Yesterday evening, I felt like taking Migu out for a short time. I finally ended up taking her to a temple near my house. It is a temple I have grown up visiting. And even though I am not overly religious, I do value temples as a peaceful social space. The temple was spacious, with lots of place for Migu to run around. Plus all the bells and the routine of going to each ‘sannidhi’ (this temple has multiple deities) made it really special for her.
Most days, in the evenings, I take Migu to one of the numerous parks near my house. She loves playing in the mud, playing on the slide. And when the parks get crowded, although it is hassling, it teaches us valuable lessons. She learns to adjust her pace on the slide to accomodate others. She learns to appreciate and thank older kids who sometimes help her up a slide. And she learns to be assertive without being aggressive, if she sees someone blocking her way.
In the one and a half months of my vacation in Bangalore, I have not taken Migu inside a single mall.
Malls started coming up in a big way in India when I was well past adolescence. Probably this is why I have never warmed to the concept of malls as a hang out place. I can go there with a specific purpose, to check out the book stall, to catch a movie at the multiplex, but never just to hang out. And I continue to resist treating it as a social space, even for my daughter, even though I know there are probably a hundred attractions for her inside it.
The only exception to that was on a outstation trip,to Chandigarh. I did not know enough about the city to take her anywhere other than the mall which was right next to our hotel. We took a ride on the toy train, but we were the only passengers on it, and it went for a brief jaunt just across the courtyard, nothing compared to the ‘Putaani Express’ toy train we used to ride in Cubbon Park as kids. We went to the children’s play area and I paid to let her get in there and play for half an hour. But again those props hardly excited her. We saw ads for expensive courses to train kids as disney princesses (predictably, princess wears pink) and I really shuddered to realize these were all the excitements which lay in store for us as Migu grows.
And though we ended up spending about an hour or so there (with my wallet getting quite a bit lighter), I really didnt see any point in it.
I guess what I dislike about the malls is the fact that it is so glaringly consumerist and what is more, it makes all entertainment extremely consumerist. It
is really hard to step into a mall and step out without buying something which we perhaps really didnt need. One of my neighbors told me that she guards herself by going to a mall only with loose change in her purse, so that she can avoid buying stuff. And every activity for kids within their premises really costs a lot.
And malls really seem to have taken on the younger generation. I remember my neice saying she wants to visit malls, when she came over to visit us. When I asked her what is so different about a mall in Ahmedabad compared to any other place, and why she would want to visit it, she had no answer.
I am not saying we never spent money as kids. Sure we spent ocassionally on joy rides etc, but even adjusted for inflation, the mall costs are obscenely high. Specially when you realize that there are still so many parks across many cities, which are absolutely free or at best charge a nominal rate.
I remember on a trip to Singapore, I was telling a friend (who is Singaporean) about how every activity out there (all the famous to do things, bird park, jungle safari not to mention Sentosa Island) really seemed to cost so much money. And she said that it was unfortunate that a lot of people were now thinking entertainment is something you need to purchase. But there were hundreds of things we could still do, without any costs. Take a walk on the walking trails,bird watching trails, walking through the old city, spotting olden buildings and learning about native culture. And true enough, whatever the two of us did that day cost nothing. We went to the war museum, we walked across the old parts of the city, we explored the Pereneccan culture.
My husband makes fun of me saying I am being dogmatic by not taking Migu to a mall, and she should learn to enjoy herself in that space as well. Perhaps she
should, but as long as I have some say in directing her life (lets face it, very soon, she will make her own plans), I will try my best not to raise a mall