Indian customers enter at the new IKEA store in Hyderabad on August 9, 2018. Curious customers lay on beds and nestled into armchairs on August 9 as Ikea opened its first Indian outlet, hoping to wow a burgeoning middle class with offerings tweaked to local tastes, including its famous meatballs. / AFP / NOAH SEELAM Image Credit: AFP

It’s difficult to know what is fake news today; I mean who can believe Indians stampeding to get into a furniture shop, or President Trump announcing a Space Force?

“Is this for real?” asked my wife showing me a video of mild, laid-back Hyderabadis, even women in their colourful saris, pushing and shoving to get into the first Ikea store in India, while the staff in their familiar yellow T-shirts stood frozen in amazement.

A night-time photograph showed a snaking, kilometre-long line of car headlights in a traffic logjam at the Hi-Tech City in the south Indian city, as motorists waited to get into the store parking while the patriotic song, Sare Jahan Se Accha, Hindustan Hamara, (loosely translated, “There’s no place like our India in the whole wide world”), over the store’s speaker system. (The Swedish firm was trying to cash in on patriotic sentiments, which it did not need to, since the Indian Independence Day was also around the corner).

“We should drive down to Hyderabad (over 590 kilometres away from Bengaluru, where we live now) and visit your relatives, which we shamefully have not done this past year,” said my wife.

I did not realise my wife is an Ikea fan, though, she like many Indians, hates DIY, let alone assemble the Lego-like furniture.

Now, everything is coming back slowly, on how every other weekend, we would find ourselves in the furniture store in Dubai’s Festival City, buying potato peelers, teaspoons and tea lights in the marketplace, or spending hours following the feet painted on the floor and looking at how the store guys managed to fit so much furniture into a showroom (tiny apartment, measuring 200 inches, or something ridiculous) where only the dwarfs could dwell.

Space dominance

We have sent Billy bookshelves and bedside tables with surreal names like Vikhammer or Nordli, from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to Mississauga, Canada, across the Atlantic and waited patiently while the cargo ship lumbered across the seas.

We reassembled a chair in Bengaluru that we brought back from Dubai and we were left with one screw extra which did not seem to belong anywhere. “Maybe the mad crowd is because a Bollywood star is inaugurating the store,” I said. Bollywood stars will inaugurate anything. Once Salman Khan came to Sharjah to inaugurate a clothing store and there was a stampede and one person found himself stuck against a glass window with his face all scrunched up, unable to move because of the crowd of crazy celebrity watchers.

When Michael Pence, US Vice-President, announced that America would set up a Space Force, I looked to check whether this news was from The Onion, the digital media company and news satire organisation.

Pence was going full throttle in a news conference about the $8 billion (Dh29.4 billion) Space Force that US President Trump suggested in June earlier this year.

The VP quoted Trump and said it was time not only to have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space. “Space in his [Trump’s] words, is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” he said. Actor and comedian Jim Carey, described the plans for space dominance, as, “To Stupidity and Beyond”, apparently paraphrasing a catchphrase of a character in the Disney movie, Toy Story. It is a good idea to have a Space Force, as we have already been warned by Hollywood over the years that evil aliens are planning to take over Earth and annihilate us.

Even if there are no such things as aliens, we need a task force to manage the traffic with the many earthlings that would clog up the space freeways trying to buy zero-gravity furniture or waiting to eat vegetarian Swedish meatballs. Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.