Welcome to Express Avenue - a microcosm of the India that is
Sundays are generally lazy days, and today might have been yet another. But with Madras Week programmes listed till the month-end, I decided to visit the Express Avenue Mall in Royapettah to check out the vintage car display and parade there. As it turned out, there was no such display, but disappointment soon gave way to pleasant surprise as I soaked in the ambience at the mall and liked what I saw and felt.
I’m not a mall freak if that is how I must describe some of my younger friends, who include my daughter and nieces, and, of course, my boss at home (no second guesses needed here). She accompanied me today and did try her best to get me to breathe easy as I bristled with indignation at no sight of any heritage car.
As we entered the mall, we were guided to the car park at the basement after a surly looking ‘black cat’ sort of person checked the car dicky and gave the clearance. There were some cars parked outside and when I asked why not there, an attendant told me that it would cost me 90 bucks; basement parking was cheaper by more than half, he added. I thanked him for gauging my capabilities and headed where he directed me.
Car parking over, we quickly arrived at the entry point for the mall. It was another matter that when we returned less than two hours later, we took a good 20 minutes to locate the car and learned our lesson for the day. In the rush to see vintage cars, we had not cared to make a mental note of where the car was parked in the sprawling area.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience. Express Avenue is full of life and energy. It is a microcosm of what India today is. You really don’t have to go to the swanky football field-size malls in Gurgaon or Noida to see the new India. I could almost hear Gulzar’s (noted film maker) echo, of how the new generation was a brave lot and had a mind of its own. It also had a feel of some of the malls in the UK or in the US, with eateries splattered across all the floors and people munching burgers, sipping coffee or fruit juices, or licking ice cream cones.
Youngsters were having a ball – and it was hardly 11am on a Sunday. There were crowds of them everywhere, a floating population as well, but the mall was spacious enough to accommodate all the movement. They brought the mall to life, made the various images come alive, and the brand names, indigenous and foreign, would have been deadwood without them. And, indeed, it is the spaciousness and airy feel that distinguishes this mall from Spencer's and places it in a different league.
I was reminded of my days in high school and college when my friends and I used to roam around Calcutta’s Park Street and New Market eyeing the shops and, obviously, the ‘chicks’ as we used to call pretty young things (PYTs) in those days. My roving eye caught many of them today and I was tempted to click a few pictures, especially one of a long-haired girl caressing the cheeks of her boyfriend as if there was no tomorrow… but restrained myself.
I had my picture taken too – against the backdrop of Café Coffee Day of all places – and with my kurta and bald pate I must have looked like Devdas from the pages of history.
Look at some lively pictures here. I fell in love with the first picture. The girl symbolises what Express Avenue is all about – bubbling with life. The second picture gives an idea of the buzz as visitors go up and down escalators and explore every part of the mall. The third offers a view of three floors as people file up. The last is a shot of the mall façade – quite ordinary. It’s only when you get inside that you feel the difference.