How They Stole My Chocolate

Indian multiplexes have a weird obsession. Anyone who has attempted to watch a movie here knows what to carry better than knowing what to pack when flying. Actually, the list is quite similar.

Here are the list of things that are banned:
– Digital Cameras
– Laptops
– Helmets
– Any piece of technology that is not an iPod or cellphone
–  Food
– Chocolates
– Lunch boxes, even if it is empty
– Water Bottles
– Any other drink, alcoholic or non
– Cigarette Packs
– Lighters/matchboxes

Every time you enter a multiplex, particularly if it is PVR, you are frisked like you are entering the Air Force One.  I’ve asked them often about what exactly is the criteria for these items on the ‘banned’ list. True, once upon a time, people could (and perhaps did) shoot the movie on their digital cameras and upload them from home. But in the age of smartphones, I can shoot the entire thing and upload it even before leaving the movie hall.

But they still stick to that rule. The only time I saw them a little flummoxed was when I was carrying my SLR and refused to leave it at the gate no matter what. No battery, I claimed. Of course, they almost ripped my bag into pieces and nearly did a strip search of me. All the while, I was holding the battery in my hand, with my cellphone.

I was quite tempted to slap them silly right then but they finally admitted defeat and let us go.

When some of us went to a movie a few weeks ago, I had a bag of those Nutties in my bag. I generally have some form of chocolate in my  bag and it had never been a problem. But finding this in a box, the woman was outraged.

“This isn’t food. This is chocolate,” I tried to explain. But they promptly took it away and gave me a receipt instead.

And in the fuss, she ignored the rest of my bag, which had a pack of cigarettes and a lighter in it. Needless to say, I forgot my chocolates there after the movie.

It is little victories like these that make the whole point of the ‘security’ absolutely absurd. I could understand the no matchbox rule. But what is with the rest of the stuff? Helmets, laptops… lunch boxes. Particularly those empty ones.

Marketing and forced commercialization is such a fad in India. The food stalls know that eating popcorn during a movie is ingrained into our subconscious. And for half the people there, this is an outing and the others don’t care about shelling out 80 bucks for a 20 bucks bag of popcorn. The rest – they don’t matter.

But I still do protest. And I absolutely try sneaking in as many weird things as possible every time just for the heck of it.

The best one – when my friend stuffed a half eaten cookie in one of her pockets, went thru the patdown without a glitch and took it out and ate it up the minute she stepped out of the search.

A trip to old Bangalore…

I have lived in this city for 25 years and I have never once stepped into North Bangalore. *hangs head in shame*

Well, actually, i have visited that area… a couple of times or more. I cannot use geography as an excuse anymore because I am familiar with the rest of the city. I guess it was a combination of disinterest, geography and a lack of friends in that area that led me to completely ignore Malleshwaram.

It was quite a drive when we were kids to get to that part of town. Not to mention we had to pass through the most congested part of the city – Majestic (the central bus stand). So that part was largely ignored, till I had to make a trip to that part of town today.

And the moment the driver took the turn from the flyover, I felt I had stepped back in time. The roads were wide, tree-lined and canopied, barely enough traffic to do justice to this city, the weather was cool and nice – thanks to the trees. There were small ‘darshinis’ which used to the face of Bangalore before red-hued boards took over. Everyone just seemed really nice as well.

There were signs of progress – the orange board of Donut Baker, the pink sign of Baskin Robbins… and of course a mall (supposed to be the largest – I’ll come to that in a bit). But it was quite easy to ignore it when the city seemed to be functioning so smoothly and soundlessly.

Combine that with lack of sleep, I almost did believe that I was in a different city, if not stepping back in time.

And as I was in that area, I figured I would check out the Mantri Mall – touted to be the largest mall in the country (or city?). It was fairly early, so there weren’t many people. The first stutter was at the entrance, where the security guard turned my bag upside town. I really wonder what on earth she was looking for. I told her there was a camera in the bag which made her whatsthatthinginthehand beep. The camera was huge, so there was no way she could miss it. And there were books. So what on fricking earth was she looking for? Why the hell do they turn your bag upside down when it is so obvious from the word go that there really aint anything suspicious in the bag. And if there is, I’d probably strap it into my underwear.

Anyway, moving on… the mall reminded me of the Queen Street mall in Brisbane. There was even a level of stairs going down to… well, somewhere… But lack of sleep and food were getting to me so I figured I’d explore the nicer parts – after I bought a pair of earrings similar to what I bought at the Gold Museum in Australia (what can I say? I do love shopping and they were right there!). Every possible brand I could think of was in the mall – Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop (talk about a face/off contest!), Reliance stores of all sorts, ShowOff… names I cannot remember if i’d heard them before.

My brain was craving for two things – an Apple store (still not over the iphone mania) and Taco Bell.

Yup, the famous Taco Bell is located here. For a country that barely even knew what a burrito was – or mutilated a burrito with rajma beans rolled in chappatis – we are quite crazy about it apparently.

Anyway, I couldn’t find the Apple store on the map, so I nearly bought a Sony digicam but figured being dead on my feet wasn’t a good time to buy a camera. So I headed to the extremely uptown touch-screen map and tried to find Taco Bell. All the malls I’d visited abroad in my life were crowding into my head… of course, the touch screen didn’t have audio. Nor a clear map. Taco Bell was shown in a row of shops alongside Lifestyle etc. There were no… lanes, shop numbers etc. And shop numbers would’ve been as useless. But I turn and there is Taco Bell… with the lines empty, beckoning me.

And that’s pretty much where the story ends. Abrupt I know… but I figured I’d need several days of sleep, bottles of water, packets of food, good sturdy walking shoes to navigate the mall. And a sackful of credit cards and a GPS.

The burrito was interesting… least they used the right bread and not fake chappatis. But honestly, I’ve had better at mom-and-pop joints. But then again… mom-and-pop joints always have better and cheaper food…

The mall? They had some different stuff… but I really miss flea markets. or road-side shopping. Where you got really cool stuff for 100 bucks… now they move the same things into the stores and put a little label and make you max out your credit card for one dress.

I guess that is when I realised I was in Bangalore. That, plus when I stepped out of the store, the guard had to go through the whole check-bag-punch-receipt thing. I found it a little ironical that I’d just visited a government office and nobody as much as stopped me there, while here every place I was treated like a potential threat by people who were clueless about what a threat was. I am beginning to find this mall security thing extremely irritating.

Is it just me? Or does everyone else devise ways of sneaking in illegal stuff when they are waiting to be checked. Mine is simple – when you are in the car, hold the material in your purse. So the guy scans the car etc… cuz they don’t actually have full body scanners there. Then you leave it in the car, go through the mall and vamos! Come on! Don’t tell me a criminal wouldn’t have thought of it. These are such obvious loopholes. I am all for security, if you do it right. Invest in those full-body scanners – for vehicles and people. Of course, in a mall it is a little tough to stop people from carrying in chemicals. And if he has a license, you can’t stop a guy from getting in a gun too.

My friend sneaked in a camera into a theatre once. Yes, it is quite irritating not to be allowed cameras inside a movie theatre when my phone can record the entire movie in high resolution and upload it online before I leave the hall. The explanation they give you? “Rules madam”. Bah!

What made Bangalore so paranoid and yet unsecure? For all our paranoia, there is no security yet. We are just running around haphazardly trying to make sense of things. Which is why the “checks” at the hotels irritate me. They just love looking into what is in my bag and paw all over it (grrrr!) while being absolutely clueless abt what they really need to look for.

Anyway… then I stepped out of the mall… the road was crammed with vehicles… and I had to haggle with the auto driver… back to bangalore and reality.

Song of the day: Alice in Wonderland (cuz that’s how I felt for a bit) – Avril