Entering the mall “[Gopal] saw that it was a huge double-storeyed building with soft music piped everywhere, discreet lighting throwing an actually welcoming glow, rows of shops, some simply decorated, some bizarre, others with exquisite window dressing. Overhead in the center of the roof was a transparent glass sheet and below it, a restaurant surrounded by green plants. A waterfall cascaded as one end, but so soothingly that Gopal wondered if the water wasn’t domesticated.”
“Walking through the tinkling silence [of the mall], Gopal contrasted it with the bazaars at home. There was a constant roar, like a torrent tearing out of a gorge – no tame water there. Pedlars shrieked, buyers screamed in horror at the prices, shopkeepers wailed at the ruination facing them if they lowered their rates any further. Goods spilled everywhere, fruits, clothes, vegetables, books, fish, and the odours were so strong they were almost tangible, they felt as loud as the sounds.”
The Inscrutable Americans, by Anurag Mathur
The large cities of India now have their own malls. Bangalore has more than one. I didn’t spend any time in a mall in India and only saw them (with their McDonald’s and KFC) from a passing car window. I can’t speak to how similar or different they are, but I think it’s interesting to hear the contrasting descriptions of the traditional shopping experience in the US and India.
My experience at the market in Mumbai, seen in these pictures, wasn’t quite the scene described by the book, but it’s an easy to imagine.
These excerpts are from The Inscrutable Americans, by Anurag Mathur, the story of an innocent, small-town Indian man’s time spent in the US for graduate school and education in American culture. It’s inspired by the author’s own time spent studying at the University of Tulsa.
I picked the book up in the airport in Bangalore for 95 Rs (approx $2.11) to read on the flight home. After experiencing India myself, it was perfect and eye opening to read this account of American culture by an Indian, albeit a fictional account. While it helps to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes, in the case of other cultures, sometimes one needs a guide. This story was just that.