Deepavali is around the corner and in Chennai’s T Nagar, one of the busiest shopping centres in the city, it seems as if the pandemic is on pause for the crowds there. On Sunday evening, October 25, people thronged Ranganathan Street in T Nagar, a popular destination during the shopping season for those in and around the city.
During the weekend day, traffic cops were stationed at busy junctions to regulate the heavy traffic in the area. Additionally, police personnel were posted at the entrance to Ranganathan Street, which was barricaded and split into entry and exit lines. The already narrow street was split into a two-way path with dividers running along its length. Despite the threat of the coronavirus, the street presented a crowded picture, with heads bobbing about, seen even from a distance.
Speaking to TNM, one of the police personnel stationed at the road’s entrance remarked that the crowd was not unusual for Ranganathan Street. “This is how it is even on a regular day. Since it’s the festival shopping season, this crowd is unavoidable in this area,” she said. The crowd seen on Sunday made physical distancing an impossible feat.
In addition to Ranganathan Street, which houses stores like Saravana Stores, Jayachandran Textiles, Rathna Stores and more, other big format showrooms, such as Pothys, Saravana Stores and Chennai Silks on North Usman Road, too, saw people making a beeline outside. A regular stream of people was walking into these stores, with very little possibility of physical distancing.
Pondy Bazar, which lies less than a kilometre away from this shopping hub, saw visibly lesser crowds on Sunday.
Notably, a viral video showing heavy, uncontrollable crowds at Kumaran Silks on North Usman Road last week resulted in the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) shutting down and sealing the showroom. This was reportedly due to a clearance sale announced by the textile showroom. On Sunday, Kumaran Silks wore a deserted look, with very few customers walking in.
The GCC and health department have made arrangements to reign in crowds following this debacle, with teams being formed by the GCC to inspect shops and collect fines.
However, despite the authorities mandating shops to follow strict protocols and avoid overcrowding at counters, very little seems to be achievable in this regard. With the pandemic already cutting back severely on sales for retailers, this shopping season poses a challenge as well. Additionally, shoppers have very little regard for rules, the police official told TNM. “Some listen, most don’t,” she added.
Watch how Ranganathan Street was on Sunday: