No, none of those cosmetics or glittery bags or the little black dresses were powerful enough to make me go even an inch forward. I wanted to “pretend” to be lost in this topsy turvy wonderland very much akin to Alice’s!
However, my “mall-rat” of a cousin and her offsprings had “shopping” stitched onto their DNA, they always succeeded in finding me, as I ducked behind pillars or plonked myself on those occasional chairs, with the elderly!
The morning saw my cousin and her family scurrying around excitedly as it was their “mall day”! They were busy packing litres of water, loads of energy bars, cereal for the baby, with the pram stacked with all kinds of knick-knacks, that it made me wonder whether they were actually going shopping or to a camp for imbeciles! The expression on my face gave my feelings away, my niece commented with a wee bit of disappointment in her voice: “But I thought people from Dubai loved shopping as we do, in Gurugram, the city of malls!” I tried to shoo away the spoilt sport that dwelt in me and wear my “Scarlet O’Hara” smile and tried to feel the way Julia Roberts did as she sang ‘Pretty woman walking down the streets …”! I hummed the song, nothing moved within me, then I sang it aloud, much to the delight of the niece and I did stir myself from inertia.
Came on the sneakers and the comfort clothes as if we were going to be trekking on the Himalayan trail! As we entered the mall, I craved for a Pied Piper to emerge from that one square inch of floor that lay visible and play his pipe, leaving the mall a little navigable. It was supposed to be the “diva” of all malls that spawned all over the city … the name being “Ambience”. Ironical, yes, the “ambience” was loaded with enthusiastic shoppers all geared to spend the day within perfumed confines that offered exorbitant dreams, aspirations and a free air-conditioned experience!
The baby cooed with glee, she seemed to love these expeditions too as her pram meandered through a sea of humanity. The mother just managed to dodge the chirpy bunch of teenagers, who were window-shopping, with earphones on, they spoke in high decibels that screamed above the din in the mall. I almost bumped onto a mannequin, no wait it wasn’t a mannequin, it was a lady dressed as perfectly as one and of course these days mannequins were headless!
We entered almost all the shops, the teenager looked at clothes like I look at stars on a cloudless night, wondering whether I could ever get my hands on one! When suddenly my eyes caught an unnaturally blonde lady, holding fastidiously onto a leash, I followed the length of it till my vision reached the other end and was it a shocker! There was a two-year old child on the other end! He was trying to kick a man who was standing near him, sorting through a stack of clothes. And when he actually succeeded in kicking the burly man with a wig-mane of hair, the latter shrieked in pain. All this happened and the mother was oblivious! Shoppers could sure be shockers! And I squirmed as I imagined what would happen if that little “unleashed terror” ran around creating havoc!
My cousin, she was addicted, smitten, infatuated with these obstacle-race-like shopping sprees! She believed in the fact that a woman must possess dresses created by the best of designers, the “highest of Jimmy Choos” and her bag fetish reflected on the credit card statements! Her motto in life was, “You earn like a pro and splurge like a diva.” The baby cooed as a feeding bottle was shoved into her mouth.
I just spotted a book shop and was wonderstruck that there existed one, amid this mindless chaos. There wasn’t even a single being in there except a rotund owner leafing through a magazine and his assistant who was dusting the shelves out of sheer boredom! I intended to walk in when the niece tugged furiously onto my arms, pulling me away, over the bustle I could just about hear, “You can do this online, let’s go and get that ‘Friends’ T-shirt.”
I chugged on, craving a hot cup of tea. By now more than half the day was retailed away, bank accounts too were probably looking frail and as malnourished as I felt by then. Fortunately, I managed to cajole my relatives to replenish their beings though their souls seemed to be insatiable! The food court was like a refugee camp, there were children yelling and rolling on the floor, crying for waffles and ice-creams and the noise reached a pandemonium as one food outlet tried to “out-scream” the other! The pram was full of shopping bags and the baby was in my lap, as we waited for a table to be empty. This seemed an impossibility today. And whosoever has called shopping a retail therapy let me tell you, it certainly isn’t my cup of tea!
Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @navanitavp.