I remember clearly the first time I took my toddler son to a mall,some six-seven years ago. It was to watch a very average animation film called Chicken Little. As a first-timer,I was eager for him to have the whole movie watching experience,with popcorn,a hot dog and a disgustingly sweet orange pulp sold as juice,that comforts us into thinking its a better option than cola. Now,countless trips to the mall later,the juice is shunned and no outing is complete without an argument over a Coke or Pepsi,with my son usually winning and triumphantly waving a straw and fizzy drink at me.
I guess I could be called a mall rat. My gym is in the mall,Im there at least four times a week and very often I time my workout according to movie shows . After a year of regular mall visits,Ive learnt to put on blinkers and not enter Zara and Mango everytime theyre blazing Sale!. Which seems to be all the time. Ive figured out the price of vegetables (no matter how good the quality of avocados) are at least three times higher compared to anywhere outside . Rare is the weekend,now,where the mall doesnt figure in urban Indian middle-class lives. These are the not-so-new quasi public spaces,the modern day equivalent of city centres or more eloquently,downtown. Blessed (or not) as we are in Delhi to be living in 40 degree temperatures for eight months of the year,in the mall at least were guaranteed free,air-conditioned space to lurk about in,never mind if we end up eating a whole load of junk and buying a variety of things we dont need. You can go ice skating,video gaming,even take a tame bungee jump in an artificial but wonderfully controlled environment,protected from the madness right outside. Its also where an entire generation of Indian kids have developed an obsessive fondness for grease dripping chicken ,burgers and fries. I wish there were some studies to show how much exactly the mall culture has contributed to weight issues among city dwellers and Im pretty sure it would be significant.
Any city parent knows the struggle it is to regulate childrens intake of junk food,even if youre vigilant. They come home with toffees everyday from god knows where,bully you into buying faddist sweets shrewdly marketed on TV and demand food indulgences in tiffins and on weekends. Considering the amount of sugar,butter and sodium used,a decade from now a lot of the kiosks that operate at food courts at malls will probably have to carry health warnings like the ones on cigarette packets. Like consumption of trans fat can cause diabetes and artery clogging. But even the smartest parents I know,who watch every morsel that goes into their own mouths,regularly humour their kids with foods they should probably be having less of. Though fizzy drinks have had a big red mark around them for many years since the alleged chemicals used some years ago,its very tough to eradicate them from our lives,completely. Thats why I cheer New York mayor Michael Bloombergs decision to half the size of soda bottles in the city,as a start to fighting the epidemic of obesity. However,16 ounces of Coke,or just under half a litre,is still a helluva lot to be consuming on a daily basis. And anyway,you can buy two,if you really want 32 ounces. But its an awareness that will seep through consumers,and judging by what all dieticians say about portion control,soon well get used to having less. Next mission reducing trans fats.
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