An article in this morning's IHT covers the problems of newly-opened malls in India. Supposedly, people are just going there to enjoy the air-con and chill out. Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. I went to the Metropolitan Mall in March, the mall the article is talking about, and didn’t find the first of the two things I was looking for. I hoped that Marks & Spencer would be set up the same way as the UK “Simply Food” stores, since I couldn’t find a single convenience store anywhere in India.
I found the other thing I was looking for, though. A place to relax. Being a westerner and traveling in non-western countries can sometimes be quite cumbersome, especially if you bring along an infant. It doesn’t really matter if you’re in Delhi, Seoul, Bangkok or Kyoto - you can get this “cultural overload” anywhere. When a cultural overload occurs, I typically retreat into Starbucks. I feel as if I’ve been saved already before even stepping up to the counter. After half an hour or so, I slowly start feeling a tiny bit of guilt for not being able to cope better with the local environment, but instead spending valuable time in a americanized and totally adjusted milieu. That’s when I tell myself that it is OK to be weak, and buy another blueberry muffin.
Anyway, India is a rather poor country, and has a fairly large middle class population. They are not rich enough to go shopping seriously at the mall, but perhaps they can treat themselves with some small things once in a while. And if you ask the locals, they themselves agree that Delhi can drive you crazy with its smog, high temperature and intensity. If I would live in the neighborhood and be a student, I would probably go to the Metropolitan Mall all the time. And since there is no Starbucks to be found, I would probably settle for a chicken or veggie burger from McDonald’s. Every once in a while, at least.