Sunday, September 27, 2009

A "MALL" not a mall....

My recent visits to the Hill Stations of Mussoorie and Shimla and of course writing about my experiences, caused me to do some research into the etymology of the word………the reason for my curiosity is simple……given my American perspective and what is commonly being referred to as a “Mall” in New Delhi and any other major city in India……there is quite a disconnect.It dates back to 1644, a time at which there was a game, Pall Mall played……a ball made of boxwood was struck with a heavy mallet through an iron ring which was at the end of a playing alley…… sounds very similar to croquet. It is a game with its origins in France…….a derivative of the Italian word “Pallamaglio” (palla – ball and maglio – mallet)……The game was introduced in England in the second half of the century and was played in a long alley near St. James, and at that time referred to as “Pell -Mell”. The pronunciation was corrected and there is now a street in the area now classically named Pall Mall in London.
The alley at St. James was described to have been constructed of hard sand sprinkled with powered cockle shells….and some 800 yards long.The British then began using the shortened version to refer to a “promenade”…a public area set aside for pedestrian walk usually with shade trees and the sort……
I have read that when the British began constructing the Hill Stations, to retreat from the heat of Delhi, they did their best to create these cities in the likeness of the cities they had left in England……so it is no wonder that they introduced the word “MALL” to India as well……it was the place they took strolls in the evening…..soon shopkeepers and the like lined each of the sides of the streets……and it became the place to “see” and “be seen”.
From what was described to me by my host who was showing me around, not much has changed in the way of life since Mussoorie was founded…….people strolled along the mall, or used a rickshaw…….the difference is that back then the rickshaws were pulled by two men…….only to be replaced by the tri-cycle rickshaw of today.
It is still a place of commerce, still the place where people stroll in the evening, window shopping, etc… is the main artery of the city…….it brings life to the city and provides those who have shops or those who temporarily set up an area to sell their wares or food an opportunity to make a decent living.
For me, the mall is a wonderful place to see the people who make these wonderful areas so special….and if given the chance, have a brief conversation and make a friend.
The photographs placed throughout this blog entry are of people I came into contact with while on “The MALL” in Mussoorie.
I hope you find the photographs as interesting and enjoyable as I do.

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