As you move from the Edappally bypass to Kalamassery in the outskirts of Cochin, you’ll come across a humongous structure which is incidentally the largest mall in India, Lulu, it is called. In and around the area, you can see that a structural transformation is happening from a semi-urban area to completely metropolitan. Apart from Lulu, the only other institutions worth naming within a 6-7 km radius are the National University of Advanced Legal Studies (NUALS), Cochin Medical College (CMC), Nippon-Toyota and HMT and they were all surrounded by nothingness.
I am not very enthused by malls a lot. I usually go into these superstructures when the heat outside gets to me and I need some free air conditioning. The sunlight at around two in the afternoon is not the most pleasant especially in Kerala, so I went in. Outside, you have two sets of three security guards each ‘monitoring’ the traffic. In other words, gawking at beautiful women and waving at the occasional car. As I enter, there’s a buzz all around the four floors. It reminded me of a scene from one of my most favourite animated films of all time, ‘Antz’. I did my usual rounds, looking for food, books, music and then of course, food.
The ground floor had Kerala’s second favourite pass time, jewelleries like Alukkas, Josco, Malabar Gold, etc. The firm favourite being brandy of course. There’s loud music playing with kids throwing stuff at some bull’s eye while the RJs/VJs act all excited trying to get the crowd going. I give them a contemptuous stare and moved on to the first floor.
The first floor had fashion stores, 3 or 4 of them. Boring. Then there’s one on clocks. Hmmm. Café Coffee Day? Bleh, but I think I’ll have a frappe. Onward to the second. Now I have to push some people aside. Families even bring their differently abled kin on wheelchairs just to show them the place. The thing that I noticed on the first floor is the funky telekinetic Xbox 360. How I wished I was 15 again so that I could stand in line with all those those kids! There was a Nintendo Wii on the side too, not bad. Digital electronic stores and then Crosswords, yes, it had to be there! I refrained from buying my 6thbook for the month. Then followed the sparkly slick showrooms of Reebok, Lee, Navigator, etc just like the ones in Trivandrum. Most of them are empty, I wonder how many of these places are profitable.
The 3rd floor alone beats virtually everything that Trivandrum can offer (not that it’s very difficult) as entertainment except the beaches of course. A three-level kids’ fun house which reminded me of the old TV show, ‘Legends of the Hidden Temple’. 90’s Nickelodeon fans will know. Parents ordering their kids to be cute as they hold on to plastic bikes and cars, people taking pictures in front of an artificial waterfall, this one couple was trying to capture a moment in front of an uber giant picture of idli- vada. Numerous arcade games, merry-go-rounds, remote controlled cars, virtually a family amusement park also with a KFC, pizza places and ice cream parlours. I saw all of this and thought to myself, not a bad place to hang out on a weekend. Probably the first of its kind in socialist Kerala. But they managed to save the best for last. An actual bowling alley! That completely blew me away.
One wonders why consumerist/socialist Kerala (the irony) didn’t have malls like these sooner. The demographic in the mall was unmistakable. The aspiring middle class, the noveau Gulf rich and also the super rich all hanging out in the same place for the first time. Modern moms with their kids in prams conversing over a cup of coffee, funky college kids in another corner, a family out for the weekend and a young couple all hanging out in the same place without judging or eyeing each other. That’s a first for Kerala. What are the negatives? We have pepsi/coke instead of the ubiquitous sarbat, fresh juice, coconut water and nongu places all over Kerala, the use of bounded premium notebooks that cost 10 times as that of a normal college-size book that you get from Thriveni, CCD coffee instead of filter kaapi, burger-pizza instead of vada or baji, face wash, body wash, anti-deodorant, in addition to soap. Are these negatives? Is it so wrong to consume as long as you can pay for it? I don’t know. I won’t start an argument on how capitalists have overcharged us for value addition. I say, we’re as guilty for consuming them as they’re for producing them. If you want to practice what you preach, I say, stay away from malls and super markets. Don’t buy things and then complain about the price tags.
Ok I don’t even know why I started talking about capitalism from describing Lulu. I conclude.