A shopping nightmare

Shopping has always been a paradoxical experience. For one, there are frequent extremes when it comes to something as simple as picking a bar of soap off a shelf. For example, I stroll into a supposedly well stocked supermarket for some soap. There’s that huge, wide section over there, with its many shelves and, one would imagine, many brands of soap. Approaching the shelf, my eyes widened.

Three fourths empty. And someone very clever had stocked detergent with liquid hand washes. Then, finally finding the soaps, there’s another surprise – or was it? – a grand total of two brands, and one uniform size of soap bars for both. Where’re the rest? Surely customers are not so greedy as to strip the shelves of everything else. Of course not. Then came the vegetables section, all marked ‘fresh’. Examining a withered bunch of curry leaves convinced me otherwise. Blighted can hardly be counted as ‘fresh.’ Besides, the green had faded so badly that it was hardly appetising. The cheeses section was a revelation.

Moisture dripped from the walls of the refrigerator door, soaking the cheeses and their cases into a sodden mess. Asking why this was so resulted in a strange answer – the refrigerator was switched off at night. I guess saving electricity is more important than indigestion from mouldy cheeses and curdled milk.

Of course, there’s the other extreme as well. Moving from the aforesaid supermarket to a food stall to pick up lunch, I found a full menu. Very appetising. I placed an order. Then came a barrage of questions. Would I like the food with or without gravy? With red or green sauce? With or without pepper? With a side dish? Without a side dish? Fresh off the ‘no choices’ experience, this was utterly confusing. The order somehow placed, I asked for water. More questions followed. Regular water? Mineral water? Hot water? Cold water? Room temperature? Soda, maybe? Nevertheless, when the food came, it was delicious, though not quite what I’d expected.

I was served with hot water. But I distinctly remember asking for cold water. Or maybe that was delirium. By the time my interrogation was over, I was unsure of existence itself.
Frankly, I would prefer the latter experience to the former. To have a choice would be ideal, instead of crazy incidents like being pressed by a salesperson to buy a pair of overlarge shoes. Your feet are too small, he says, this shoe is the right size. Pad it with a pair of thick socks. What about a smaller size? I demand.

No stock, pat comes the reply. Consistency in stores and choices would be extraordinary. And welcome.

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