First Only – (that too for Free)
By Ranjit Butani
Dear Readers, this article is a figment of my imagination and pure FICTION ONLY.
That the SINDHI COMMUNITY is an extremely enterprising community is an obvious statement, devoid of any need for reiteration. Yes indeed a very enterprising community with enterprising individuals with brilliant and innovative ideas and concepts
One such individual is Gul, an old friend and I want to share with the readers one glorious representative example by relating the extent of Gul's ingenuity and uncanny ability to cope with unexpected situations and appropriately respond to uncomfortable situations when confronted. There seemed no obstacle big enough which was not surmountable by dear Gul.
One fine day Gul came up with this brain wave of hosting a magnificent Sindhi Cultural programme. “Why Gul, whats the need to involve yourself in something you have no experience?” was my query. “Ranjit, its one way of earning some goodwill within the community, making a quick buck and building a network for my business activity amongst the rich and famous, also I get to rub shoulders with the high and mighty from our community and get to become a known personality.” “Good luck to you my friend” I said shaking my head and thinking – poor chap doesn't know what misfortune he's inviting.
Now Gul was very meticulous and thorough in his planning. He booked the 600 seater auditorium for a weekend show; managed to get confirmation of attendance from a VIP local politician as the Chief Guest; ensured that a prominent Sindhi Stalwart would attend as the Guest of Honour and put together a variety entertainment programme par excellence. There would be vocal music by Ghansham Vaswani and Kajal Chandiramani, ballet by Anila Sunder and her troupe – the complete works. He also managed to get Sindhi businessmen to sponsor the programme.
When I met him about 3 weeks before the D-day he was all smiles and brimming with confidence. “Ranjit our community is so magnanimous and encouraging – the sponsorships cover the entire costs and I'll be able to make a quick buck from the 500 odd seats I will sell @ about Rs. 75/- each after providing free seating for about 100 towards sponsors and their families, the chief guest, guest of honour, the artists and a few special invitees.” “Good luck to you my friend” was my parting remark.
The next few days I saw a number of advertisements and announcements about the forthcoming show in Sindhi dailies and weeklies. I bumped into him about 10 days before the scheduled event and noticed he was not his exuberant self but a little serious and lost in thought. “Whats the matter Gul, you don't look your usual self.” “Ranjit, can you believe it, I've not received a single call for purchase of entry passes but I've been flooded with calls from wannabe artists insisting I give them an opportunity to showcase their talent at this show. Also I've received calls from 3 writers who want to get their books released by the Chief Guest on the occasion. They also insist that I am duty bound to do so in the interest of Sindhi literature! Tell me Ranjit what should I do?”
I gently explained to him that he must forget his aspirations of making some money from this show as the community has yet to accept the idea of paying for a Sindhi programme; or for that matter any programme if they can get admission without doing so. I gave him examples of clubs and associations with predominant Sindhi members; where one week before any cultural / entertainment programme the President or Secretary is beseeched with requests for free entry passes. At times it is disgusting to see wealthy members, who do not blink an eyelid while spending thousands at the bar or restaurant literally begging and pleading for a free pass that costs no more than Rs.50/-, And the more incredulous sight is at the programme – these members who'd managed to acquire free entry passes, proudly proclaiming this and make it sound as if the members who had paid for the same were in some way inferior!
“NO WAY – I'm not going to allow any free entry!” said Gul, “But I think I will let the other artists come to the stage and render a few songs. I will even allow the writers to release there books on the occasion.” “But with the limited time schedule of 7-00 p.m. to 9-30 p.m. how are you going to manage the schedule?” was my question. “You yourself have told me that the Sindhi Community is not punctual – So I will prepone the start by 1 hour to 6 p.m. and during this 1 hour between 6 and 7 p.m. I will give the stage to these artists. After all providing them with a full house is not my responsibility.” That was Gul – brilliantly keeping all happy. But what would he do about sale of tickets?
About 1 week before the show I bumped into Gul again. “How's it going, Gul?” “What can I say!” was Guls morose response. “I've received requests for over 400 free seats from sponsors, VIP's, the guest of honour, the 3 writers, the local Sindhi associations etc. etc. I've no seats left to sell – not that I've managed to sell any”. “So what are you going to do?” “Since no one is buying anyway, might as well give in, please all and become a hero.” Good news, he's on the right track, I thought to myself. Trust Gul to work out some advantage form every situation. That was Gul – brilliantly keeping all happy.
About 5 days before the show Gul called me “Ranjit there are 600 seats in the auditorium – 25 rows of 24 seats each, right!” “So whats' the problem?” “There are 24 seats in a row, right!” “So whats' the problem?” I replied. “I have received requests for 400 seats in ROW A!” “I now see the problem”, I said, “What are you going to do?” “Tonight I'll sleep over it. I'll tell you what I do tomorrow!”
Now this was one problem which would really stump Gul. How could he find a solution to seating more than 24 people in ROW A leave alone all 400 of them. I called him the next day. “What have you done Gul?” “I HAVE SOLVED THE PROBLEM” he replied cheerfully. “HOW?.” “That's a secret to which I'll let you on, half hour before the show” he said and disconnected the phone! I kept thinking. HOW COULD THERE BE A SOLUTION!
FINNALY THE D-DAY arrived. I reached the auditorium at 5:30 p.m. half hour before the scheduled start. I HAD TO KNOW GUL'S SOLUTION. “So tell me Gul how have you resolved this issue?” He took me by the arm and lead me into the auditorium. “Ranjit all my passes bear Seat Nos. A1 to A 25. I've issued 24 passes bearing seat No A1, 24 bearing A2, 24 bearing A3 and so on, and as you can see VOILA my rows are not A to Y as they usually are but are marked A1 to A25. The ushers have been instructed to seat those bearing passes with seat nos. A1 in row A1, A2 in row A2 and so forth – free seating within the row. No one can say that they were not given seats in A row.
'Touche' That was Gul brilliantly keeping all happy OR AT LEAST TRYING TO !
Remember friends, its only IN JEST!