Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Pandora’s Box you walk into.

This is a memory, circa 2003. On the way to a restaurant near home, we happened to step into what l later realised was a compact, made-in-India version of the American dime (nickel-and-dime/five-and-ten) store situated next doors. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition, 2000) defines this originally small-town phenomenon pioneered by FW Woolworth in 1879 [http://www.bartleby.com/61/41/F0154100.html] as “a retail store selling a wide variety of inexpensive articles”. My dime store had all kinds of glittering and seemingly useful stuff selling at Rs.49/-, Rs.99/- and Rs.149/-. We even did a wee bit of shopping there. It also stocked, I noticed, made-in-plastic replicas of what could have passed for ‘Depression Glass Objects’ (1920-1950) and made the originators proud. http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/athome/1920/objects/1depression.htm. Déjà-vu, any one? Then, I found this bit of Dime Store Math at http://www.tlsbooks.com/dsmath.htm: “You are the owner of the biggest dime store in your town. You purchase your merchandise in large quantities, then repack the items in small packages for your customers. Using the information provided in each box, calculate how many packages will be available to your customers.” Also, when you are in a poetic mood, do read five and dime store dreams by Larry Jaffe. It begins with “i grew up with woolworths / and kresges / five & dime stores” explaining the passion thus: “cause everything / was supposed to be / on the cheap” http://www.funkydogpublishing.com/larryjaffe-fiveanddimestore.html. Larry’s heart was never in the American Way (“… bomb scare drills / way before terrorism was born / … we fought the commie scourge / fear of being nuked / fallout shelters the rage / and then we raged / through 60's hoopla / warring factions of peace”) as we realise by his admission right at the tail of his little stinger: “but my heart resided / in that 5 & dime / where peace was affordable”.

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