The much-hyped sixth edition of Saras Mela on Thursday opened up to a lukewarm response despite Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal presence making it a mega affair.
The 10-day mela - organised by the union ministry of rural development and panchayats - failed to attract visitors. Leaving aside VIP's and cops, only school students made it to the venue.
With mercury raising high in the day, enthusiasm in the students' fizzled out slowly.
Even though over 500 artisans and artistes from across 25 states had been participating in the fair, its pulse kept dipping, and as soon as the CM left the venue so did the crowd.
Most of the handicrafts brought by artisans from across the country remained under awnings with craftsmen whining that the customers' ears dropped the moment they heard the prices.
Craftsmen from Kashmir said, “This year, the fair failed to pull audiences. The selection of the venue can be a possible reason. The only buyers here are students. The moment we tell them the prices, they walk to the next stall.”
While the stalls remained empty, the cultural events became the centre of attraction, as pathos of Punjabi, Rajasthani and Uttar Pradesh folklore filled the venue with enthusiasm. Artistes from across the country gave exhilarating performances.
As dancers earned plaudits, the spectators roared for more with thunderous applause. The pinnacle of the cultural event was Malwai giddha rendition by octogenarians.
The magnetic performances by artistes from Vrindavan made the audience sway to the tunes of spiritual mystics.
Though the performers enthralled the audiences, but they complained that they were underpaid by the organisers.
Vishnu Sharma, a choreographer with Bhartiya Kala Sansthan, said: “We have just been paid `400 per artistes even though our costumes are far expensive than our daily wages. The government says that it's making efforts to restore the dying culture, however, it is paying peanuts to the artistes. If the art is not given its due it will fade away soon.”
While the fair had lots of ups and downs and mixed bag of emotions for the visitors and the artistes, the most surprising element on the inaugural day were the cops, who enthralled the audiences with their bhangra and Malwai giddha performances. The spectators were shocked to see their very own serious cops dressed in vibrant cultural attires dancing to the beats of dhol.