Away from the land of political pundits, the gurus of nationalism and the prisoners of truth , lies at a distance of just a few miles, the Ambience mall, from the east gate of the insititution of JNU, famous for its rebels who still stand tall and proud against the wave of totalitarian nationalism that touched its shore, just a year back. The stark difference between the mall as a space of ‘self-indulgence’ and JNU as the den of thinkers, actively participating in the theorization of modernity, while, the folks in the mall actively participating in the process of modernization can be compared to the divorce between spouses. A divorce, that separates the husband and the wife into the realms of thinking and acting. This clear demarcation of theorizing and action is the gap that Hannah Arednt, a pioneer, post modern thinker explains as the ‘crisis of modernity’. The different experiences of modernity by the intellectuals and the class of mall visitors has to be further analysed, in order to understand the contribution of both these categories as partners in the making of a modern India. However, the objective of this piece is to bring to the notice of its readers the operation of privilege in ‘self-indulgence’. As one enters the arena of mall, the general order of affairs is one of feigning a disinterest in the daily, normative activities of life, that is winning of one’s piece of bread. Indeed, there isn’t much time in the hands of the passerby to even ask the workers of ‘cinnabon’ or to a stranger in the mall about their work or about their lives. The only exchange of words is an impersonal dialogue between the ‘customer’ and the ‘cafe employee’ , for instance, “would you like to place an order, ma’am? Yes, sure, I would like to have a cup of cappuccino, regular, please”. This standard conversation in a setting that resembles an eco-park, where people would go for walks and jogging in the evening. The realization in itself is perturbing, does this mean that, malls are replacing parks in the open air for one that is closed, indoor and feels like a prison of modernity? At least, in the parks, people engaged with each other in conversations amidst a natural setting of trees, birds and nature, in general. The freedom to walk is very limited in spaces such as the mall as juxtaposed to a park in the city. However, one has to observe another grim fact that the air quality inside the mall is at least better than the outdoor park. Also, everything in the mall is glittery, shining and glamorous, it’s as if, the very understanding of the word ‘pristine’ is threatened by the glamour that surrounds the mall as a space of ‘self indulgence’. The mall provides everything that one needs, in order to forget the realities of life, one has the clothes, the cafe to distract themselves from the banalities and trivialities of life. Therefore, malls have a functional necessity for the operation and continuity of modernity. Also, it is observed that the class of women who visit the malls have a privilege of ‘nudity’. The woman, who visit malls aren’t embarrassed of their nudity as is the case for a woman visiting the paranthe wali gali in Chandni Chowk, a part of old Delhi. This fascinating aspect of the ladies of the mall raises questions about gender and gender behaviour in both of these spaces.As Hannah Arednt notes that modernity lacks ‘critical thinking’ and therefore, I would like to leave the readers with these critical questions on malls as spaces of ‘self-indulgence’.
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