The case of the shopping djinn

May 18, 2014, 05:27 IST | Paromita Vohra

In some markets humans must be careful. Shopping djinns abound in such places. They possess you,

Paromita VohraIn some markets humans must be careful. Shopping djinns abound in such places. They possess you, temporarily erasing memory of your actual life. The result? You will return home laden with bags, high on shopping. Once home, your memory will slowly return. Then horror will overtake you at all the unnecessary shit you have bought.

Shopping djinn
Illustration/Amit Bandre

It happened to me in Lahore’s Liberty Market. The market djinn here is clearly as feminine as all the other good-looking Pakistani ladies to be found everywhere. What else can explain why I purchased several bolts of lawn fabric for ‘shalwar’ kameezes, laces in six colours, with and without sequins, five pairs of jootis from Khussa Mahal, no less, several pieces of extravagant antique embroidery and about a dozen Afghani necklaces. In packing them my suitcase broke. On returning to India and unpacking this suitcase I felt faint — I am certainly not the chaudvin ka chaand who can carry off all these fripperies! Many things still lie on the bottom shelf of the cupboard. That too in my parents’ house where they cannot remind me of my foolishness.

In Delhi, I went to Lajpat Nagar market to get the above suitcase repaired. If I had just focused on that I might have escaped. But looking here and there at the market’s shiny splendours, I clearly caught the djinn’s eye. Because I returned with a repaired but full-to-breaking-again suitcase full of net dupattas, kitchen racks, embroidered pillow cases, chappals, stockings with one toe to wear with those chappals, gobhi-shalgam ka achar, and frilly cotton panties for babies. I mean what if someone brought their baby to our house and there was an emergency? May as well, na, and they are so cute. The gobi shalgam achar was kept till it got fungus (and for sometime after, in denial).

In Kolkata, my so-called friend took me to a place called Jaggu Bazaar to buy provisions for a dinner we were to cook. Must have been a scrawny djinn, because I returned only with some giant green ber, kacchi kairi toffee, pears, oranges and that sour green fruit they sell outside schools.

In Mumbai, there are many of these dangerous places — most neighbourhoods have one and each one has minimum six djinns. It is the Gujarati shop. The one where there are walls stacked with farsan. You may go into Neelam Foodland (Khar), Gardenfresh Dry Fruits (Matunga), Pankaj Farsan and Wafer Mart (Vile Parle) or even Andheri East’s humble Ayush Supermart. Everytime you will believe you are strong enough to resist.

Come on dude, it’s a jinn, okay! You think you will leave holding a loaf of bread. Fool. You will certainly leave only after having spent half an EMI on mixed grain rotla, nimbu-chiku chatni, falooda mix, mobile khakhra (small portable size), pizza thepla and even, as I recently learned, mishti doi. As you frantically try to find place for these in the kitchen cupboards, you will feel horror and shame. But you are not Sindbad the Sailor na? How can you fight a djinn?

This mania seldom overcomes me in a mall, so I guess malls don’t have shopping djinns. But they also have no mazaa. Bazaars seduce us with their unending individualistic delights, their dedication to the heterogenous quirks of simple human pleasures and their just within reach prices. They can have me every time and they do.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.

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