Month: December 2009

Retail Therapy

Every once in a while it helps to admit that I just love shopping. And Christmas is a fabulous time in India, shopping-wise (as it probably is everywhere else!). I don’t think I’ve actually bought a lot of stuff, but I had a great time walking around and looking at everything. It takes me a while to pick the first piece- I drag my feet a lot on that, probably because there is just so much variety, and I love the clothes and shoes and handbags and jewellery here. But once the first piece is selected, it’s like a game of dominoes. In the end I don’t buy most of what I try on, but oh the trying is so much fun!

Some interesting experiences too. In Bangalore, on Commercial Street, I was picking my way along the pavement with my sisters-in-law when a pair of shoes caught my eye. They were on a dusty-looking stand outside a shop that opened directly onto the pavement. As if out of nowhere, a scruffy man appeared, and spoke in surprisingly smooth tones (that’ll teach me to judge a book by it’s cover!), asking me if I would like to enter his shop. I asked the first question I always ask when I am considering buying shoes: what’s your largest size? Smart guy, he countered with: what size do you want? The next thing I knew he had convinced me to go in with him. We walked down a dark corridor that led to his shop. My eldest sister-in-law murmured that she would never have agreed to go in if she had been alone, however much she liked the shoes. Indeed, the combination of the oily invitation and the dark corridor put me in mind of the poem: come into my parlour, said the spider to the fly!

Turned out he didn’t have my size, but he said he would custom make the shoes in my size and deliver them to me. I paid him the money up front. It’s been two weeks and I have seen neither hide nor hair of the shoes. Ah well. That’ll teach me!

I did buy clothes as well but the shoe experiences stand out the most. In Chennai I went to a place called Shopper’s Stop, which had a fantastic range of shoes. And they had most of them in my size! This was a really civilised place- not like the poky corridor on Commercial Street. But it made just as big an impact on me, because of the sheer courtesy of the salesmen. The gentle concern with which they attended to every customer was balm to my Singapore-hardened shopper’s soul, and the dignified professionalism was evident everytime they slipped a shoe on your foot. I walked out of there with two pairs of shoes, only one of which I really needed. The other was just for the salesmen.

My two sons came along with me- the first because he really likes shopping, and the second because I promised to get him a pizza for lunch. At the store, the second one found a chair and played phone games with a long suffering look on his face, while the first walked around with me, excitedly shortlisting clothes he felt would suit me. Two such different children from the same parents! But that’s fodder for another post, if my sons give me permission to write it.

Here’s the short version- I shopped. I felt good. End of story.

Digital dependence

I am in India now, and have had intermittent access to the Internet for various reasons. That’s  not the point of this post. I had no idea how much of a digital addict I was till I found myself in the situation of having no access. No access meant no e-mail, no Facebook, no blogs, no discussion boards, no msn and Skype chats… the list goes on. None of this is life-threatening of course, but that makes no difference to an addict. The only thing that has really suffered is my work. No access also means no Google scholar and Google books, both of which I rely on heavily when writing up reviews of literature.

But it’s not just me. My kids are languishing without their computers. They aren’t heavy gamers or anything, but one son wants to write his stories and the other wants to get a headstart on his schoolwork. Having to share one laptop between the three of us is driving us nuts. I regret not letting them bring their computers to India. What did I think they were going to do with all their time?

This is the problem really. That no one can think of what to do sans-computer/access. What did I use to do when I was a kid and time hung heavy during holidays in India? I can’t remember, but there was a lot of sitting around and waiting. Also we used to go to the village and it was fun walking in the rice fields. Just a note- haystacks are not the stuff that romantic rural landscapes are made of. They are prickly and full of creepy crawlies that BITE! But sitting on one was an experience nonetheless. There were also bathrooms with no roofs, where you had to crouch in a corner if you didn’t want to be seen by the voyeur in the two-story building next door, but that’s another story for another time. If you ask nicely I’ll tell it!

Anyway in the meantime there are three of us sharing one computer, and my kids are reading more in this one month than they have read the whole year. That’s something anyway.