Sunday, 18 August 2013

Shopping Slug Fest - A short story

We thought, my wife and I, and of course my two kids, that we would have an outing on the occasion of Independence day and so went to one of the shopping malls in town. We read about the discounts being offered on that day, 50 to 60 per cent discount on books, apparels, electronics, and what not! I let off both of my sons, aged fourteen and sixteen, and my wife at the  main entrance to the Mall and drove on to the parking which was a great distance away. I finally found space about two kilometers away and took the shuttle back to the mall to be re-united with my family. I looked at the passengers in the overcrowded shuttle- a young couple hanging on to each other, whispering platitudes to each other, the girl, in a daring dress, and hair done in a most amazing style which seemed to defy gravity and the man in ripped jeans. I glanced at the front to see yet another couple looking forward to the shopping experience. The woman in her rather tall heels reached a mere five feet while her boyfriend towered above her, a good seven plus feet. and I wondered how shopping seemed to bind together rather disparate couples! On the seat behind me, a little boy of perhaps six or seven years of age kept pestering his mother with some of the most strange questions, “Wow, Mom, this bus has a roof, look, Mom, a Golf Course, look Mom, isn’t that a Golf course?” The boy’s mother seemed embarrassed by his questions! by the time the shuttle bus arrived at the main entrance to the Mall, I had become rather fed up of this conversation! In the past years people went to the Hill Stations to be Far from the Madding crowd, but today, it seemed as if the opposite was happening, rather than going away to an isolated and peaceful tourist location, people were converging at  a shopping mall,the whole populace from the town and nearby towns like flies swarming over leftovers!
The moment I entered the Mall,  I could hear the voices on the loud speakers speaking of the amazing discounts being offered on that day.  I looked at the streams of people thronging the counters to buy their goods, books, clothes, gadgets; bags bulging, people moving as Zombies, shuffling along to get their credit cards decimated. My family and I had been away for months and so we had not had the opportunity of knowing about the offers. I called up my wife and daughters and came to know that they too were rather confused about what to buy and what not  to buy, all the while as the sales men and girls smiled their plastic smiles asking if they had a liking for any thing. I finally rejoined them at the clothes store named, Dare. I hustled them on towards the other outlet. My wife, Anna, said to me, “ I guess I need a new pair of shoes,” and I replied, “Sure, go ahead!” All the while I looked at the eager faces of all the shoppers, eager to buy things just because of the offers, even if they had no need for them! Ridiculous, most of the things being offered would have become outdated and the shops were offloading, clearing their shelves for the latest products!
My eldest son, Mark stood at the display looking at the tablet being offered at a discounted rate of twenty per cent. I knew what would come next, and sighed with resignation. “Dad, I think this is a good offer, can I go for it?” I replied with resignation, “But then, you do have the one you bought six months ago,” I said. He replied, “ But Dad, it is now outdated, and moreover I can hand it over to Sam!” He replied. “All right, Mark,” I replied and he indicated to the salesman to take out a fresh piece. While he got the fresh piece checked, I glanced around to see that my wife was approaching me with a smile, she had two packets in her hand, one was, presumably a package containing the shoes, and the other was a mysterious package. She was followed by my younger son, all of twelve years, and he too was beaming. “Look what I got,” she said with a beam that gave me a sinking feeling-“I got my pair of shoes, and Sam has just purchased a pair of inline roller skates!” I tried to smile back with my best smile, although it was a fact that I knew that he had purchased a pair of inline roller skates just a couple of months back! I knew that the old ones would take space in the already overcrowded store-room. “Fine!” I said with what I hoped was my most pleasing voice.
It was clear that all the people in the Mall, one of the biggest in in Asia, were somehow addicted to the shopping syndrome-they moved around as if they they were were looking for a killing. Offers galore, people were simply thronging the stores eager to purchase things at  “throw away” prices. I said to Anna after a brief pause, ‘ I would like to visit the books section, would you like to accompany me?” She replied, “ Sure, you go ahead, I will visit the clothes section with Mark and Sam!” I replied, “Sure, no problem”, I said gladly escaping to the books section, glad to browse through the books. In the books section I saw books by some of the best writers.  There were titles by Henry Rider Haggard, some  of them being King Solomon’s Mines, She, and Return of She. Looking on, I came across books Emile by Rousseau,  titles by Kant, Hegel, the Republic by Plato and Jane Austin. I couldn’t decide on what to buy and called it a day, especially as the aisles were crowded and the billing counter had a long line of customers.  On the way, I looked at a kindle displayed with an attractive discounted price but then I left it alone.Finally I  left my books where they were,  looking at the long queue at the billing counter. The financial economists kept stating that it was good  for the economy for customers to buy things to buy things!
By the time we reached the car park, having traveled by the shuttle bus our hands were aching with the effort of having bought so many things. All the people around us had a multitude of packets with them which they held close to their chests, important valuables bought as if they had won the day! Somehow it was as if shopping had become an important exercise of the age. So then, shopping is good for the economy, but then what about the debts incurred by some of the shopping addicts? I guess, individuals need to look at their budgets and requirements before going on a shopping spree! As for me, I would have to contend with a surplus of goods bought during the shopping festival. The other shoppers would have bought even more of goods not even required by them. There would be a temporary sense of fulfillment in many of the shoppers for some  time at least, but then this would wear off gradually but surely, for if objects of desire give us satisfaction it soon wears off! Shopping has become an important stress-buster today, what with a laid back life style and the lack of spare time for adventure sports, or even a visit to the hill stations for the week end!
The day for my family would end with a slew of ready-to-cook and take-away meals that would require a minimum of cooking, thanks to the ease of having a microwave oven. I remember the times when the best form of relaxation was a visit to some relatives, or perhaps a visit to the Zoo. But then the new trend is shopping so shopping it has to be! The parcels we carry, seemingly the spoils of the war are indication enough of the times that have changed! I guess trends have changed and we need to move with the times. If shopping is the popular trend today, then we need to shop and shop till we drop need dead with the effort. At least then we would be able to have a sense of accomplishment. The greater the size of the bags of shopping and the greater the number of packets, the greater the sense of accomplishment! I guess in a world of routine life, where everything is predictable, a busy life that doesn’t permit weekend trips to the Hill stations, a shopping trip to the nearest shopping mall has become the only way of relaxing. Shopping has become the most popular stress buster for people living in big towns and cities.
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