yet, people love to make a fetish of their 'brand-loyalty' and prefer to go to malls as their ultimate shopping destinations. So long we believe in ostentation and naked display of filthy lucre, the mall culture will continue to thrive to snowball into a menace and eventually into a pariah.            
 
                                            ----Sumit Paul

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