Shop­ping in fear

Consumer Voice - - Editor's Voice - Padma Joint edi­tor

Last week, as I with my fam­ily reached the en­try of one of the pre­mium South Delhi malls, the guards greeted with a warm Na­maste and re­quested us to open the car bon­net and the trunk for rou­tine check. And then I saw it – a ma­chine-gun bar­rel point­ing to­wards the car. The commando han­dling it had his pointer fin­ger just an inch away from the trig­ger… my heart throbbed. The feel­ing was in­tense, all the more so be­cause it caught us un­awares. Per­haps that’s how it feels when the traf­fic cop sig­nals a ve­hi­cle to stop – prob­a­bly the only time when many of you in­ter­acted with po­lice­men.

In­side the mall too, it wasn’t a nor­mal scene. Each en­try had po­lice and para­mil­i­tary sol­diers armed with so­phis­ti­cated weapons. Each man in uni­form looked ex­traor­di­nar­ily alert with their eyes zoom­ing in and out of vis­i­tors’ faces, prob­a­bly to find sus­pi­cious char­ac­ters. The scene was quite in­tim­i­dat­ing but it did not de­ter us from shop­ping around. How­ever, within a few min­utes, we heard the public ad­dress sys­tem an­nounc­ing this: Delhi Po­lice is do­ing a mock se­cu­rity drill, please main­tain calm and do not cre­ate panic. While I was still try­ing to deal with my am­biva­lent feel­ings on this, the se­cu­rity guard at one of the an­chor stores where we were shop­ping came re­quest­ing ev­ery­one to leave the shop as they had to down the shut­ters… That was when we de­cided to be out and away from the mall premises as soon as pos­si­ble. I also wit­nessed many oth­ers walk­ing briskly to­wards mul­ti­ple ex­its. Their fun shop­ping out­ing had be­come a puz­zling anx­ious af­fair where they feared for their lives – at least that’s what their body lan­guage said.

More than a week later, when I try as­sess­ing that sit­u­a­tion like a third per­son, I get in this mis­take-find­ing mode wherein I see many in­di­vid­u­als in­clud­ing me at some fault. Firstly, I won­der if it is nec­es­sary for a ma­chine gun to be ‘point­ing’ at a ve­hi­cle en­ter­ing the mall (if it is re­ally im­por­tant, can’t it be cam­ou­flaged?). Se­condly, do we re­ally need so many cops mov­ing around in ‘uni­forms’ with their loaded firearms? Can’t more of them keep vigil in plain clothes? Thirdly, un­der­stand­ably mock drills can­not be done with­out prior no­tice to shop­pers (who sneak shop­ping time out of their busy lives), but apart from us­ing pan­icky public ad­dress sys­tems can’t they use an­other soft medium – maybe a note on park­ing tick­ets and en­trances? Fourthly, shouldn’t the se­cu­rity guards and re­tail staff be trained/briefed on how to act in­tel­li­gently and not rush peo­ple out of stores with­out un­der­stand­ing the ac­tual mean­ing of the an­nounce­ment? Lastly, did we do the right thing by rush­ing out of the mall at that very mo­ment? Had every­body been do­ing the same, it would have been a scene of ma­jor chaos.

Well, I do not re­ally have an­swers to th­ese and many such ques­tions that keep mov­ing around my head ev­ery time I am out in any of the most fre­quented mar­kets or malls, and just want you all to pon­der upon them and think if there is any­thing we all can do to make such sit­u­a­tions a lit­tle bet­ter.

I cer­tainly do not wish to re­call those cow­ardly acts by ter­ror groups which have cast a per­ma­nent shadow on our shop­ping (and lives), but there can cer­tainly be some­thing that we can do in our own small ways…

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.