Monday, January 16, 2006


There are very few things in life that I am scared of. And most of these are totally inane things, which make people laugh at me. One of these silly things is exiting a shop, through a door which has those detectors fixed. (I don't know what these detectors are called, those that buzz when you take out an item that has not been paid for. If you know, please enlighten me!). I keep feeling that it will start buzzing any moment. Why am I afraid of that? There hangs a tale.

It was one of those months when I found that I have a shortage of clothes, and I just had to go and buy new stuff for myself. Thankfully, my roommate R also wanted to go shopping, and we decided to go and check out that huge mall at Malad, Mumbai, which has both Shoppers' Stop and Lifestyle under the same roof. As we were leaving, X said she would join us. The more, the merrier, we thought, and we set out together. At the mall (Whatzitzname?), we found that we wanted to go to different shops, and buy different things, and we had only a couple of hours before we ought to be heading back. So we separated out and went our ways, deciding to meet at the billing counter of Lifestyle at the appointed time.

So I spent the next hour and a half shopping by myself, checking and sorting out clothes. I was blissfully oblivious of the whereabouts of both R and X, and that made it all the more enjoyable. (You should try shopping alone. Nothing like it. You don't have to wait infinitely for your companion checking out stuff you are not interested in, and you don't have to worry about making your companion wait or give her the wrong impression while you get inexplicable urges to check out some horrendous stuff). Anyway, I got my stuff, and came back and stood at the billing counter, waiting for my turn. I found that R and X were already waiting. Both of them had full shopping bags in their hands. After paying for my clothes, I took my bags, and joined them. We got to the door and exited the building together. Just as we passed through the detectors, "Buzzzzz Buzzzzzz" went the buzzer. "Stop please", said the security guard, "Please give me your bags". My heart was hammering against my ribs. Had something got into my bag my mistake? I could feel the heat in my cheeks. R was totally shaken up. Both of us handed our bags to the guard. Another guard had joined him, and he took the bags and walked through the detector. It did not buzz. "Not in these", said the guard, and asked us to pass through the buzzer one by one. Just as this was happening, X suddenly decided she needed to go to the washroom, and she dashed through the detector into the shop. The buzzer dutifully buzzed again. "Please stop", said the guard to X, but she did not stop. "Stop her!" he called, and a female guard ran after X. All this while, R and I just stood there, mouth agape. "Sorry, ma'am, you can go inside if you want", said the guard politely and handed our bags to us. We went back in like zombies and stood, not talking. We could feel the eyes of the other shoppers on us. We felt guilty for no reason at all. We looked around. Neither X, nor the female guard could be seen. I looked at R. She seemed to have tears in her eyes, and looked terrified. "I thought... something has accidentally got into my bag", she said. "Me too", I said, and we just stood there, not doing anything.

Before long, another guard came and told us, "Your companion is upstairs - you can join her". R and I went up to find her at the first floor billing counter, paying for something. As soon as we went there, she became a blur of explanations. "The key my pocket caused the detector to buzz! Can you beat that? I argued with the manager and made him apologize. And I had bought a kurta and given it to them for alteration. Now I am taking it back from them. I am terribly insulted. So I am paying for the kurta and getting out of here. I will not come back here!"

I found two mistakes in her statement -
1) The detector is not a metal detector - its the bar-code detector - or whatever its called.
2) If she had given the kurta for alteration, she would have paid for it before. These shops do not accept clothes for alteration unless you produce the bill of payment.

I duly pointed out both anamolies to her.
Her answers -
1) No, no, the key caused the problem! The manager apologized.
2) No, here they said I could pay for it later.

Did she think we were a pair of fools?

Anyway we did not say anything. After she paid, we went back downstairs. We could feel the stares and the glances. Back to the exit. Back to walking through the detector. Heart-hammering, fists clenching. But we passed through it. We cleared it. I heaved a sigh of relief. I turned to X and asked her, "So where is your key now? Why didn't it buzz this time?". "Oh that's coz the key was in the pocket of my jeans at that time. I have now kept it in my purse".

Yes, she did think we were a pair of fools.

We went back home in silence. We did not mention this again, but needless to say, we did not go shopping with her again. Also, she left the city within a month, and we haven't been in touch ever since.

Anyway, this incident seems to have scarred me for life. Whenever I exit a shop walking through those detectors, I hear imaginary buzzings and "stop-please"s and my heart beats faster and my breath becomes laboured. When my sister is with me, she, in all her sweetness, takes one look at my expression and holds my hand each time we walk through a detector. The fear seems to be slowly subsiding. But I don't know how long it will take before I can walk confidently out of a shop!


Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Hmmmf! RFID detectors... Radio Frequency Identification... and you are right on both your counts with your arguments.

It is a scary feeling, though --- you know, the entire mall staring at you as though you are a shoplifter, imagining in their heads how sauve the new-age thieves have become :)

BTW, that mall is probably Inox... I am not too sure about that part of the city :)

Bhupi said...

I know who miss X is :) :). Well to tell u the truth I did shop lifting by myself but u have to have an art to do things. I only did it once for fun it was just a small thing and i never did it again :). I was glad I could beat the security and the so called electronic detectors...

Shruthi said...

@Sudipta: Oh Thanks! RFID! Yes, it is scary ane embarrassing :((
No, it's not Inox... I just cannot remember the name.

@Bhupi: Bad Bad!! I don't think that's anything to be proud of!
btw I don't think you know who Miss X is!

Bhupi said...

I sure do. I obviously know miss R but i can guess miss X too.

Bhupi said...

btw Malad mein the mall is R-mall.

Shruthi said...

@Bhupi: Hmm yes, R-Mall. The easiest names are the most difficult to remember!
And hey, you do not know X, I have not even told you about her - please don't go around guessing! :)

Raj said...

ha ha, that must have been scary and embarrassing. No wonder it haunts you even now.

Swathi said...

i have always heard that 'beep' whenever tags havent been removed i jus try n ignore it.

but yaa i have a frend who loves to flick glasses from pubs and yaa she never got caught!!!

Shruthi said...

Correction - two friends have mailed me and reminded me - that the mall is called InOrbit. That's it :) Thank you!

Shruthi said...

@Raj: Oh yes, it was :(

@Swathi: Don't know about "beeps" - this was full-scale ear-splitting Buzzzzzing!

Kalyan said...

I got buzzed once when getting out of a supermarket. It turned out that the billing lady hadn't scratched out the tag properly. The guard promptly apolozied and I do vaguely remember the stares of people around!! But, this never bothered me to go through such exits anytime.

Shruthi said...

@Kalyan: Good for you! ;)

Starry-eyed Shruti said...

ROTFL!!! Oh man!!! I can't stop laughing. You're a superstar in writing, do you know that?

But, Shruthi, you needn't be scared if you're sure you haven't picked anything. Relax!

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