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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
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Monday, March 24, 2008

Back in Mumbai; random thoughts on supermarket culture

Visiting Mumbai after a year; I see that the entire city has been dug up. Not just the roads and construction sites, even all homes within my apartment complex are being dug up by their owners. I am sure that in this mad rush for renovation and construction, the ruins of Atlantis will crop up somewhere or the other in Mumbai. All the same, the traffic jams seem to have eased a bit and after a long time, taking a motorized vehicle seems a faster way to travel than walking.

However, jams have shifted to another place, at supermarket queues where waiting time of 30 minutes or more has become common at the cash counter. This held true for all my supermarket visits this week reminding me of queues before ration shops for kerosene. Everywhere, a dozen or more people would be already standing before the cash counter, their trolleys filled to the brim as if they feared that the UN Security Council would be imposing economic sanctions on India soon. Shoppers who had come as a family spread themselves among several counters to outsmart others. The very typical Indian values of queuing were also at full display wherein a person stands parallel to you in the queue and slowly, silently and nonchalantly starts moving in front of you as the queue advances. Therefore, a few skirmishes could also be heard between these people slowly racing against each other to reach the cash counter.

I find waiting in supermarket queues a disturbing experience; I have to smell the odors I don’t want to, hear the conversations I don’t want to, and have to get poked and edged by heartless trolleys. As such, never before had I felt such a burning desire to part with my money and leave the place. The meaning of “ten items or less” counter is conveniently ignored by most shoppers. Why haven’t supermarkets yet set up the all so familiar “Tatkal” counter? I was also hoping that some touts would be available to help me jump the queue for some commission.

Apart from the construction and retail sector; religion, news channels and laughter champions seem to be having their best days ever in India. More on them on subsequent posts.

P.S. Artwork: Trolley hunters by Banksy

1 comment:

Anuradha Goyal said...

Traffic Jam can neither be created nor destroyed, they just move from one place to another...:-)