Independence Arcade is the hottest thing in Colombo when it opened. I finally got around to going there in October 2014. It felt like visiting another white elephant. A wound from one more politically connected racket. Its a nasty of me to say. I don’t have any evidence to verify evidence of illegalities. Its just a strong subjective feeling that goes beyond the whiff of corruption.
Visually the place is clean and lets admit it, beautiful. Even if lunch time on a week day is not the best time to go. The place is devoid of customers. Packs of school boys roam the hot corridors. They are not out to buy Tommy Hilfiger. Maybe to ogle the occasional couple trying to grab a quick smooch in an archway. The fountain with the lions is a magnet for group selfies. The posh shops are empty. In more than one, bored staff are lost in Facebook on their shop’s computers.
I came wanting to be impressed by the place. Feel the pride, if not the impressed glow, others emit when they talk about the place. All I found was the feeling of entering a familiar empty sham. The easy explanation is to blame on the time of day, my cynicism and a subconscious revulsion to consumerism. Yet life is never about easy explanations of anything.
I’m also not much of a “mall” person. Whether in Sri Lanka or any of the countries of my exile. “High end” shopping in a messy third world setting. An imitation of what first worlders take as high end. It always felt empty. Masks of prosperity too thin to hide anything. Something nameless felt – dare I say it – wrong.
An honest look at “problem” is not about ideology. I’m neither a socialist nor a consumerist. I just cringe from acquiring/buying stuff. Which means you have to put up with more things. More things lead clutter. Clutter create the hassle of having to constantly reorganise junk you rarely use but can’t dump “IN CASE” you need to use it.
Worse, buying one thing creates needs to spend more time dealing with other “needs” it creates. “Accessories” are a classic symptom of this plague. Buy a TV and you’ll be hunting for furniture to keep it on. Things break down. They have to be repaired, replaced – DEALT WITH. I have enough priorities to spend time sort out other competing priorities. All on a tread mill of increasing complexity.
I prefer to wait till something needs to be replaced. Then ideally find a way to do without the “need” the thing originally fulfilled. If that failed, buy something that lasts. Take for instance television. While in exile, my TV set died on the day George Bush Jr invaded Iraq. I happily lived without a TV for years. Despite having one now, I’ve managed to avoid turning it on.
My aversion to acquiring stuff must come from being a nomad for too long. Where one more dish, book, thing means one more to pack and lug. In the process I came to dislike the ugliness of defining oneself by the things you buy. The madness of self identity through brands. The need slather oneself with logos to claim some sort of silly identity/affiliation.
All things to think about when you looked back at your new year shopping.
It could be that this dislike of gathering stuff applies to retail spaces. By extension the Arcade. Which make me sound like an ungrateful arty snob. I don’t care if I am. It’s certainly not promoting retail economic activity. Good thing my nutty personal preferences have no influence on the matter.
I think if I was more relaxed about these things, I would see the place as the YAMU review did. The easy parking, the clean wide spaces didn’t do much good to my view of things.
Has anyone felt this away about the place ? Or is it just me?
Wish you all a belated prosperous non consumerist new year.