Mall(ed)!

Malls in Bihar, IndiaI spent the weekend walking along the waterfront at Georgetown in DC. I crossed state borders across the Key Bridge, walked into an enormous Barnes and Noble and ate Ethiopian food for lunch — which reminded me suspiciously of Dosai and Chicken Currey. Georgetown is a beautiful part of DC, it has cobbled streets and the air of old colonial occupation.

An interesting observation by a friend struck me, amidst all the picture taking, eating and such. The English language has the most unusual capacity to fit word meanings to the times. My friend noted, for instance, that what we really mean when we say “I shopped at the ‘mall'” is that we shopped at a plaza. A plaza is really the original mercantile establishment with landscaped shops, eating places, sometimes a movie theater and so on. A ‘mall’ on the other hand is a reference to the open space surrounded by buildings, a place for the pedestrians- what we would call a ‘sarai’ in India. Which is why, for example the traditional ‘mall roads’ in hill stations in India are wide open roads, not building stuffed with shops. In Washington the ‘National Mall’ is also an open space surrounded for the large part by the Smithsonian museums.

Fascinating isn’t it? Ironically the new age ‘Sahara Malls’ in Gurgaon, the Indian capital’s satelite township has increasingly indoor provisions and the township itself is called the ‘mall city’, where the malls are is a very good question!