People don’t go to restaurants for bread alone
The “multiplier” effect of Social Media and 24/7 News television — the first seeking topics for outrage a minute and the second to fill-up prime time with contrived TRP generating sensationalism — has come as a boon for all rent-a-cause protestors.
So — we had one self-styled woman activist — making the headlines for breaking the male bastions in the sanctum sanctorum of some Hindu temples (but stopping short of doing the same at a mosque). Today — there is another lady bringing the heavens down in the Capital — over a restaurant at the heart of Delhi — allegedly refusing to serve underprivileged children, whom she had taken along for a meal to celebrate her husband’s birthday. No doubt a noble gesture — even if a trifle misplaced and mistimed.
The Deputy Chief Minsiter of Delhi has condemned it as “colonial mindset” and threatened to take action if the allegation is found to be true.
From childhood one has been familiar with tony restaurants displaying the sign “Rights of Admission Reserved” at the entrance. This is a common practice the world over — not just in former European colonies. Is it just about artificial class distinction and snobbery ? Probably yes. But, it is also true that, people don’t go to restaurants just to eat or drink. It’s the ambience and total experience that they pay for. Would they still do so — if the atmosphere does not meet their expectation. How often have we ourselves — shifted loyalties from establishments because one found the clientele of the place had changed over time ?
The old Clubs (well, one can’t deny their colonial past) have also become favourite targets of the proletariat and politicians. In most cases, the root of the hostility can be traced to someone being denied membership or entry into the club (usually for not meeting the ‘dress code’). But, clubs — whether they are snooty domains of a privileged set — are by definition a “exclusive association” of people. Just as one does not barge into someone’s drawing room without leave — people cannot demand entry into private clubs as “a matter of right”.
Interestingly — would the same people dare to gatecrash into 5 Star hotels with an imposing facade and intimidating security guards ? How would some of the media worthies reporting this incident with a sense of righteousness have reacted if their favourite watering hole off Lodi Gardens — was raided by a socially sensitive liberal lady with a bunch of unruly urchins in tow?
One might explain these incidents away as teething pains of an evolving democracy — when the common citizen is suddenlt feeling empowered. Over time — today’s social order will be replaced by a new nobility. But, till then there are bigger social inequalities and discriminations to break; larger class battles to fight — than challenge rules of entry into restaurants and clubs.