Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Guests without seats

I was in New Delhi to attend the 59th National Film Awards function held at Vigyan Bhawan. The invitation card requested guests to take their seats by 5:15 pm. I was there a few minutes before the said time and proceeded to take my seat at a particular block as mentioned in the card.
I found that the mentioned block was all filled up. I asked the event manager and the security personnel to help me out and was told to take a place wherever I could find one. I walked up and took a seat in another block.
Around 5:50 there were more guests than the seats available and there was some altercation between the invitees and the event management and security personnel. The issue was that an entire block on the front, I think it was the B and C block, which was vacant, was reserved with names of the guests marked on the seat. The security refused to allow anyone to sit there. All the rear blocks were occupied there was hardly any space for the large number of guests to stand.
I saw a middle-aged lady with a walking stick break out into an argument with the security personnel. The lady was hurt in the leg and could ill afford to stand for long. I offered her my seat and requested the security why not allow the people to sit on the vacant seats.
They said that could not do anything since those seats were all reserved for the ministers, MPs and other VIPs. The person-in-charge of the event management company came and asked me Why I had left my seat since there was no chance of getting another one?
Around 6:45 pm when a film was being shown on the screen, another fracas broke out. An NRI couple was heard shouting that “... they were better treated in the country they resided in than the country they belonged to.”
I stood on the sidelines with many others while 50 seats marked for special guests remained unoccupied.
After the arrival of Vice President of India, one of the gentleman once again requested the people-in-charge - “To allow the people standing to sit on the vacant seats since the function had officially started.”
All of a sudden, the person who had seen me giving my seat to the lady, came up and ushered me to a seat on the fourth row from where I could see Roopa Ganguly, Anjan Dutta, Rana Sarkar many others from Bengal seated on another side.
When repeatedly quizzed by the outraged guests-without-seats, the event manager threw in the towel. He said he was helpless and could do little in a situation where 4000 guests were invited to a hall with a capacity of accommodating was 1200 people. At that point of time, the manager saw Javed Jafri and one of the award winners standing there and rushed to get them seats.
If in a place like Vigyan Bhawan and a national function there is such blatant discrimination with the invitees in spite of promising them in the invitation card that it would be first-come-first-served affair.
I wonder what kind of democracy we are living in. Trains delayed for VIPs, flights help up, roads blocked have been commonplace. But now we have guest left standing for VIPs who don't even turn up.
I have no problem with reserving seats for VIPs but when these special guests fail to turn up or honour the invitation, and once the main programme starts, what sense does it make to keep other guests standing.
Whatever the fiasco over seats, the function was one where Bengal was prominent right from Award No 1 to Aniruddha Bhattacharya to award no 103 Soumitra Chatterjee who got a standing ovation when he received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.
Soumitra da told Doordarshan, just before the award function, that he is happy because he had made others happy.
Yes Soumitra da, you made us all not only happy but also proud.
ess bee

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