Twenty years back, when I was a teenager, Mumbai had a completely different lifestyle – at least for a middle class family. It would be only a couple of times in a year when special occasions called for family dinner in a restaurant. Coffee Houses… what were those? Udipi restaurants with cutting tea and coffee? Yes, now that sounds familiar. One shopped at the local garment stores unless it’s a wedding or Diwali/Christmas/Eid when you went to a bigger showroom in Dadar, Bandra or Crawford market. We bought fresh vegetables and seafood at the comfort of our doorstep or at the local fresh farm produced market. Our monthly home supplies came from the only baniya/kirana shop which kept all the supplies from soap, to oils, grams to spices. No department stores or Supermarkets existed then, except for AkbarAlly’s, but with changing times shopping there has become a rarity. The new generation might even wonder what and where it is.
Today, if you are in Mumbai, you would know that Malls are “The- In- Thing”. Feeling lonely? Go to the Mall and spend hours splurging in retail therapy or just window shop. Or even better, put your Navigating cap on and begin an exploration of 21st century lifestyle. Love Reading? Find a bookstore, browse books, pick one, start skimming through the synopsis and then end up reading the whole book without paying a dime and without being bothered by anyone. How cool is that!
Love movies? Easy Peasy. Multiplexes in Malls are spoiling us for choice. If you are a hardcore movie buff with loads of time on hands to kill, watching back to back movies would be a delight.
Want to grab a quick bite? You no longer have to enter a restaurant and feel uncomfortable asking, “Table for One, Please.” Steer your rumbling tummy to the Food Court and enjoy a meal among people who make you believe that you are invisible, that your existence doesn’t matter at all. Not sure what to eat? Look around. Folks are experimenting and breaking barriers by having waffles for lunch or ordering Shawarma, Burgers, Parathas, Pizza, Tacos, creating their own meal box or just savoring the good old Chole bhature or chicken Biryani. Oh, and don’t forget to get your cold drink. No meal at the mall is complete without it.
Going out with kids in tow? I know, I know. Nothing beats the smile on a kids face when they see the train rides in the Mall. The gaming zones are crazy. The Horror House is fun. Flavoured Popcorns and tub of candy floss are hot favourites and McDonald’s is easy on pockets for a Big Happy Meal. It’s a win win situation (sigh!)
Navigating through a four or five storey mall has replaced The Walk in the park, except that in this park, the longer you prolong your stay, the more money leaves your pocket or rather piles up on your credit card bill. Gadgets, home appliances, groceries, home furnishings, craft & art materials, beauty products and even unisex salons are now found under one huge roof – The Mall. It’s a place which doesn’t distinguish between the Rich and the poor. Everyone is welcome, but only between 11am to 11pm for though Mumbai never sleeps, Mumbaikars need to pause and rest. It’s only human to do so, ain’t it?!