FabIndia Koramangala

There are very few clothing stores that I can say I’m in love with. There are very few stores where I feel like buying a large proportion of merchandise on display whenever I visit it. There are very few stores where just the atmosphere makes you buy much more than you had planned to. And it’s a pity that on two of my visits to the store, I bought nothing.

I haven’t been to too many FabIndia stores outside Bangalore (only a handful of stores in Gurgaon and maybe one in Delhi) but having shopped a few times at the FabIndia store in Koramangala, I feel distinctly underwhelmed whenever i go to any other outlet. Having been several times to this beautifully designed house, I find FabIndia outlets housed in less spectacular buildings sad. Of course there have been times (including two days ago) when I’ve shopped at other outlets but the experience simply doesn’t come close.

The first time I went to the store was some four or five years back when Anuroop wanted to check out kurtas. I think we went there on Bunty’s recommendation but I remember that I hadn’t bought anything. I had quickly made amends for it a couple of months later when I bought a couple of shirts, and then a year later when I bought a dozen shirts at one go!

The only other time I went there without purchasing anything was yesterday morning, when I was visiting the store after a gap of some two or three years. The first thought was one of guilt – of having shopped in a less spectacular Fabindia store (the one at Kathriguppe) just the previous night, and then as I got over it I got overwhelmed with the variety on display. I suddenly got afraid that I might over-spend and made a dash for the exit.

I wasn’t gone for too long, though, as I returned in the evening with Priyanka, and this time we discovered something even more spectacular – something that I had completely missed during my hajaar earlier visits – the store cafe. The brownie was decent, and the coffee was just about ok, but that didn’t matter one bit. Once again, it was the atmosphere at play, and that the coffee shop had in plenty.

It’s something like a small arena. If you can perform some visual art (say a play or a dance) in a five feet square area, this is just the place for you! All around the 5×5 “well” (which is full of pebbles) are stone benches, at different levels. Cushions have been placed on some arbitrary benches, and we understood that that’s where it was supposed to sit. There wsa some music that I didn’t quite recognized but was quite pleasant, and the wooden trays in which the waiter brought our coffees were also beautiful – I might have bought something like that from the store had I been in a spendthrift mood yesterday!

If you are in Bangalore and are interested in cotton clothes you should definitely check out this store sometime. It’s in Koramangala, in the extension of the intermediate ring road. Make sure you go there leisurely, for there is plenty to see and buy (the inventory is about six times as much as that of an “ordinary” FabIndia store). And while you are there, do visit the cafe and lounge around there for a while. And think about Priyanka and me while you are there.

On Large and Small Books

During my last binge at Landmark, I saw a book which I thought I’d like. It was priced at some six hundred rupees – a full fifty percent premium over what I’m usually willing to pay for a book – and was quite thick. My first thought was “ok on a pages-per-rupee basis, this seems to be doing quite well so I should buy it”. Then I had¬† second thoughts.

The question is – should you look at the size of a book as an advantage or as a disadvantage? I think the normal viewpoint (as reflected by my instinct) treats pages as assets. There might be historical backing for this. When books were read for timepass, the amount of value (the time that could be passed) that could be gleaned from the book would be proportional to the number of pages in the book. If the language was difficult to read, then even better – for now it allows one to pass even more time reading the book.

However, when one comes to “funda¬† books”, this argument fails spectacularly. When you read funda books, you don’t read to pass time. You read books in order to get fundaes. And once this happens, volume becomes not a benefit but a cost. When you are reading a book for the fundaes, then you are effectively paying two costs – one is the rupee cost of the book and the other is the time COST. The time that you spend reading the book now becomes a cost. And when time is a cost, then more pages need not be a benefit.

Unfortunately, when you are at the bookstore trying to make a decision about whether to buy a book, there is no way you can figure out how much of fundaes the book is likely to offer. It would have helped if you have read some reviews, which will allow you to make an informed decision. If you haven’t, then hard luck. Now, if you have no clue about that book that you have in your hand, and you need to make a decision on whether to buy it, then I won’t blame you for making your decision based on the thickness.

The unfortunate consequence of this is useless padding up of books. Authors and publishers know that a large section of the readers are likely to judge books based on their size. And they make things voluminous. They take 40 pages to tell stories that could’ve been written in 4. They end up saying the same thing time and again, just to increase the number of pages. And overall, end up boring the reader and lowering the net value added by their book.

So you have ideas which could have been communicated in a few blog posts developing into a book – after all, no one wouuld be willing to pay the same amount of money for a 20 page book as they would for a 200 page book right? even if it were to offer comparable amount of fundaes?

I don’t really know if there is a simple solution to this problem. Solving this would involve effecting a major shift in consumer behaviour. It is unlikely that blogging and online publication would become profitable, else we might have expected the disruption to come from there. Still, you can never say. All we can do is to wait and hope. And read reviews before choosing books.

PS: online purchase of books (via Amazon, etc.) might help mitigate this problem a little since you don’t really feel a book when you decide to buy it, and you have reviews available instantly. Nevertheless, I’m sure most buyers would be subsconsciously using the “number of pages” field while making their purchase decision.

PS2: I should make my blog posts less verbose