Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Citi Centre - the mall in chennai

It is a shopping centre with an ornate fa├žade on RK Salai, in Chennai. You pay by the hour for parking. The entrance is grand and they sell expensive coffee and snacks in the lobby. The most attractive is the third floor, with its medley of restaurants, from Saravana Bhavan to Gangotree to Subway. You get here from one escalator to the other. You don’t walk a few yards from a bhelpuri kiosk to a 30-year old Saravana Bhavan as elsewhere. You use the escalator to reach the space that has it all, amidst a lot of light.

Evenings at Citi Centre are about good lighting. Eating in a street bazaar is also about an experience in light, but they are rarely floodlit spaces like this one. Here, you are on the stage. In the old bazaars you walk, sometimes as spectator and sometimes as actor. You choose when you want to be what and move in and out of the light.

The great thing about the food floor at Citi Centre and this really is the greatest thing, is that you can dine with your family in four different places but at one table. One person picks up a subway sandwich, another mexican food and the other a mini-tiffin from Saravana’s. You don’t travel miles between these places in the city’s traffic to get this experience.

The next great experience at the Citicentre is its Landmark bookshop. That experience is also possible at Spencer’s Plaza. In a Bazaar at Mylapore or Triplicane or Georgetown, you don’t encounter a Landmark in any case. If you need to go to a bookshop in the city, you go to Landmark or Odyssey’s independent stores. These are great shopping experiences in themselves – the standalone book bazaars. In Bombay, the book lover goes to Strand Book stall – a space smaller than Landmark and Odyssey. Strand is a small space and always a memorable experience. Other shops in the Citi centre seem expensive, but people come to the mall to eat, to spend time and money. So, the shops have some window shoppers and some who are there to buy for real.