It was a strange and an entirely unexpected experience. In the middle of Manhattan, my wife and I seemed to enter a time capsule that seemed to have been frozen from the last century. It was a typically deceptive New York winter morning, the beautiful, bright sun accompanied by a bone-chilling breeze. We had two hours to while away before meeting our daughter for lunch. We decided to see some of the famous shops along Park Avenue, a posh area of New York.
Window shopping is a delightful experience, especially when the weather makes it necessary to go into centrally-heated areas to warm our ageing bones. We thus admired the beautifully displayed wares at Crate and Barrel, the frightfully expensive chocolates at Godiva and the unique gift items at Sharper Image.
While the sun was playing hide and seek, we came across a church. On its side entrance was a small placard stating in hand-printed form, ‘SHOP TILL YOU DROP.’ We had another 45 minutes to kill. My wife decided that we had to see this. We entered and two balloons greeted us
at the entrance of a staircase. Thereafter, we kept going down endless stairs. At every level, there was a huge door held back with a flimsy rope.
Whenever I expressed my doubts about going down such a medieval and lonely place, my wife retorted, “Can’t you see the balloons at every door.” I told her that if the ropes gave way and any of the doors shut, even our remains might not be found.
It was a relief and a pleasant surprise, therefore, to get to the basement. However, it took some time to register what was going on. There were six or seven very old ladies (we are no spring chickens ourselves), minding some equally prehistoric items for sale. Transistors, toasters and household articles were neatly laid out along with some snacks. The scene was straight out of Memory Lane: this was the kind of sales we had seen in small cantonments during our school days. The cakes and sandwiches also seemed to be dated as the ends of the sandwiches were curling outwards, giving a realistic impression akin to the shortages after the Second Great War.
We made a discreet retreat. I asked my wife if this was really happening in Manhattan during the X-mas season. She shot back, “You wouldn’t ask such silly questions if you had been to a convent."