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It's boom time

Coimbatore's shopping areas are bustling with life after a brief lull


THE CROWDS are back on the roads and shopkeepers are beaming.

Traditionally, families go all out to buy new clothes and crackers during Deepavali. Coimbatore, home to many textile mills, used to glitter during the festival, with most workers coming home with a sizeable bonus.

With the closure of many mills and the serial bomb blasts of 1998, many `budget shopping' areas, including the famed Oppanakkara Street and its narrow bylanes, took a hit.

But, the economy seems to be on the upswing this year, what with newer stores making their debut in this city just before the big festival.

"Of course, we have more money to spend now. Life was very difficult some years ago and we would have to stop with buying some artificial bangles or ear-rings for the children," says Vasanthi.

Her husband was laid off one of the mills some years ago.

For them, and many others, the Aadi month sales, with marked-down prices were a haven.

Shop owners admit that Aadi sales took the breath out of the Deepavali sales for some time. Now, things have stabilised. Those who look only for discounts splurge on Aadi sales while those looking for the latest varieties flock to stores during Deepavali.

This time around, a number of mills have come out with bonus announcements and the workers have gone on to accept what has been offered, instead of demanding more.

Also, the newer establishments setting shop have seen many unemployed people finding jobs, helping offset the crisis at home to an extent.

Even the rain lashing the city for the past fortnight has not dampened anyone's enthusiasm. "I dread to even recall Deepavali five years ago. I waited hour after hour, to see if at least some customers would bother to come inside.

Now, I'm recruiting more people to handle the crowds," says a shopkeeper in Uppukinaru Street. Some of the bigger shops have even resorted to handing out tokens to manage the rush better.

The growing number of shopping offering discounts is another incentive for those in the lower income group to actually go out and celebrate the festival in style.

The booming economy has brought cheer even to the bigger shops, with some people making the transition from `budget shops' to the regular ones.

Silk sarees, considered a must-buy for Deepavali some years ago, are slowly getting back their premier position.

In between, silk look-alikes and artificial silk were the favourites.

SUBHA J RAO

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