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Free-mongering Delhi

The obsession that Delhiites have with getting privilege seats and passes for concerts is driving people away, writes Damini Purkayastha.

art and culture Updated: Nov 01, 2008 21:00 IST

One of my closest friends has the coolest job in the world. She works with a sports channel and gets to travel with the Indian cricket team. She’s on first name basis with some of them! Can you imagine that? Having access to the blue boys every time they mess up!

Anyway, since my friend is so cool I figured she could get me the odd last-minute pass for the test match. That set her off: “Everyone in Delhi wants a free pass man! Everyone thinks they’re a celebrity or a VIP. Someone’s a politician’s nephew or someone else is a government official! They have so much money in this city, why can’t they just pay for the tickets!!!” I can honestly still hear her shouting.

It turns out that everyone even remotely connected to the game is inundated with requests and commands for free passes as soon as Delhi is announced as a venue. And no, she vehemently assured me, this is a phenomena peculiar to Delhi.

Did you know that the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) was expected to give all its members free passes for any major match happening in the city. Such was the state of affairs that according to a recent news report they issued 5,000 fake passes after the real ones ran out and several members were turned away by big bad security guards.

In fact, someone once mentioned that people are even wary of hosting big-scale concerts in Delhi because too many people demand free passes. Either someone is related to someone, or owes someone a favour, is teacher to someone or student to someone. With all those politicians, bureaucrats and government officials doing the rounds, what can you expect. But it’s not just them, even average, salaried people are gung-ho about freebies.

Until recently people even walked away from pubs if there were the smallest cover-charges to pay! I remember heading to a pub with some old school friends four years ago only to stand outside the venue for two hours as they argued with the bouncer about the Rs 200 cover charges.

What is it about being in Delhi that makes people freemongers? Why does everyone here feel like they deserve a free ride? Every time I recommend a play or a recital to someone, the first question they throw back is, “can you get us passes?” Don’t they feel cheated out of that sense of accomplishment that accompanies a hard-earned ticket to something?

A friend who was in college the last time Jethro Tull came to India saved for months to get front row tickets. He carried that ticket around in his wallet for years.

Can a free pass ever mean as much? When the last Harry Potter (yes, I’m one of them) came out I dragged two of my friends with me at 5 am to a bookstore because I wanted to be one of the first people to buy the book. We waited for two- and- a- half hours, with the duo cracking the most awful jokes, until I finally got my copy. The thrill and excitement of the wait is something I wouldn’t exchange even for an advance review copy. Did I say advance? Well for a much-in-advance copy of a Harry Potter... perhaps.

You know those credit card ads that talk about the best things in life being free, they don’t mean ‘free entry’ and they most certainly don’t mean free cricket matches. This obsession that Delhiites have with getting privilege seats and passes is driving people away! Start paying or stop cribbing about the lack of concerts in Delhi.