(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The malls in Dubai don't cease to amaze me even after all these years, not just for their grandeur, but also for the wisdom I gather every time I waltz through their aisles, wide-eyed and open mouthed.
There is something very enticing about hanging around the malls, an activity that is boring to many and amounts to criminal waste of time and money.
Yes, it is a waste of time if you do it at a time when you should be home attending to your children's homework or working out in the gym, not if you spend an empty weekend evening watching life play itself out in its myriad colours and forms, taking in the amusement it caters and just enjoying the diversion from the mundane. It is a waste of money if you step into the stores, more hazardous if an innocuous window-shopping stint converts to a mindless buying spree of things you really don't need, yet end up buying just because your wallet allows you to.
Now that's my advantage. My wallet is so pathetically flaccid that I don't step into most of the stores there, especially those that sell designer stuff. Actually that makes a visit to the luxury outlet completely risk free and allows me some vicarious joy. Yet I don't, because behind my weak wallet is an acute middle class sensibility that clearly marks the places and things that are out of bounds for me.
Once, goaded by my sister who was on a visit, I walked into an international accessories store. The storekeeper was busy texting, his glance flitting between the phone and us. We walked around reading price tags and suppressing our reaction with great effort. Shock, surprise, self-consciousness all camouflaged by our fake conversion. And then, almost at the instant that my sister picked a bag, the sales person darted in, seized it from her hand and said curtly, "you cannot take it," as if we were just 'taking it'.
We could see the derision in his face, a look that said that we didn't belong in there. Or so it said, we felt. Didn't I tell you about our middle class sensibilities?
"What if I really wanted to buy it?" my sister fumed as we sauntered out.
"Oh well, they can tell a serious buyer from an idle browser. They know that people like us are not wired to make that kind of spot, high value purchases." I said wryly.
The incident made me reflect on how ceremonious high value purchases in middle class families like ours are. It follows a certain procedure and goes by the laid out rules of our household economy.
We first sow a seed of desire, covet it for prolonged periods of time, visit the showrooms umpteen number of times, ask for the price, sigh and sough, set ourselves a target date by which to build up the capital by scrimping and saving, and when we finally get there, make ourselves feel like royals. It's a triumph that has no parallel.
Asha Iyer Kumar is a Dubai-based writer