The IP Mall is Varanasi’s first western-style mall. A friend introduced it to me last year:
“If you come to the IP mall and compare it to a North American or Southeast Asian mall, you’ll be pretty disappointed… it’s cramped and dirty, and the AC is pathetic. But, if you remember that you’re in Varanasi, you’ll be amazed at how clean and bright and open it is!”
Asha, Rishi and I took the girls to the IP mall: they were wild dogs amongst composed, professional mall-goers. Inside, after the crammed auto ride, the girls looked up at three floors of shopping heaven in awe. I took the lead and headed up the UP escalator, only to promptly come down the DOWN when I realized I had stranded the girls.
They were holding up a lineup of teenage Bollywood fans. They were causing mall traffic. Wealthy Indian ladies in saris displayed their perfect makeup, neckrolls and frowns, disapproving of our wild girls.
They were giggling and shrieking, waiting for the right moment to step on to the escalator: for many, it was a first time. The littlest girls had never seen this machine before, and started to cry when they learned (informed by the older girls) that there was no alternate option.
“You can do it, girls!” I became a soccer mom for a brief moment, grabbing the hands of the closest ones and pulling them along with me against their will. We practiced by travelling all the way up to the movie theatre on the fourth floor, and by then no-one was scared anymore.
We sat down and ordered twenty three veg puff pastries, which arrived covered in bright red ketchup on recycled plates.
“ThankyouMummy,” chorused the girls. They ate and licked their fingers. Afterwards, we split into groups and the LSS girls could be found all over the mall for the next hour.
They rode up and down in the glass elevator, adding smudgy handprints to its glass. They raced up and down the escalators like urban acrobats in their best salwar suits. They windowshopped like professionals, oldest girls pointing out which saris they would choose for their marriages. They laughed and yelled with no sense of mall etiquette, and I laughed too.