My day started like yesterday: with yoga. I found it a bit easier today with more help from the teacher. He also gave me a face massage, which was a treat. It almost made up for a disturbing episode earlier. Whilst I was lying down, the teacher came to help me. He stood, legs apart, above me. As I looked up, I thought he had no underwear on under his robe! This was confirmed shortly afterwards when I saw the crown jewels swinging 😱
After the post-yoga communal breakfast, again very good, I returned to my guesthouse for a shower and some planning for tomorrow. Flicking through my Lonely Planet book, something caught my eye: “Lulu Mall is India’s largest shopping mall and an attraction in its own right with people coming from all over to shop here.”
I took a bus to the mall and got off at a complicated junction, with two flyovers, a duel carriageway and no obvious way of crossing.
It might be just a huge coincidence but, so far, pedestrians seem to be very low on the pecking order for Indian town planners. Pavements, if they’re present at all, are generally uneven and terminate suddenly, like bicycle lanes in London. Often they’re not even finished – almost as if someone just got a bit fed up whilst laying it, said “Stuff this for a game of soldiers” and went home!
So you had this huge shopping mall that, in order to reach, you had to weave your way through this duel carriageway not once but twice!
The shopping mall itself was reminiscent of malls in the UK with the added attraction of an ice rink, fun park rides and ten-pin bowling!
Familiar shops were there: M&S, Accessorize, Benetton, Costa coffee, etc. As well as the odd homegrown Indian sari and cloth shop. Many of the international chains didn’t change their styling for India so, for example, Tommy Hilfiger had all white people on their posters as they probably do in the rest of the world. Who knows, this might be appealing to aspirational Indians. It reminded of a sign in a barber’s shop in Goa which offered “haircuts, shaving, hair colouring and skin whitening”!
“Sir, would you like something for the weekend?”.
“Er, come to think of it, yes – some whiter skin!”
Burger King and KFC had customised their food and message, adding an encouraging “No beef or pork products are used” sign at their entrance, which is understandable in a country full of Hindus and Muslims. Barbie was also one of the few exceptions: there was an Indian Barbie wearing a sari.
At one point, after eating, I got lost in thought. When I came back to the present moment, the first thing that occurred to me was “Why are there so many Indians in this mall?” before realising I was in India!
To return to the guesthouse, I assumed I would be able to catch a bus opposite where I got off. How wrong – nobody quite knew where the bus stop was! Given how chaotic the junction was, I called a shared Ola cab. Three of us shared the cab. The first passenger got off quickly and the other passenger and I started talking. I asked whether he was going home and he replied that he was “going to a club”. I asked what sort of club and he replied “Yes”. His English was very good so perhaps he hadn’t heard me or perhaps he didn’t want to say. Anyway, I was quite taken aback when he asked if I wanted to join him for a drink in the club! I said I’d like to but had a full day ahead, which was half true. I did have a look at the building but it just had the name of the club at the front of a glitzy building.
For the rest of the journey, the cab driver told me that Kerala was the most democratic state in India, it was less corrupt (politicians actually resign) and the incumbent party was communist and had been since the state’s creation!