The other side…

November 8, 2010

Two and a half years ago when I visited my hometown I was shocked to see huge malls spouting everywhere.

I distinctly remember going to one such overcrowded shopping hub with my parents one evening — it was teeming with people, most of whom were gawkers … folks from nearby villages coming with their families on an “outing.”

The mall was like a zoo to them. The glitter and glitz behind the display windows being the main attraction.

I couldn’t understand their excitement or share their wonder. Malls have always been a hassle for me. I had been to many while in Delhi and Mumbai and avoided them like the plague in the States.

If I had to go to mall in the U.S., it would be in an in-an-out experience for me. Go in with a list of items, come out with as many as I could find. No time or inclination to browse. No time or inclination to waste.

Back to the mall in my hometown … As I watched women in saris screaming and squealing at the top of the escalator, all I did was smirk and head to the elevator.

For a fleeting moment I wondered why something as simple as moving stairs would elicit the kind of excitement it did. For a second, I also wondered why “these people” were in the malls at all. It’s not like they were there to buy anything.

Today, when I insisted that the entire family go to the movies, I experienced the mall from the other side.

It’s days — sometimes weeks — that my sister- and mother-in-law do not step outside the house. This was only the second time in 12 years my sister-in-law saw a movie in the theater. For my mother-in-law, it had been almost three decades.

My sister-in-law stepped onto the escalator for the first time. She squealed. She giggled nervously. She even held up a lot of people waiting to get on. As I watched her from below, holding my niece’s hand, I saw something very different.

I saw a young woman who was experiencing the thrill of the unknown. She, who is cooped up in the house all day. She, whose world revolves around her two kids and the kitchen. She, who works from five in the morning to 11 at night. I saw a little girl in her. A little girl who was simultaneously nervous and elated.

I didn’t care about the people who had to wait at the head of escalator. I didn’t care about the folks who looked at her impatiently. I didn’t care about those who wanted her to “go for it.” All I was looking at was her wide smile, her anticipation, her glee. She was outdoors. She had just seen a three-hour movie with her family. She had eaten popcorn and had tea made by someone else. She was now on an escalator.

It’s easy enough to look at something so simple and not really see anything.

It’s easy to lump everyone into the category of “these people.”

But when you know those people … when you’ve seen the day-to-day life those people lead, you realize why a simple thing like riding down an escalator can be such a wondrous thing.
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2 Responses to The other side…

  1. MarikaNo Gravatar on November 9, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Maybe it do us good to see things from an other point of view sometimes…not just our “bored” way of seeing things.
    I too hate malls.
    I do exactly what you do…hurry up to get what I need and then off again.
    But I live as a free woman in a …considered “rich” country.

  2. Katie GatesNo Gravatar on November 10, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Great post, Mansi! Wonderful sense of perspective. BTW, you will NEVER see me on one of those escalators. They make me hyperventilate. I totally can’t deal with the open space aspect, so any screaming from me would represent absolute terror!


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