Every city has its own quality, something that its residents swear by, something every news anchor refers to while mentioning the city during a random bulletin, something that every tourist tries to affirm on setting foot in the place. Well, Mumbai has more than one such quality. Some heap lavish praise on its resiliency, some on its ability to encompass various strata of society. I think, not that I am an expert on the city, that its shopping culture is what sets it apart from its peers. True.
Most big cities these days boast of shopping complexes the size of football grounds. These are filled with international brands that many locals have a problem even pronouncing (reference: is it nayki or nikki or nayk)!! Well, not that it matters but I am so bored of shopping at the same places and seeing the same brands and the same set of salesmen (and they are not even good looking). That is precisely why street shopping is so much better. Mumbai boasts of various such places like Linking Road, Crawford Market etc. I got loads of stuff from here for peanuts. True.
That brings me to one such trip with my family during my visit to Mumbai. Let me refresh your memory about my joy at being in the city and my dad’s worry at seeing the clothes (or lack of them) on the city’s youth. Our household boasts of a healthy women:men ratio. More than healthy actually, 3:1 to be precise. Which means, number of visits to shopping centers, jewelry stores and zoom channel are multiplied by a significant factor. My dad has done a pretty decent job of keeping up with this though. Imagine how much of pink he must have tolerated in his entire lifetime. Very limited male products in the house. The curtains are usually floral, the soaps are mostly pink. Yet, he has maintained his sanity by applying a very simple formula. Its called the ‘give and take’ rule. The moment we enter a store, he gives his card and takes a seat. A seat as far away from the crowd (i.e us) as possible. So that he can avoid all the ‘papa, i like this’, ‘papa, i love this’, ‘papa, i want this’ drama. Very smart. This has worked for more than a decade now but all good things must come to an end.
Street shopping involves lot of pushing,shoving,shouting and bargaining. There is no separate counter for paying bills, no security check hassles and no card system. Most shops are not shops in the first place. Prospective buyers, random oglers, the shopkeeper and his helpers are all packed in a small space – which meant my dad’s golden rule- something he prided himself upon – was no longer effective. It finally dawned on him that he had to endure those ‘bhaiyya, theek theek bataiye’ rants every two minutes. In a period of about two hours, my dad aged twenty years. We kept running from one shop to the other and my dad followed us because, he is a dad. He has to keep an eye on us all the time – especially given how careless both me and my sister are. Okay, add mum to that list too. He looked at his watch, took calls, made random calls (a fact he denies but I am sure), looked at us angrily and even pretended to be super-tired. Nothing worked because once you have three females and a reasonable cheap shopping paradise, even God almighty can be reduced to tears.
After about four hours of non-stop shopping, the three ladies of the house were grinning from one end of the ear to the other. Dad was too, but for some other reason. He was glad to be home. And vowed to never accompany us to any street ever again :).