Lindsay Pereira: Can you Beliebe this lip service?
Justin Bieber performing at DYâPatil stadium earlier this month. File pic
I didn't attend the Justin Bieber concert for a number of reasons. This has nothing to do with the fact that I have good taste, or that I don't understand why what he does outside a studio tends to get more attention than what he records inside, or that I have wanted to lock him in a room with a good book ever since I heard one of his hits called 'Bigger', which includes these lines: "Put your tooth under your pillowcase/ No, I won't, I won't ever, ever let you down/ Like a seesaw lets you down you know why/ Cause we ain't on the playground no more baby."
I didn't attend the concert because it's almost impossible for anyone interested at a cultural event to appreciate it when it's organised in Bombay. None of the events I have attended in our city have ever been satisfying.
This has nothing to do with the acts on stage, of course, because they have often been magical. It's what happens off-stage that has always left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
When Michael Jackson performed here in the 1990s, for instance, there were lines that went around Andheri Sports Complex, disrupting traffic for hours. When Deep Purple played at the Brabourne stadium, the barricades set up inside were broken soon after the music began, and people with cheaper tickets shoved those who had paid more out of the way, because shoving comes as naturally to us as spitting on the streets.
Until the Internet appeared and we were granted the possibility of booking tickets online and on smart phones, queues regularly resembled lines at the bank, with people waiting for hours in the sun, completely unsure of whether or not they would eventually get a ticket at the end of that wait.
Things haven't changed, despite the fact that a number of people who organise concerts now are experienced hands - people who attend Glastonbury and Burning Man before trying to replicate the success of those exhilarating events here. Some of them get it right, until they are let down by a government that neither has the will, nor the vision to support them. Others are forced to shut down because corruption makes it impossible for them to earn anything
remotely proportionate to the amount of effort put in.
Justin Bieber performed (I use the term loosely, of course) at DY Patil Stadium, a venue that isn't known for its proximity to anything, anywhere in Bombay. Approximately 40,000 people turned up, apparently, because that's how starved for entertainment we are in our country of a billion people. A lot of these guests paid a large sum of money, begged, borrowed or stole some, then flew in from all corners in order to watch this young man sing things like "Chillin' by the fire while we eatin' fondue, I don't know about me but I know about you..." Some of these 40,000 people presumably got what they wanted. What a lot of them didn't get, despite the arm and leg they had auctioned in order to afford a ticket, was stuff like dustbins, toilets and drinking water.
According to media reports, there were no dustbins inside or outside the venue. This can happen only in a place that treats all its surroundings as dump yards, and where organisers know they don't have to care because we have a government that routinely ignores things like cleanliness with impunity. The toilets were supposedly filthy, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has ever dared to enter any public toilet in what our government refers to as India's financial capital.
As for drinking water, people had to shell out as much as Rs 150 per bottle. Because why regulate prices when you can steal under the guise of running a business operation? It's how movie theatres, airports and malls get away with deciding what to charge too, thumbing their collective noses at the Maximum Retail Price.
Those who stayed until the end had to deal with the nightmare of clogged roads and utterly unmanageable traffic - another routine problem that exists because no one cares what happens after costs are recovered. We are all treated like cattle, and not with the murderous respect now shown to those bovine animals.
I am told Justin Bieber spent more time lip-syncing than singing. I can't blame him. He must have realised what event managers and our ministries of culture have long accepted as the norm: The audience doesn't matter.
When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira. Send your feedback to email@example.com