by Swatee Jog
The people of Belgaum are definitely affluent, but shy away from splurging on in -your- face extravaganzas. A quick recce of our suburbs gives you an idea of their affluence with numerous homes flaunting designer ware and almost every bungalow sporting a fancy sedan. But the more conservative of the lot exists in huge numbers, who prefer to just ‘Be-Rich’ than display their wealth. They’d rather invest in land, property or gold than flash fist-sized rocks on their fingers or drive snazzy cars and flaunt dapper suits. That’s why we just have about 3-4 BMWs and a couple of Audis, Fortuners and Mercs in Belgaum. Earning and spending like crazy has still not become part of their primal instincts. That’s why we still don’t have a major designer boutique (Rujula’s, Biba are minors compare to Satya Paul or even Hi-design).
What sets them apart from their big city counterparts is the social set up here where the height of displaying your wealth is the number of people you invite at your daughter’s wedding, not the decor or trousseau that accompanied it. Wealth here is still measured in the amount of gold ornaments that the wife wears than her designer wear. You can still spot the richest of the citizens here walking down the lane for a pan or to the temple, and no one actually notices them.
The really wealthy here may not know their Moet from the Pinot Noirs or the Cheddar from the Parmesan, and Muesli or Cavier may seem alien to their taste buds, but they surely know what type of sugarcane or Jowar will fetch the highest price at the local APMC yard.
Don’t be surprised to see a turbaned and mustachioed old hawk idling around chewing tobacco as his womenfolk go about picking the best of Dharmavarams and Pochampallis or Paithanis and stepping in only to pay in thick wads of notes drawn from under his yellowy vest. You can spot them around Ambica(Khade Bazar Shahapur), Aradhana (Maruti Galli), Karthika (Ganpat Galli), etc. sitting cross legged on the pavement. Or the simple looking shop- keeper coming up with a palatial house for his family.
The electronic stores have a different tale though. They witnessed crazy crowds initially and only the ones that are situated in the heart of the city made hay with the bulk of the sales coming from cheap mobiles and discs but the Bravias and i-pod shuffles lying almost unsold and one should not forget Bapat Galli, where one can get a hands on almost any make at dirt cheap prices.(of course all China & Delhi made)
Women never had their clothes so cheap and are huffing around even in the mornings in their sneakers and zardosis while doing their morning walks. Every TV, sofa and grinder now has something to cover itself and every door is adorned with a mat. Bedspreads are getting a major overhaul and kids are munching on crunchy snacks like crazy.
After the initial madness ebbed out, all the mega stores in the city are sporting a deserted look on the weekdays. Many will contest that this is the trend even in big cities where the weekend sales more than makes up for the empty aisles during the weekdays. But some people are surely adept at drawing the best from what’s available. Belgaumites chose to visit these stores only for the heck of an experience and only bought what was truly at discounted rates or branded stuff and steered clear of tempting on – the-spur- of- the- moment purchases.
So the neighborhood kirana stores , who’ve refurbished themselves, are brimming again, what with harried housewives needing a kilo of sugar here and half a kilo of semolina there, with ten grams of cardamom and a pint of oil on offer at the grocery shop and no one seems to be complaining. Try asking the same at the mega store and the very stern ‘ mad or what’ look will flash on the salesman’s visage. But it has definitely uncorked the demon in the discount format and customers are more than happy.