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Sorry state of Diwali melas

art and culture Updated: Oct 14, 2009 18:03 IST

Hindustan Times
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With the festival of lights round the corner, Delhiites are flocking to the upmarket Diwali fairs happening in various parts of the city. The most sought-after ones are the hi-end fairs organised by NGOs in aid of some charitable cause in the grounds of some consulate or embassy. The socialite crowd, too, throngs such melas in quest for lifestyle products and designer gift items. But sadly, these fairs have also become opportunities for some to take advantage of the high-paying capacity of the "posh" crowd.

One such mela was recently organised by the NGO Akshay Pratishthaan in the Swiss embassy grounds at Nyay Marg. Although the fair boasted of a separate food court, the organisers cleverly didn't keep any stalls or facilities for drinking water or soft drinks. There was just one stall, marked under the name Radhika Gupta, which had three guys sitting behind a table with nothing displayed on it.

The security guard kept directing the thirsty souls, exhausted after the shopping spree and looking for some soft drinks, to that stall. The "managers" of this stall were selling cola cans, with MRP Rs 20 clearly marked on them for Rs 80 each. The water bottles with MRP Rs 12 were being sold by them for Rs 100 each. When this reporter tried to argue with them that it's illegal to sell bottled water and soft drinks at a price higher than the MRP, the man behind the counter haughtily replied, "Then go and look for water wherever you can find it."

There were many who, despite arguing, were still shelling out the exorbitant amount, out of sheer necessity for water while the owners of the stall shamelessly accumulated cash. "I can't believe this. I would have never bought a small bottle of mineral water for Rs 100 had my daughter not been crying out of thirst," said a German woman who refused to be named.

"That is why I find it difficult to trust Delhiites. They try to make money by any unfair means," she ruefully added. "The stall next door is selling bhelpuri for Rs 150; it"s so shocking!" said Akanksha Sehgal, a DU student who had come from Mayur Vihar to see the fair.

The popular Diwali mela organised at the Blind School grounds next to Oberoi Hotel, was also full of disgruntled visitors. "I just bought a bottle of "Nimbooz" lemonade with MRP Rs 10 for Rs 25, just because they wouldn"t budge from the inflated price. We didn't have a choice," said Kriti Pandey, a media professional. Looks like these charity fairs are not quite charitable when it comes to fleecing visitors looking for an evening snack.