Just when I was coming to US, I visited an elderly gentleman with relatives in the US. I asked him for any last minute advice. He told me this: “Get a haircut before going there. You will save 7 dollars”.
Now that I am in Bangalore doing shopping here, I have a different kind of advice. If you want to save money, don’t look to Bangalore Malls.
Note that during all these years several things have changed. Walls came crumbling down; new countries got created; new thoughts and words are sweeping the world.
Not that it matters, but I too changed. I am on the other side of tracks now. I used to worry about how my people could get out of hopeless abyss of daily grind. Now, daily grind is a show on MTV. Not that I became callous. My concerns are more abstract, (or shall I say, more universal?) now. I am for social justice and equality of course, though my main complaint these days is “it is so difficult to get good help”.
I needed buy some essentials and I wanted to buy some gifts. I went to the local Mall (Forum) in Koramangala to shop there. On the outset, it is like most small malls in the US. Rows of small shops in four floors were selling different goods. Some stores were selling “ethnic” goods as well.
Here is the strange fact: What we used to call “foreign” goods have become regular goods. What we used to consider as regular clothes (actually, a variant), have become ethnic.
In my quest, here is what I found: shops that sell specialty soaps for $12 each. I splurge on occasion buying French-milled soaps at $8 each. These were too expensive for me.
I forgot my watch and went into a watch store. Looks like the average Indian is more cost conscious than an average Indian-American [Damn the hyphenated existence! More on this on another post]. These watches cost $1000 and upwards. I may be part of affluent minority, but I am still used to looking for deals. I passed on that shop too.
I walked into another store to look at the shoes. Here Nikes go for $100 minimum. I always manage to buy my shoes in “sale” events. I am not about to spend that much money on shoes.
One thing I could easily convince myself is food. There were rows of shops selling Dosa to Crepes (no kidding!), Mexican wrap to Tandoori Paratha, and Sandwiches to Bhel puri.
One thing I could not resist is walking into Landmark, a bookstore. I could find most of the best sellers here. If you find yourself in Indian bookstores, look for the Penguin India, or Rupa books. They are good and cheap.
Mall was packed to the hilt. It seems like a popular hang our for families. They come there, look at some shops, and marvel at others buying the expensive cargo and have dinner and go home. Occasionally they give into impulse and buy these $12 soaps. The hyper-consumerism calls for different kind of heroes: Bill Gates is the most admired person in Bangalore, according to some poll.
What did I do in the end? I went to back alleys of commercial street. There, in a shop frequented by purdah-clad women, I found the trinkets that I needed to buy for my daughters. I got all I wanted for mere 1400 Rupees, which I was going to spend on a couple of small soaps.
Feb 11, 2006