The Furniture Store

Sumita told me casually, ‘did you know they even have a restaurant here…’ I belted out my snobbiest shrug. A family restaurant, Beijing style — that’s what I call food…imagine dining at furniture store! At nightfall, while trying to drag my weary body inside the cab, the only things I ate were my words.

It was a bright, sunny, blue-skied Sunday morning, when Sumita and my humble self, your favorite Indian-American couple (not following that particular order though) moved into the Chinghua University’s lush green campus form our twenty three days temporary stay at a huthong at the heart of the forbidden city. Right after dropping our luggage, we set out to get some basic stuff for the house hold. Swirling through the Beijing subway, each next stop took us closer to our modern day colossal messiah of balanced consumption: the Ikea store.

Yes, it’s overwhelming for me. I have lived all my thirty eight human years in an uncharted, off the grid place called Calcutta which is on the total opposite hemisphere of any brownie-made-it to white-world-success story. I would, perhaps, have spent the other thirty eight plus-minus years of my human life in the same place, if only my lovely wife hadn’t taken up the job at the university, which, in turn, got me a wild card entry to the other side of the great wall. So, yes, that explains how I earned the privilege to write about my Ikea experience.

As soon as we entered the store, we were shoved into an elevator which took us to the show-rooms of rooms: rooms inside rooms of bedrooms, living rooms; kitchen; bathrooms and work rooms. We passed through this Alice in Wonderlands of single middle aged men laying on the sofa- playing with their phones; parents and kids on the bed taking selfie with huge teddy bears; BFFs, college kids and tired moms napping wrapped in quilts; couples standing in shower room like zombies; newly wed lovers sitting at dining room table with rose in their hands; hipsters tapping their laptops at the work space table, old men and women drinking tea and playing mahjong on the garden-scape space. I wonder weather Dali or his idea ever visited this bee-hive (or, rather, human-hive) of living installation? It took us almost half day to find our way through this trippy, (the)Shining-esqe maze only to find ourselves standing at this Starship Enterprise kind of restaurant with lots of conveyor belts.

The chocolate cake tasted good, so did the coffee and the coca cola.

The break served us good. We two lovey-dove Hobbits resumed our mission with new determination. Our perilous journey took us through the sections where earthly wants are produced. Every tiny details that our heart wished, every little things that our brain ever imagined laid within our hand’s reach…all those deepest human desires we think of were right in front of us; lured us from the shelves; wanting to be picked up, touched, sniffed and rubbed.

We learned to churn out space, we learned esthetics of dimensions, how every nook and corner of our apartment should aspire to be a tool of functional modern day living.

We were beat. I was grumpy. But hey…couldn't complain… after all, we got a handful of ‘stugvik’ and pocketed the know how of a full usage of otherwise overlooked corners of the apartment which were surely a comforting cognition at the end of the day. I sighed as our cabbie was inching his way through the standstill weekend traffic. The ever alluring Beijing shaokao still awaited us. But that’s another story altogether.

Beijing, sunset (Image copyright: author)