How I learnt to appreciate Ramazan- by hitting the mall

Dolmen Mall has been invaded by ‘the youth’. All you see everywhere are 15-year-olds in skinny's walking aimlessly...

Meiryum Ali July 23, 2012
You’re kidding yourself if you don’t sometimes see Ramazan as a month of blatant consumerism. From humungous iftars with endless samosas, to the last-minute orders for Eid clothes to chaand raat lights and mehndi stalls - people will clearly be dishing out the cash. This traditional yearly boom is even more evident now when you realise there’s a new, very different kind of consumerism springing up. And the best example of that is certain mall at Seaview, Karachi.

This past summer, Dolmen Mall has been invaded by ‘the youth’.

Some Saturdays all you can see everywhere are 15-year-olds walking around aimlessly in skinny jeans matched only in their ubiquity by their bored expressions. They are there because of Cinnabon, Gloria Jeans, Mango, Debenhams, Monsoon, Accessorize, Next - I know this because I too have been dragged off to these stores for intense window shopping, unhealthy amount of eating, and spending time in changing rooms. And then you realise how very unusual that is.

Just listen to the conversations in the changing rooms.
“Do we just... change here?” asks one woman.

“Do I just put this back on the hanger, who do I give it too...?” asks another woman, confused as she deals with number tags and staff.

One store owner told me that that changing rooms were off limits unless someone was serious about buying - apparently college students barged into rooms with handfuls of clothes, tearing some of them in the process.
“They just come here for tafree, to have fun,” she said shaking her head. “They don’t come here to buy clothes”.

Tafreeh - maybe because we’re not yet programmed for such ‘shopping mall sprees’ yet. “My tailor could make that chiffon shirt in less than Rs6,000,” said one friend loudly in one store, while the staff raised their eyebrows.

These stores can also make you feel, funnily enough, old. Witness preteens and early teens rushing about and picking up clothes worth Rs10,000 and more with an efficiency and ease missing in their moneyed parents - or even in me and my friends.
“Look at them,” said one friend, waving her hand over a gaggle.

“When we were 13 did we did not have these stores in Pakistan?” said another friend. “I cannot believe these stores are opening now when I’m leaving for college”.

The idea of not having to go abroad to buy western clothes is also new. One woman yelled to her friend outside the changing room, “Aren’t you getting anything?” Her friend replied that she was not planning on buying anything as she had just spent the same amount or more money on a shopping trip to Dubai.

Maybe these snippets exist for a fraction of people, but that fraction is fuelling a change in what people expect. As an 18 year old, I don’t take for granted what those spoilt preteens are used to by now, the idea of a place to go with money to spend, because we can remember when it wasn’t like that. We’re that generation that has actually seen new restaurants and new cinemas and new malls spring up, all in the course of the last five years. Sometimes when my friends are bored they exclaim ‘There’s nothing to do in this city!’ which isn’t entirely true.

People fret about the worsening situation of this city, but then their children are oblivious, because from where they stand, it’s simply to consume, consume and consume. Until Ramazan that is.

The endless shopping dwindles down, and the multiple lunches and dinners at some new place somewhere turn into sporadic iftar plans. Traditional consumerism kicks in, of the old fashioned, Pakistani kind. And while people may complain on how that detracts from the spiritual and zakaat giving month this should be, I for one will vouch for it. Sometimes that’s easier to handle then the new kind of consumerism that’s eating this city.

Read more by Meiryam here.

Meiryum Ali A freshman at an ivy league school who writes a weekly national column in The Express Tribune called "Khayaban-e-Nowhere".
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.