by Qazi Mustabeen Noor

Let’s get this straight; shopping is something we all despise. No, I’m not talking about getting things the average teenager could actually die for, say books, games or makeup. It’s really the sound of groceries that makes the hottest fashionista cum shopaholics cringe. But when mother dear unleashes her emotional blackmail and subsequent tirade on us we have no choice but to tag along, letting our hard earned weekend go down the drain.

These days you’re far safer walking through Bhooter Goli at night rather than going to the superstore in daytime. As for the carnage, it far exceeds the death toll on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway and the share market downfall. But in spite of all your protests, mother dear is oblivious.

While the ultimate struggle begins at the carpark for parking space (if your favourite superstore even has one) real savagery begins with a “WHAM!!” and the consequent “Dilen to gari lagaya!” Yes we are well aware that it is never your chauffer’s fault. But the ‘mild mannered’ mothers sitting in both cars are determined to protect their lot! Instantly, the women transform into harpies and lash out at each other with string bags or claw at eyes with lacquered talons. Onlookers are quick to stream in with popcorn in hand, as if two middle aged women fighting is an ‘oh-so-wonderful’ sight. When stuck in a predicament like this, even five minutes seem like an eternity; and if you drove your mom to the market yourself, or worse, you went unaccompanied then God help you.

Eventually we all manage to get in somehow, and rage is rekindled by the……oh just ignore that ‘Chaina Meye’ playing in background or those ultra-slippery floors simply destined to make you fall flat on your face. For now, getting a trolley tops the list. Indeed, you are confronted by a metal millipede with seemingly no end of trolleys. However after much tugging and panting they still remain hopelessly enmeshed. Momma found mocking you more productive than helping you out, whereupon you espy a solitary trolley standing lazily by the plastic buckets.

‘Eureka!’ turns into a disheartened sulk when you discover your trolley having a club wheel that not only wearies and wrists producing a banshee screech (scaring off a few kids in the process), but also a determined veer to the left. Waving at the nearest cutie in this state is hopeless. Hence you find yourself ricocheting in random directions or banging with other people’s trolleys in a shower of sparks. And yes, no turning left to get your favourite pack of chocolate chip cookies. So you’re doomed to orbit the store in an anticlockwise orbit like a malfunctioning Sputnik.

Ah, beautiful is the smell of rotten fish the moment you turn to the frozen food section. I’m afraid it’s intimidatingly posh out there to complain about anything there, even broken eggs. I mean, who questions poshness? So cover that little nose of yours and walk away. That stench will follow you though.
A supermarket, as you can see, is serious ‘do or die’ business. Don’t be surprised if you’re mortally sandwiched between two harridans closing in on that last pack of Slimming Tea with little hellspawns (read toddlers) perched on their trolleys, jeering at each other sensing the tension between their mothers. Store owners spend years studying the intricacies of the Cretan Labyrinth before opening their doors, so it is virtually impossible to find just the thing you need. Hence pitiful wrecks like you are doomed to mutter ‘toilet paper’ or ‘garam masala’ with an invisible rosary in hand!

Danger lurks in every corner complete with a constant threat of avalanche. You reach out for a can of button mushrooms only to be inundated by its 56 other varieties. Worst still, the never ending line before the checkout counter awaits you. Just make sure you don’t strangle anyone as the cashier sluggishly presses each button on the keyboard to type ‘khabar soda’.

If you have somehow managed to be done shopping without getting your teddy bear biscuits mixed with the next guy’s cream crackers then consider yourself lucky. But wait, you need paper bags to carry your hoard home, which are cunningly designed to fail you twenty feet before your boot. So you stand watching helplessly, as tomato ketchup haemorrhages on rice and spilt milk. Mom isn’t very happy with your last minute performance, but atleast you get to go home in one piece.

Here’s a piece of advice, try your humble Kacha Bazaar or wholesale market the next time there’s a shortage of groceries. Prices are unbeatable, and the divine joy of bargaining is an added pleasure. In other words- ‘nije nije bajar korte shikho’. Because independence is just a step away.

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