From the moment he started singing, I had a smile on my face. A man, dressed in the usual black-and-white striped tee and ebony trousers of a gondolier, performed an Italian song while he rowed his gondola across a canal. I was seated on one of its velvety, cushioned seats. He sang what seemed like a barcarolle, or a folk tune caroled by these canoe rowers in a specific style. As our boat travelled onward, it passed by waters surrounded on both sides by large, lined houses with gothic faÃ§ades. It emerged from underneath bridges and turned a corner at a place from where I could see clearly the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I mused on my gondolier, who synchronised his songâ€™s rhythm with the tempo of his paddlingâ€”true to how barcarolle is supposed to be timed.
And, surprisingly enough, we were not in Venice. We were inside The Grand Venice mall in Greater Noida. The canal was artificial. The Gondola, though flat-bottomed and authentic to look at, had a motor. Our gondolier was Indian; his barcarolle too was not always the Italian songâ€”he alternated it with Do Lafzon Ki Hai from the 1979 Bollywood film The Great Gambler, which, interestingly, was shot in a gondola, but in its case, one rowed across Veniceâ€™s Grand Canal. The Pisa tower, of course, was a replica in a much smaller size. And yet, all of this felt quite magical.
It came across as a Venice-themed shopping complex almost immediately, but there was a lot of Rome about it as well. The exterior had arches, gothic roofs, golden-hued Romanesque sculptures and mild colours, while the interiors had vaulted ceilings. Outside the main building, there was a fountain inspired by Romeâ€™s famous Trevi Fountain. But I was most taken aback by the inside portion of the front entrance. We passed through the entry, walked to the centre of the lobby, turned around and saw a decorated wall that was certainly not gothic, but unabashedly baroqueâ€”an intricate pattern of trees and its branches embossed on a beige wall, shimmering underneath the light of a massive chandelier.
We were taken to the food court after the gondola ride and the mall show-around. This area, too, was large and spaciousâ€”more than in most malls I had visited. Its dÃ©cor included coiled bulbs hung in straight lines and many London gas lamp-like light poles interspersed across the sitting areas. With plenty of eateries to choose from, such as Thaliwada Rajbhog, Moti Mahal Delux,Karimâ€™s and Chicago Pizza, we were spoiled for choice.
Our meal here was spent in great amusementâ€”we ate Karimâ€™s mutton nihari at a European-style food court, even as we could hear the distant echo of a Venetian Gondolierâ€™s song. I liked confluence.
Mall operates everyday from 10:30am to 10:30pm. Gondola rides begin from Rs. 290 per person. Mall location: Plot No-SH3, Site IV, Near Pari Chowk, Greater Noida(UP); visit veniceindia.in