As a child, 19-year-old Ashu Yadav from Noida always dreamt of being an actor. However, unable to pursue a professional course in acting due to financial constraints, he decided to take up the job of a gondolier at The Grand Venice Mall in Greater Noida four months ago, to save money for his passion.
Standing 5-feet11-inches tall, and dressed in a white T-shirt and a pair of black trousers, complete with a red scarf and a beige sun hat, the gondolier is ready for the ride. As he begins to row the boat, he stretches his arms out in slow motion, imitating the famous Shah Rukh Khan pose, and sings a popular Italian number, Volare, which talks about a child’s dream to fly.
He concludes the performance with Amitabh Bachchan’s song, Do lafzon ki hai dil ki ye kahaani, which was incidentally shot on a gondola in Venice. All this action is on the mall’s ground level, which replicates the grand architecture of the floating city of Venice, illuminated with pink, red and blue lights. Visitors pay Rs 300 for a 10-minute ride across the four-feet deep canal.
Halfway through the ride, the boat is stopped to allow people time for selfies. “I had never heard of gondolas when I was informed about this job; I had to research on it. The best part is that I feel like a star, as people click my photos and post them on social media,” says Yadav, who makes Rs 20,000 a month.
He is one of the eight gondoliers hired by the management. Open from 10 am to 10 pm, the gondoliers are proud to have entertained nearly 427 passengers on a leisurely Sunday last month, their highest footfall so far. They carry up to four passengers in every gondola. The mall takes pride in being the first-of-its-kind in the country.
A centralised weather management system replicates the cool climes of Europe. Those who have visited the shores of Venice and been on the flat-bottomed rowing boats, the novelty factor comes with a touch of Indianness added to the ride — full of colour and Bollywood charm. The mall itself is relatively new and mostly has visitors who come to shop at Big Bazaar or eat at the food court which boasts of the usuals — Moti Mahal, Karims and Chicago Pizza. The gondola services at the mall began a few months ago.
The management claims the number of visitors to experience the ride has been steadily increasing. For the gondoliers, their favourite customers are those who sing along. “Many customers request me to just sing Do lafzon… instead of Italian songs. Those who haven’t been on a gondola ride before tell us how they have had a completely different experience here, despite having enjoyed boat rides in Nainital,” says Yadav.
Ask him about the best part of his job, and he says, “This doesn’t seem like a job to me as I enjoy every minute of it. It feels like I’m on a live show.”
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