Lavish event management gone wrong

Lunminthang Haokip *

The Urge To Hold Events: Every Kuki who had arrived as a social icon to reckon with has this incorrigible urge to splurge in a social event. All costs are calculated. Life is short. Accidents make it shorter. What's the harm in burning a few hundred thousands of rupees in exchange for life-time recognition of one's achievements ?

So thinks the upwardly-mobile Kuki who can afford to smash a costly mobile hand-set at the slightest provocation. SAIL (Steel Authority of India) claims that there is a little bit of steel in every man. Likewise, there is a little bit of showmanship in every Kuki.

The man of the moment who has arrived in the social scene, with a bang of the cymbal, would not settle for anything lesser than a glittering bash in which the 'glitterati' in his social circle should come. Famed crooners must lend their voices and add spice. This is imagined to increase the prestige percentage of a do. Thrift is thrown to the winds when 'Mogambo' is in 'khush-hua ' mode.

Reasons To Hold Events: In a democratic set-up, you can never predict the future of an ordinary guy who hails from an obscure hill village or a backward small town. Political changes driven by the forces of clannish one-upmanship equations, at times, catapult an erstwhile "lacking Jack" of pitiable standing to the enviable position of a "showy king" through the mysterious plotting, weird machinations and honeyed-talks of staking spin-doctors.

The hurt sentiments of those who were trampled on the way to unbecoming prominence, and at whose expense the undue success happened, need to be pacified. The hidden motive gets cleverly covered up in the festive splash of a social bash. One-time estranged friends shake hands in such a gathering, uneasy blushes are exchanged, ice is broken and groupies are clicked to capture moments of cordiality when the past becomes passť.

Unexpected Success: A critic once said, "Success in competitive exams comes about not as much due to one's good performance as much as due to the poor performance of other competitors". I believe there is an element of truth in the wise observation.

Pu WL Hangshing, Retd IAS, who held different top-level posts in Government of Manipur, said that the total marks he scored in the UPSC-conducted exam that lifted him to the big league of IAS was less than the total marks he scored in the year he was offered IPS. Luck and chance also play a role in appointments to high posts and positions.

In certain cases, promotions also favour the less-deserving. Success by default calls for celebration to make things appear hard-earned. Yet, no one can contradict the fact that "Success is getting what you want; but happiness is wanting what you get". In cases when you do not like what you are getting, despite the success, your happiness will still be half-baked.

The Initial Hurdle: The most difficult part of holding an event is delivery of Invitation Cards. You may wonder why ?

How insignificant in society you may be, you have your own friend-circle, past class-fellows and former glass-fellows, relatives who talk about you in superlatives and the ones who spat expletives on you, people you put up with but would actually like to put down, acquaintances who expect invitation but you think they deserve isolation and powerful dignitaries you cannot afford to ignore. List settled somehow, there is the problem of delivery of the invitation cards.

As the host, you have a hundred matters to take care of. You end up entrusting the odd job to any available man-Friday to learn the misses later, through verbal hisses, that the bunch of cards meant for a particular area finally landed up in the hands of an even more unreliable person who played truant and bring embarrassment to the event management.

The poor host who can't multi-task to oversee all the knick-knacks of the proposed bash, gets the brickbats for no fault of his. The sad part is that there's no time to explain things to each of the 'aggrieved' party.

Managing Egos: Kuki bashes are mostly held in the back blocks. Maddening urbanization leaves little parking space in the big towns where other facilities are easy to hire. Country-side venues appear picturesque and ideal to accommodate thousands of invitees but participants have to either hire a vehicle to make it in the far-flung place of celebration or have to spend heavily on fuel expenses.

The extra-expenditure incurred on conveyance makes one extra-sensitive to the manner in which one is welcomed or attended to or otherwise. The host, for all the attention, can't personally meet all the guests.

He has to rubber-neck here and there with make-belief flashes of smile. People come with all levels of personality. Some are brazen. Others are shy. The shy ones who fail to gather enough spunk to go up on the stage and greet the host silently suffer 'imagined' neglect. Such are the diverse mental make-up of different categories of guests that it's next to impossible to make all feel happy.

Tales of Wail: A lady from Sadar Hills had to go back from an event in Chandel district without presenting her gift simply because she was not given the VIP-reception she desired. A reluctant invitee from Imphal felt terribly let down that the host did not look straight at him flaunting a 100-watt smile while they shook hands.

A socialite, in the height of her vanity, preferred to go starving in a bash where the hostess failed to bestow upon her the importance she thought she ought to have got. And yet the most complicated issue to settle on the part of an event-manager is the nursing of a secret urge on the part of some invitees to address the audience out-of-turn outside service order.

While the assertive lot want to say something, the host fiddles in fear of his event being dubbed boring, when short speech becomes 'sot (long) speech. When there's controversy between the priorities of the host and the hosted, tension looms large. The host who thought he would be some sort of 'Prince of Wales' by showing goodness to all, becomes a 'prince of wails!' Instead.

Food For Thought : In an event, although a time is given for arrival, human nature being what it is, schedules are not kept. Some reach early to rue over the hurry and others come late without feeling sorry. The economics of management fix the time for feasting, in print, after the programme is over.

Many of the invitees who had to start early in the morning of the day from a long distance are compelled to sit through the meeting with hunger gnawing at their vitals. And if the service drags on like the monsoon rain that does not know when to stop, the hungry lot have to leave the event before feast-time.

The only way to salvage a bash from being mis-managed in this regard is to open the kitchen throughout the day. The cost incurred would be the same, more or less, but the management would be saved from the taunt of acidic tongue-wagging.

At times the crowd turn-out exceeds the estimation of the event managers. In the back blocks, caterers are far to seek. So, due to shortage of foodstuff, some have to go back hungry, and angry !

Gifts Wrapped In Self-Importance : For all the teachings on self-denial in Church-messages, we have not quite learnt the finer implications of self-denial. The craving to underline one's participation in an event manifests itself in the form of a demand, through a small chit, for a slot to present a gift from the stage.

When scores of invitees suffer from the same I-sickness, the meeting is stretched to intolerable limits. What is the need to go ostentatious in the full glare of the audience when one could have silently submitted one's gift-packet at the reception counter, if desire is not to show off one's importance or the lack of it ?

This old habit doesn't change even in a funeral service. It will, hopefully, change only when one is the 'centre of attraction' in the latter service. In funerals, the purpose of the gathering is to mourn over someone's demise, and to comfort the surviving family members. So it's a time not to keep flaunting one's impulse to impose one's prominence under 'super-check.'

Announcement of VIPs: In a big meeting, biggies attend along with small fries. Vanity in bigness demands recognition and snobbery in smallness craves for appreciation. At such critical junctures when one's status is undermined in public, VIP may as well become "very insecure person". So, lesser mortals make it a point to announce big names and designations in a given assembly.

However, at times, due to nervousness or ignorance, smaller guys are made more prominent than bigger ones. This "pardonable human weakness" becomes unpardonable to the victims of management lapses. The beleaguered host, at the end of the day, mentally vows never to arrange another event.

But when fortune favours his family again, he forgets the messy past, and gears himself up to go full throttle in stitching up another bash. All said and done, the best event is yet to be managed. A perfect one, of course, is imaginary. Reality, as of now, is oddity.

* Lunminthang Haokip wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is an IAS (Retd)
This article was webcasted on May 05 2022 .

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