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24 August 2008

TRAVEL TALES : Pell-mell malls in Gurgaon

“Gurgaon Shopping Centers”
Link reference:

SHOPPING CENTERS in most modern cities turn commercial districts into well-balanced hubs of urban community life. But not in Gurgaon, up north in the National Capital Region of India. While this bustling city is witnessing an unprecedented explosion of malls, there also seems to exist a never-ending competition for The Most Chaotic Shopping Space Award.

“In Gurgaon, window displays on a brand-infested building resemble acne on a makeup-drenched face.”Thirty months ago, when I first visited Gurgaon, massive construction began on shopping centers, office buildings, residential facilities, flyovers, and the extended Delhi Metro transit system. I remembered Manila's Ortigas Center in 1991-92, when the three lords of Philippine retail—Robinsons, Rustan's, and SM—simultaneously built what were then their largest retail spaces amidst burgeoning skyscrapers and flyovers. In today's Gurgaon, I've lost count of the number and location of malls dotting the cityscape. They multiply endlessly, grandiosely, confusingly. Car parks exist only as a footnote in property development, morphing public sidewalks and side streets into traffic-jammed parking lots. Mounds of dusty construction debris remain at the property perimeter, creating no-entry fences between adjacent malls and encouraging competitive neurosis. Giant posters on the façade overwhelm the names of the shopping centers, turning the buildings into nameless billboard Rubik’s Cubes. Let's not even talk of window displays: visual merchandisers in this city seem to have given up on designing truly compelling displays, perhaps knowing that they'll be lost anyway in the distorted cacophony of posters. In Gurgaon, window displays on a brand-infested building resemble acne on a makeup-drenched face. They profit no one.

In 2010, Delhi Metro will finally open right smack in the middle of Gurgaon's shopping complexes. Expect urban chaos to reign over pedestrians and motorists fighting for footfall and parking space supremacy. Today is the right time to form the right habits. My suggestions:

1. The city government must now look into legalizing the use of parking areas, traffic discipline in the side streets, and strategic drop-off points along the main MG Road for the commuting public.

2. Developers must seriously consider investing in car park buildings.

3. They must shun the paranoia of creating pedestrian barriers between malls, and collaborate instead with each other on creating skyways that will seamlessly bridge every mall and every Delhi Metro station to create one true, massive commercial complex.

4. Mall operators must standardize the advertising space that they sell on their buildings to ensure retail branding integrity and visual appeal.

5. Window display artists must train under me for a stratospheric fee. Just kidding. Seriously, mall operators must look at show windows more as highly differentiated investment facilities than as tediously designed showcases for the words “SALE” and “50% DISCOUNT”.

Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Manila have been effectively using such tools to manage traffic and convenience around their sprawling shopping centers. Look how modern, environment-friendly, and consumer-centrist their cityscapes are.

After all, if shopping centers are in Gurgaon to stay, they might as well be mollifying rather than be pell-mell. And if they are to remain competitive and profitable, then replace The Most Chaotic Shopping Space Award with The Shopping Space Model of India Award.

Related Stories: Gurgaon Shopping Malls; Gurgaon (".com" i.e.); Manila Calling

03 August 2008

SIGHTED SITE : Lace House, Kolkata

WHY ARE there no shirt buttons in Kolkata?

Buttons galoreActually, there are—but only if you look and ask hard enough. I spent three weeks moving around Kolkata and visiting tailoring shops, dress boutiques, and the labyrinths of the sprawling Chandney Chowk bazaar. None of them carried shirt buttons. Yesterday, one of the tailors I met directed me to New Market on Lindsay Street, where I finally found buttons at the basement of the facility's new wing.

The shop is called Lace House. It does have lots of ribbons and lace on display, but it's far from looking like a house. Located across the main staircase, the shop contains one long glass cabinet and drawers on the wall that stock up on such tailoring essentials as threads, needles . . . and buttons. There's enough buttons here to make one happy, particularly if one spent three frustrating weeks searching for the right stuff.

The shopkeeper and his assistant, possibly in their early sixties, were affable. They didn't seem to mind having to open all those drawers and lay out boxes and boxes of buttons, as I labored over inspecting and getting the closest match to my shirts. It took quite time, and I ended up with the buttons I need, albeit not in the right colors that I wanted. I marveled at their patience.

And why, you ask, was I looking for these fasteners? Six of my favorite colorful shirts lost some of their equally colorful buttons. Since no tailor or dressmaker was willing or able to do the repairs for me (not even Raymond's, the boutique known all over India for its sartorial expertise), I was ready to sew them myself. I just needed the stuff. So not only could I not find shirt buttons, I could not even get someone to sew them for me. And don't even ask about matching the colors.

It's been almost a year since I moved to Kolkata, and I'm still surprised to discover what amenities the city lacks and what pleasures it can offer. For all commonplace intents, Lace House is a pleasurable discovery.

Lace House
North Basement, 102 New Market
Lindsay Street
Kolkata 700 087, India
Telephone +91 98304 58609

New Market

New Market. Lace House is at the basement of the new wing (pictured at the farthest left of the image above)

On your mark, get set . . .

Tagline of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
Beautiful Beijing screensaver

Image source: Official Web site of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

IN FIVE days, the Games of the XXIX Olympiad will begin in Beijing, China. This time around, more than 10,000 athletes from 200-plus countries will participate in 302 events in 28 sports. I'm still not sure if Iraq is finally joining the lineup. I've not been able to keep track of the usual controversies around the Olympiad, since there's a bit too much of them this year, mainly in protest of China's poor human rights records. On that note, censoring Internet access for journalists does not help assuage the issues at all.

Nevertheless, watching the games, especially the opening ceremony, is reason enough to believe in the power of human achievement and of unity in diversity. This year, over a hundred indigenous dancers from Taiwan will perform on Chinese land—perhaps the first time that this much of them would do so. Catch them, along with Celine Dion, Jay Chou, and others, at the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games on 8 August, 8:08:08 p.m. China Standard Time (UTC+8). (Don't even think of peeking at those previews secretly filmed and posted on YouTube.)

And while waiting for the games to roll, why don't you check this free official screensaver from the International Olympic Committee? It offers several images showcasing Pekingese culture and includes an RSS feed of Olympic news. Funky way to get your officemates gawk at the beautiful infant pictured above, and to stay on track of the events in Beijing.

Related Story: Athens 2004: Opening Ceremony

OD'ing on OED

THIS WEEK, Mr. Nicholson Baker of the New York Times reviewed “Reading the OED,” Amon Shea's account of his one-year attempt to read all 20 volumes and 59 million consecutive words of the Oxford English Dictionary. Mr. Baker gives Mr. Shea the full thumbs-up for this feat. Oh, the things writers do for their craft.

In his review, Mr. Baker uses words that Mr. Shea discovered in OED. Because I'm generous and deeply concerned with the decline of civilized conversations in this SMS-infused generation, I must share some of these words with you.

1. The acnestis is the part of an animal’s back which is unreachable for the animal to scratch. Proper usage: “I scratch your acnestis, you scratch mine.”

2. To bespawl is to splatter with saliva. In the Philippines, we call this social phenomenon “talsik-laway,” which is one of those Tagalog words that are ever so hard to translate to English . . . until now.

3. To have deipnophobia is to fear dinner parties. Fantastic alibi for staying home and staying sane.

4. A hypergelast is a person who won’t stop laughing. Now you know what to call that cousin of yours everytime she sees you with a new hairstyle.

5. To lant is to add urine to ale to boost its taste. Are you now bespawling after realizing that you tried the exotic-sounding “lanted beer” at the bar last Friday? Ha!

6. A kankedort refers to an awkward situation. Generally occurs when your boss' wife (whom you barely know and meet for the first time) asks you about the problems of Turkey and Grease, and your reply reflects your ability to cook greaseless turkey. Having said that, I can write a thick book on all the kankedorts I've experienced. In fact, I just realized how kankedorty I actually am.

7. Obmutescence is speechlessness done willfully. Proper usage: “It's best to be obmutescent when standing or seated next to the new company president.”

8. Petrichor is that familiar loamy smell rising from the ground after a rain. What you smell after Kolkata's rains is not petrichor: it's a rickshaw driver soaked in the floods.

9. To ploiter is to work with little purpose. Proper usage: “I am ploitering because next month, my filthy rich wife will die mysteriously I shall retire.”

10. And finally, something repertitious is something found by accident. Like these words I found in the Net.

There. With these words, I hope I've helped you become less obmutescent in deipnophobic kankedorts. I'll grab and absorb the book, and I'll share its vocabulary with you.

By book I mean Mr. Shea's opus. Not the OED, you bespawling fool.

Related Story: From A to Zyxt

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