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March 01, 2017

Is Ordering In A Birkin More Fun Than Old-School Shopping?

Text by Sitanshi Talati-Parikh. Illustration by Aditi Dash

Maybe not…

I’m sitting with my bandaged feet up on the linen sofa and I’m feeling the pressure to prepare for an upcoming cold-weather sojourn. Knowing that my sun-kissed wardrobe isn’t conducive to the November rain, I’m feverishly wondering how I am going to manage to get the bare necessities while under complete house arrest. Scarves, cashmere jackets, flat snow boots…I ring up the British brand that knows how to check all the right boxes when it comes to winter wear and I discover, to my surprised glee, that they are fully amenable to couch shopping. I send them screen grabs of what I am looking for, and the next day, a sharply dressed, sympathetic-to-my-state shop attendant arrives with embossed bags overflowing with goodies. I’m thrilled, as I hobble over to engage myself with their deep autumn shades (does mustard win over burgundy?), and crank up the air conditioning to resemble the sub-zero temperature I am trying to be prepared for. No one is observing, breathing down my neck or waiting for me to make a move. There is no aggressive shopper who may see how fantastic it looks on me and snatch it from under my nose. It’s a designer chess game and I am the sole player! The excitement fades…I am the sole player. There is no chase; no one can snatch it from under my nose. I can’t actually strut, preen and casually show off how much better it looks on me than Neelam Gill. (With or without the cheekbones.)

As I inevitably buy more than I intend to, and definitely more than I need, I survey the damage in front of my trusty mirror, and it strikes me — is this a desi thing? Do people end up shopping in the comfort of their homes for reasons entirely different from mine? It is not a stretch to believe that people in India would be willing to give up the fragranced air of a designer store and the hushed silences enveloping expensive gear for the privacy of their own pad. It is no secret how the up-and-coming gentry have dozens of expensive clothes sent home to pick and choose from (heard about the 200 saris that were home-delivered recently?), which is basically Himani Shivpuri’s wedding shopping as witnessed in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge now superimposed on an Italian-marble-and-Fendi-couch setting. And it’s not just the newly minted business families. After all, while Mumbai’s Sunset Boulevard is most likely to be Palladium mall, we cannot hope to catch Aishwarya Rai Bachchan casually shopping there for a pair of wedges or two. Even though the jewellers and watch vendors of Bandra see their fair share of stars in front of their shiny display windows, a generous number of grand complications and minute repeaters have visited the insides of celebrity homes looking for someone to lovingly wind them up.

Isn’t much of leisure shopping about the experience of enjoying the fineries that make them worthy of the price tag? Take the act of buying jewellery for an occasion like a wedding: such a personal act that can only be consummated in front of an expectant audience. As the expertly trained salespeople gasp with barely concealed awe at your transformation into Cleopatra (well, Liz Taylor), you feel the power of being the absolute darling of the moment. And the ‘babu’ visiting your home with his bag of baubles will never cut it. In a private salon experience, jewels upon jewels are dethroned before you, and you weaken when you eye them under that perfect bright light that makes the stones glint and wink on your virgin décolletage like no man’s gaze could. And who can resist the intoxicating beauty of the jewels when considered alongside a glass of cold bubbly and strawberries as nature’s metaphor for pale yellow diamonds and rich red rubies?

As executive (not sous!) chefs of the finest restaurants make themselves available for a private home-dining experience, and with Scootsy delivering food from popular five-star hotels, I wonder if Indians are getting reticent or lazy. Where once it was a privilege to step out, now it appears that staying in is the new cool. After all, if we eat out all the time, when does the fancy bone china see the light of day? It is even entirely possible that we have been bitten by the celebrity bug. Famous movie stars prefer to hide behind closed doors and tweet sweet nothings to their fans rather than be seen at the choicest tables, and we believe that being not seen is the new ‘being seen’ at the right places. So the Facebook update with a selfie will be: ‘Lovin’ Chef Gaggan Anand’s exquisite pani puri…at home. He’s sooo much fun to hang out with! Gotta keep the leftovers for lunch tomorrow!” And note to self: ‘Gotta get maharaj to take tips from Gaggan, so that he can make this for the gang every weekend. What a hoot! Maybe I can videotape the whole cooking process…ghar ka khana, what?’

But then, maybe it’s not an Indian thing. Maybe the buzzword of nouveau luxe is ‘home delivery’. After all, I did find, on my room service menu in Budapest, in-room dining from Nobu. Does being able to eat a gourmet meal in your silk pyjamas one-up dressing up beautifully for a night out in town? Not in my books…but hey, I’m no celebrity. I’m an old-fashioned girl who loves what Becky Bloomwood and Carrie Bradshaw celebrate — old-school experiences with the buzz of new surroundings, strangers, unfamiliar sounds, beautiful window displays and being seen at the right places, wearing exactly the right kind of outfit.

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