I spent the better half of yesterday with my still twenty-something friend Abdul. It was his birthday a week ago and instead of spending it in Paris like we planned last year, we spent a celebratory day in the New Jersey of India, Gurgaon. We were off to see Sex and the City. Abdul is the first friend I made in India and we hit it off immediately, thanks in part to Sex and the City. We especially bonded over Amalita Amalfi, Carrie’s international Euro-trash party-girl friend. The same one that made her ask the question “where is the line was between professional girlfriend and just plain professional?” And so it was a given that we would go see this movie together. India being India and Sex and the City being a non-singing, non-dancing, non-Bollywood production meant that after one week in the cinema it was almost impossible to find playing anywhere. But we did manage to get tickets for the brand new PVR Cinema at the brand new Ambience Mall in Delhi.
I don’t know when it happened really. My life used to be played out against the backdrops of trendy lounge bars, pool parties, cocktail hours, red carpet events and great lighting. Now it is spent trawling the new malls of the new and emerging India. The development kings of India seem to be on a mission to out-testosterone each other. Each mall built and marketed as some sort of phallic shrine to the man who built it so they can each claim theirs is the largest. Each new mall screams “Mine is bigger than yours!” Bigger luxury, bigger stores, bigger space, bigger brands, bigger entertainment, and all in the biggest climate-controlled setting. It leaves us mere mortals chanting “more, more, more” as we flock to the newest and shiniest of the retail temples.
The Ambi mall, as it is known to us local types is one of the newest and anchored at one end with a BMW showroom, it promised an unparalleled up-market retail experience. The reality could not have been any different. It was basically a parking garage with retail space. Low ceilings, water leaking everywhere, paint peeling off the walls and ceilings and escalators out of order. The mall isn’t even entirely finished yet. Stores are still opening and already it is falling apart. And, thanks to the children’s play area, it is jammed with family types who bring their overly hyper children to run around slamming into unsuspecting shoppers like myself. I have nothing against children as long as they are behaved. I have absolutely no patience for unruly children. If I had run around like that when I was a child, there would have been a Candies’ sandal dent on the side of my head.
But we were there for the film, not the stores and before we knew it, we were settled into our seats and the lights went dark. Cue Fergie, the title sequence and cut to Carrie. Going to the movie with Abdul is something of an experience. He can’t sit and watch the movie, he needs to participate. So after every few lines, he would either repeat it so as to store it in his memory banks for later usage, or he would comment on something. I am one of those who don’t say anything from the time the lights dim until I am back in the lobby. But Abdul was nowhere near as annoying as the late-comers.
Time in India is always an “ish” thing. 9 means anytime before 11, and in the event of a movie, 2:05 seems to mean get there around 2:30 and then spend the next 15 minutes asking your neighbors what you missed. And of course, they were all sitting either in my row which meant I had to get up, or in the row in front. And India being India, it is all assigned seating and of course almost nobody pays it any mind what-so-ever so 45 minutes into the film, the shuffle starts because some new arrival will insist on their assigned seats which then creates a ripple effect through the entire auditorium as everyone is in the wrong place. I commented very loudly and Abdul elbowed me.
But those are not the worst part of the film. Oh no! Someone had brought a young child. In this, the most prude-ish of countries, someone brought a young child who, as you can imagine, got bored during the film and started talking, laughing and playing.
After the movie finished, Abdul and I decided we needed some retail therapy and so wandered the uninspired halls looking in stores I don’t even care to know existed, checking out brands that I don’t think should ever have been launched. Abdul was “ooohing” and “aaaahing” over the cute muscled sales boys that seem to be popping up all over the Indian retail landscape. They stand in front of the mirrors adjusting their hair and checking out if the t-shirt is tight enough.
Soon we could take no more, so we sat in the leaky Barista and had a latte while complaining about all the bad architecture around us. And then we set off into the pre-monsoon rains and headed for home.