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Monday, September 15, 2008

Shopping & Nostalgia

Sunday evening...
Pujas just a fortnight away. ..
A true blue bong has to finish her “Pujor Bajaar”!!!
The realization dawned that I had to do my Puja shopping and HAD to do it TODAY as days for my Calcutta trip were literally numbered.
Four hours later, I was back home, with bulging carry bags and a much lighter wallet.

With swanky malls sprouting in every nook and corner of almost all neighbourhoods, shopping in our metro cities nowadays are all about comfort, variety and indulgence. Be it shopping for clothes, eatables, electronics ….with retail boom leaving no corner of urban India untouched, shopping is not the same as ..say…what it was just half a decade back. We have every global brand offering us the best bargains, the widest choice, the latest trends. Could we ask for more?
A tired me says YES with capital letters.

"Silly woman", you would say, "aren’t you satisfied with the convenience, comfort, the simplicity of walking into a mall and walking off with what you wanted, all in a jiffy!"
The answer to that would be NO, I AM NOT…I don’t like the malls with their almost identical ambiences, the same brands on display, the dead-pan, expressionless salepersons. I love the uniqueness in the smell, sound, taste, feel, dialect of every bazaar. I hate the modern malls which are little more than mere clones of one another. You would call me a regressive, nostalgic fool craving for the past.

Well…that’s the way it is with me and thank God, that my good old city with its old world charm still retains the flavour, albeit in bits and pieces….where makeshift stalls give the mega malls a run for their money..EVEN TODAY! Where the bazaars are still teeming with people queuing up for fresh food instead of the frozen stuff of the supermarkets!

Well, I’m talking about shopping in good old Calcutta. Being away from my city, I miss the haggling and bargaining, where bargaining to the last rupee was more a matter of pleasure than monetary loss or gain. It was almost like a war of words and tenacity, spiced up with wit and banter, between the zealous salesmen and the potential buyer. The whole atmosphere was almost carnival like with neighbouring stalls vying with one another for the attention of the shoppers passing by.

The gradual upgradation from “Bonti” ”Didi” and to the present “Boudi” which sometimes gets replaced by Didi (when the hawkers are in a doubt regarding my marital status) are something so unique and yet ubiquitous to roadside shopping in Kolkata. Another decade or so and I would reach the “Mashima” stage!! For the grossly uninformed, these are the different forms of exuberant greetings a hawker uses (depending on the age of the prospective buyer…) to call out to the customers.

Well.. no nostalgic remembrance of Calcutta shopping is complete without the mention of the rolls, phuchkas, jhaalmuris……how I missed them all this evening when I had to satiate my post-shopping hunger with a measly masala corn.

Bibliography: Bonti:little sister; Didi:Elder sister; Boudi:sister-in-law; Mashima:Aunt


ask said...

Its good to follow your heart than your mind….so techi go ahead as long as you wish to be part of this cyberspace….I am not good with words so will settle as a navigator to your blog.

SGD said...

Thanks ASK!

Do I know you in the REAL WORLD??
Keep reading as long as I indulge this latest whim of mine..And as long as I receive encouragement from you all, i think i'll keep scribbling!!

Bhavesh said...

Aree Didi, kya likha hai....Good start.

SGD said...

Thanks Bhavesh!

Shikha said...

It was a nostalgic journey for me too,reading your Blog. I cannot agree more on the issue, especially being in the US where all the shopping areas/malls are nothing but a mere replica of each other. If you have seen one place you have seen it all. There is no flavour, no tacky bargains, no cacophony of the wooing hawkers, no innocuous titles. Unfortunately India too is being engulfed by the "hip" and the "fashionable" MALL phenomenon. Although MALL culture has its own benefits and befits the present fast paced world but surely eludes the truly thrilling "Indian Shopping Heritage".

Damayanti said...

absolutely my sentiments! keep going!

Karna said...

darun lekha hoyechey rey !!
great to c u on this space. keep me posted on whnever u make additions to this.
Kudos dear!!

aditi said...


You should write a book, you paint the chaos, the colours, the tastes with your words!!! Very impressive writing style! Very living if I can use that term.

I however hate shopping in Kolkata, the shopkeepers have attitude that sucks, in our neighbourhood CA market I made a trip my last visit, I chose a piece of garment, said " I will buy this anyways, but just check if you have it a size smaller" The lecturer , reprimanding lecturer rather in the shop said " this is your size, even 14 yr olds wear this size, how will you fit into a size smaller, why are you asking for it....etc" I repeated my humble request for her to check once and my serious reassurance that I will buy the piece even if she can’t find the smaller size. I did not get a straight answer, I got another lecture, I did not get the satisfaction of knowing she had looked for the right size, I got a bad mood, I did not get client satisfaction, I got the dress!!!
So much for shopping in Kolkata for me !

SGD said...

Thanks for your words of encouragement!!

Yes...the 'know-it-all' condescending attitude can get on one's nerves.....
But the impersonal mall culture is definitely a bigger NO NO for me!!!