Spending money is addictive, especially when you don’t have it. And who knows it better than Vijay Mallya! In this age of buy now, pay later or get beaten up by bank agents for defaulting, it’s tough not to succumb to the joys of shopping; the shortcut to instant happiness. It doesn’t help that the only thing stopping my impulsive buying urges is my will-power which is as weak as the Indian cricket team’s bowling order. I take solace from the fact that I am not engaging in wanton behaviour. On the contrary I’m fulfilling my social responsibility towards the downtrodden community of retailers and propping up the country’s GDP. The only way I can uplift them is by buying everything I don’t want. It’s easier to get Hrithik and Kangana to patch up than convince a woman that she has everything she needs for the next half a century. In fact the world of commerce thrives on our insatiable hunger. While the unevolved male of the species is content with a blue shirt in stripes, checks and plain, we cannot rest in peace till we have it in midnight blue, azure blue, navy blue, powdered blue, peacock blue and indigo. To make it worse, there’s the maddening variety of frills, snug fit, blouson, scoop-back, halter, polo, front-detailing to choose from. And the male has the audacity to wonder why we take so long to shop!
There was a time in my life when I thought I had achieved the unachievable. The very thought of going to a mall would made me sick. It wasn’t always like this. When shopping malls first started mushrooming in Gurgaon, they were the coolest place to hang out, literally! Rows of stores in swanky air-conditioned buildings with clean restrooms were a welcome change from Karol Bagh where you had to search for a deserted bye-lane every time your child wanted to pee. One could spend hours ambling through floors and floors of decadence and follow it with up a movie and dinner.
It didn’t take too long to discover, malls are like cathedrals. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. All of them have the same set of stores, the same aroma of stale popcorn and a sad corner selling donuts. Irrespective of the shopping mall’s location, its uppity quotient and parking challenges, there’s no way you can avoid the holy triumvirate of ‘Adidas/Nike/Reebok, Pantaloons and McDonalds.’
Just as I was looking forward to a life of austerity and observing the mating habits of pigeons on my balcony, online shopping discovered me. Initially it was just a pleasant diversion; a place to buy books and memory sticks or redeem vouchers that I had won at a contest I had completely forgotten about. Before I could dismiss it as yet another fling, I realised I was hopelessly lost and ready to commit myself into a lifelong relationship! To be frank, I tried my best to be Vishwamitra. But how long can you resist Apsaras tantalising you with unheard of offers and discounts? What you don’t know is, this is hotel California – “You can check-out any time you like - But you can never leave!” Once you’ve succumbed, they’ll never let you forget this transgression of yours. The silver danglers with orange beads, the tights in abstract print, and those slippers in pink will follow you like the Hutch puppy till you put your hands up and surrender.
There you are sitting in your cool-darkened room, trying to impress people you’ll never meet with your wit and wisecracks and then suddenly you decide to buy running shoes on a whim. And you do, with just the click of the mouse. Without having to step out, leaving carbon footprints, fighting over parking space and arguing with the salesman that you’re not being unreasonable for expecting high-impact shoes in a combination of purple and orange!
Once upon a time we had to plan for months, sometimes years before buying household appliances. Not anymore. These days you can just hop over to Amazon to checkout the air-fryer everyone’s been raving about. Before you can say ‘Bharat Mata kee Jai’, it’s in your shopping cart ready to be shipped.
Plus, the astounding variety of brands, styles is as available to Mehnaz in Mumbai as it is to Margaret in Mizoram. No longer does one have to be living in a metropolis to have access to high street fashion brands like Mango, Benetton, Michael Kors or Desigual. If you prefer affordable fashion, there’s pages and pages of it on the shopping site to choose from. Aur dikhao, aur dikhao was never this easy. The e-market place does not discriminate between Siraj with just 200 to spend or a Sonam with a budget of 20k. Can it get more egalitarian than this?
For me, online shopping is like a balm for my distressed heart constantly torn between love for multiple Maas (two legged, four legged and the nation). On days when I wonder if I’m an anti-national for not believing JNU is anti-national, I simply open a tab on the browser and start browsing for that perfect pair of jeans in brick-red to soothe my unpatriotic feelings! You’ll discover how often my heart is distressed when you come to my house and see my wardrobe bursting at its seams. Why, I have even bought furniture, cushion covers, table-mats, kitchen pots and pans, planters from online portals!
Time will come when we’ll tell our kids – can you believe it, once upon a time, your ancestors had to step out of the house and have actual money in their wallets to shop! It horrifies me to think what my Mom had to put up with. How could she be content with just 4 pairs of sandals! Imagine the anguish of walking into a store that doesn’t have 20%-70% off signage. Or worse, having to choose between three saris knowing fully well there are thousands of more deserving ones somewhere out there waiting for our purse strings to loosen up.
Or maybe not! The government has reiterated a set of rules regulating e-commerce marketplaces and my shopping urges. The new guidelines have effectively outlawed online marketplaces with FDI from giving discounts and luring us with “big-billion sales” – the opiate for shopping masses. I cannot thank Bharat Mata ki joys enough for freeing me from the clutches of my ‘shop till my mouse says please stop’ urges. Interestingly, while our PM is hopping from country to country telling one and all India is ready for foreign investments, the Department of Industrial Promotion and Policy (DIPP) is going out of its way to make it as difficult as possible for foreign funded players to survive in the Indian market.
Phew, this is such a relief. I can already visualise my future; a life dedicated to fruitful pursuits. Who knows, I might even come up with ‘Pigeon erotica’ and become the next E.L James!