Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Mall: where is it going?

Here, at the Indian Bazaars blog, in the initial days, I talked about how I would include in the blog, both the Bazaar and the Mall. Somewhere down the road, I completely forgot about the Mall. There was enough to share about the Bazaar as I explored the marketplace on an ordinary day or on a festival day.

Living in Bangalore, the Mall may be more a part of your daily life than the Bazaar. I did go to the Malls, not every day, but every once in a while. It was sometimes to watch a movie, sometimes to “eat out” and occasionally ‘to shop’. The malls had “Food courts” – the eating places where you could order one dish from one eatery and another from the neighbouring one and sit at these common tables in a cacophonic atmosphere of young people who did the movie, the shopping AND the “eating out” all in one sitting! Or, so it seemed to me.

Today, I come across this interesting article in the architectural journal PLACES and think again about the Mall. In order to understand ‘The Mall- where is it going?’ maybe, we need to look at ‘The Mall – where did it come from? And, therefore, this work from Brian Ulrich is so interesting to know. His book : Is this place great or what? was published recently, a collection of his photographs of consumer culture in the United States, pictures taken over a period of ten years.

The project comprises three series: Retail (2001-06), photographs taken in malls and big box stores across the country; Thrift (2005-08), focusing on the secondary life of consumer goods in thrift shops; and Dark Stores (2008-11). You can read about it here: Is this Place great or what?

There is a slideshow of the photographs at: Not if but when PROJECTS. These are malls in Illinois, New York, Ohio and some in UK. It shows the people, the goods. One could say that there is this monotony, in the way in which the goods are displayed and the way in which the people perceive and absorb what is displayed. Brian has studied this consumerism for a long time and his interpretations are interesting. You can read Brian’s writings on his blog, linked here: Not if but when BLOG

Last month, having spent ten days in Ahmedabad, we went one evening to Satellite road. It was THE place to shop, someone said. It had innumerable malls and the newness of the experience was on offer. But, we walked around that evening, the realisation soon dawning on us that Malls were dying, or at least a few had just died in the city, we did not know what would happen in the days to come. We had entered an EMPTY mall – it was a strange experience. Why were we here?! There was a handloom expo that was occupying a large central space in the mall. That was all there was in there. The rest of the mall was dead. No buyers. People had vacated. Sales were not good. At another part of the city, at Sarkari Virasat road, near Thaltej, I had seen that morning a new, “grand” mall under construction.

Who would occupy? Did it make good busines sense? an interesting read here in The Hindu. As we think about our future cities, we may look to the West for new aspirations but are we firmly grounded on where we come from?

Friday, October 07, 2011

a sea of silence

The memory of the Bazaar is often of a recollection of chaos and yet when I look back at the pictures taken at the crowded, chaotic, noisy Groundnut fair last november in Bangalore, I find that so many of the photographs have people immersed in thoughts and in silence. I look at one of my favourite books, Tagore's Fireflies and there are these lines...

The world is the ever-changing foam that floats on the surface of a sea of silence.

I am reminded of Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein, the film by Shabnam Virmani and the words: "In 15th century north India, the mystic weaver Kabir spoke his poems in the market place, his spirituality firmly grounded in the public square"