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Mall therapy to fight fear

Calcutta went shopping with a vengeance on Sunday, refusing to let Saturday’s terror attacks in Delhi spoil the first big festive-buying weekend in the run-up to Id-ul-Fitr and Durga puja.

Footfalls in malls and markets peaked despite a whiff of fear hanging in the air and the police being more alert and visible than usual. From New Market to Dakshinapan, City Centre to South City Mall, there was scarcely a shopping destination in town that hadn’t been trod on by thousands of feet.

With the Calcuttan combating terror with retail therapy, the police were on the edge. Even police commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakrabarti was out on the streets, accompanied by deputy commissioner (south) Rajesh Subarno, to oversee security arrangements in some shoppers’ stops in south and central Calcutta.

The New Market Traders’ Welfare Association estimated that more than 40,000 people had visited one of the city’s favourite value-for-money shopping destinations till 4pm on Sunday. “We expect the footfall to be 1.2 lakh by the time we close for the day,” said Vivek Sidhwani, a member of the association.

Malls and markets in the city were prepared for a tepid start to festive buying after five co-ordinated blasts ripped through upscale shopping destinations in Delhi between 6.11pm and 6.45pm on Saturday. But morning showed the day for most traders, who were pleasantly surprised by the steady stream of shoppers from the time they opened their shops around 10.30am.

“Had people decided to stay indoors on Sunday, our business would have really suffered. After all, this is the start to the festive season,” said Mohammed Amin, who owns a ladies footwear shop on Lindsay Street.

By 3pm, Amin’s 100-sq feet shop had done Rs 14,000 worth of business. “After what happened in Delhi, this was unexpected,” he said.

Rinki Chatterjee was channel surfing on Saturday evening when news about the blasts in Delhi started coming in. “My city could be next,” she thought to herself. But on Sunday afternoon, she was out with her friends doing what she loves: shopping. “We are not safe anywhere. Terrorists are striking at will wherever and whenever they want to. For how long can I confine myself to my home?” the 23-year-old student of fashion design asked. Rinki spent three hours at Vardaan Market, on Camac Street.

Delighted as they were with the show of shopper strength, the malls didn’t take chances with security. At City Centre in Salt Lake, security personnel checked every car and two-wheeler. Forum, on Elgin Road, did likewise. All of these places had beefed up security after the Bangalore and Ahmedabad blasts.

On Sunday, they seemed to take it a notch higher. “We have deployed more security personnel in plainclothes. We have installed more closed-circuit cameras, too. But contrary to our apprehensions, the footfall has increased,” said Ujjal, the general manager of Forum.

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