Sitting here on a bench in a posh city mall, while my family and my friends are on the hunt for the best deals and some window shopping, I am cleaning my cell phone frantically of the deluge of religious and patriotic messages sent by my whatsapp activist friends. Today is Janmastami and tomorrow is the Independence Day.
The mall too is celebrating the Independence Day by organising a fashion show with a swadeshi theme and a lottery. The ground floor where I am sitting is abuzz with preparatory activities. Ironically, all the shops on this ground floor where the swadeshi event will take place, sell western brand of clothing and other products.
The word mall has some strange similarity with the swadeshi word mela. White skinned Indic scholars and their supporters may say that the word mela is derived from the word ‘mall’. Indophiles and their swadeshi supporters may argue to the contrary.
I am reminded of the village fairs of my childhood days. The atmosphere would be totally charged up with hustle bustle and noise. Sometime there would be a lot of heat and dust. A mall is protected from the seasonal fluctuations and the heat and dust of the Indian outdoor. And barring those occasional promotional events, it is so cool and silent. Like a funeral .
And nobody treated you at the entrance of a mela as a potential terrorist and groped you by your shirt and pant pockets. Of course, everything has two sides. While on one hand, the global expansion of terrorism has raised concerns of radicalization, on the other hand, it has given a big boost to the billion dollar security industry.
One thing is common between the mela and the mall. Both are places of milan – primarily for the potential buyers and sellers. Of course many other kinds open and clandestine meetings also happen.
Ironically, Indian movies have used the mela for family break up. How can we, the movie buffs of Amar Akbar Anthony era forget the most popular formula – two brothers or an entire family getting separated in a mela to be reunited in a climax where the villain has bound the some key members of the family in chains.
Reference to mela abound in Bollywood movies and songs, with a number of movies even taking up the title. The word mela has festive connotations. But the ‘mela’ of 1948 starring Dileep Kumar is a tragic movie. The tragedy about the 2000 movie starring Amir Khan and Twinkle Khanna is that it was one of the biggest flops of the year.
Shopping and eating out not being my favourite pastimes I search for other avenues so that I don’t feel out of place here. I was a student of economics honours. Maybe, I should speculate on the macro economics of city malls. But, why to load the brain with the complicated theories learnt and forgotten three decades back.
I decide to go to the the electronics shop on the first floor to have a look at the latest developments in digital technology. A salesman is demonstrating a model of a home theater. The TV channel is belting out – duniya hasino ka mela, mele mein yeh dil akela. But, the heart of the potential male customer is definitely not alone as he seems to be accompanied by his newly married female partner.
However, it may be applicable to life in general. It is a different story that our hero cannot find a suitable girl to connect to his lonely heart. But, the author of the song sees the world as a fair ground of fairer sex.
Basically we see, what we want to see.