Thursday, June 01, 2006

Shop till you drop?

Take One: I'm about to let you in on a closely guarded secret about an original discovery of mine. Unfortunately, I don't – indeed can't – hold for it a copyright or patent or whatever else an inventor or a discoverer is supposed to hold. In a supermarket or a warehouse - never mind its location - where a lot of people are shopping at a time in the hope of saving money or getting bargains, there is a distinct smell in the air that only my nostrils can detect. It approximates the smell of boiled sweets laced with a dash of peppermint. On the many occasions from 1970 when I've shopped in American, British, Scandinavian, Sri Lankan or Indian shopping places in the company of friends and relatives, only I have been privy to its presence. I call it the Scent of the Fervent Shopper. I got a whiff of it after a long, long time while shopping at the Big Bazaar one Dassera morning. For a moment or two, I couldn't place it. Then, memory of where I had met it last – and when – hit me. Right in the nostrils. Incredible!

Take Two: Going shopping on a rainy Thursday afternoon is hardly my idea of fun. I made an exception to my rule on this Thursday afternoon because Nandini needed company. Ducking out of a light drizzle, we dripped our way into the Cottage Industries Emporium near the Gateway of India around three. It was like stepping back into the past for me. Time seems to have been snoozing on its feet for CIE. Nothing looked different from my last visit years back. No new stuff on offer. Same somnambulant staff. The only glaring change was the shoppers. There used to be a lot of foreigners around earlier. Now there were mostly NRIs like Nandini moving around as if they owned the depressing joint, speaking Marathi in an American accent and choosing stuff to furnish their newly acquired homes or, maybe, to gift to their phirang friends. It’s a sobering thought that these folks who have left their country to make a better life elsewhere take with them bits and pieces of their first homeland every chance they get. Later in the afternoon, when we stepped into the then three-days-old downtown showroom of Fab India, I found recent history repeating itself. But, in this case, the stuff for sale and the staff pushing it were livelier and smarter at least. To get a cursory feel of the NRI mind, please take a look at this home page: It claims to be the most comprehensive information resources for the lost tribe. Other sites worth a look:,, and

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