“Today is our last day,” said the two girls who attended to the children. We have been seeing them for close to four years. They would wrap a tag around my son’s wrist (evidence that his parents have paid the money), help him and the other children play with the machines in the play area, and when it was time to redeem the tickets, they would hand over small gifts. The toys and other equipment would be moved to the other end of the city. The girls stay close to the mall, and they would not be able to commute that far. They would have to look for another job. When we left, I made sure my son said proper Goodbyes and Thankyous to them. He repeated something about the place closing down, but I doubt if he realised what it means.
The place used to be crowded whenever we visited during the weekends. That it was not making a good profit was strange. Well, maybe not as crowded as they expected it to be when they first lugged the machines here.
The mall itself was new when the Playzone was installed. Ours is a generally quiet area that some Bangaloreans refer to as the ‘outskirts’ and others joke as being not even a part of Karnataka. Till a few years ago, it wore a border-village look (there were no decent hotels, only Punjabi Dhabas meant for late night truck/lorry drivers, and a couple of faded old apartments). Then one day there burst upon the scene a new highway that sliced the heart of the region and changed things forever. All of a sudden there was traffic, there were people, there were lights, apartments began sprouting, there were shops with well-lit exteriors, there were hoardings, there were Pizza joints and there were Chinese restaurants serving Momo. The Dhabas vanished without a trace – the few that remain, have renamed themselves to restaurants or hotels. The narrow roads that had forgotten asphalt, got a fresh coating, were widened, and were spruced up to match the highway. The new mall – our own friendly neighbourhood mall – materialised as the door to development. Deprived of the weekend-nooks that the rest of Bangalore boasted of, we would throng it on weekends, and proudly take guests to gaze at it, as if it were Vidhan Soudha.
A few shops in the little mall have closed down in the last few years and new optimistic ones opened in their place. I see every likelihood of other high-profile shops closing down too, claiming poor sale, unless they can hold on for a few more years, till we are ready for it. Many more will lose jobs. The children will look into the empty, dark space that was once their favourite play area. Then they will outgrow those thoughts.
If business is not good, nothing is worth the effort.