Dear Centaurus Mall, forcing single males to pay a non-refundable fee of Rs500 is elitist and offensive

Published: September 12, 2017
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In 2015, Centaurus imposed a Rs100 entry fee for certain classes of people.

Centaurus Mall has once again fired shots at the lowly invaders of its ‘family-oriented’ atmosphere. I fear this will only get worse.

Frustrated social media users have posted images of Rs500 entry tickets to Centaurus, applicable only to single male visitors. Unlike older entry coupons, these tickets are neither refundable nor adjustable with purchases inside the mall.

#Boycott #Centaurus_MallAbsolutely ridiculous! Centaurus used to charge 300 previously which was adjustable. They're…

Posted by Islamabad~~~Rain~~~Music~~~Walk~~~Perfect Combination on Tuesday, September 5, 2017

It appears that the management of Centaurus has done nothing that is not within the class-warfare guidelines of Islamabad – the face of Pakistan’s elite exclusivism. This is a city, after all, whose well-fed citizens bemoaned the loss of an ice cream shack that violated the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) regulation, but justified the destruction of I-11 slums that left thousands of poor people homeless. The law is the law, unless it interrupts the upper class’s milkshake supply.

In 2015, Centaurus imposed a Rs100 entry fee for certain classes of people. Exempted from the fee were high-ranking government officials, armed forces personnel, members of upper class watering holes like the Islamabad Club, “famous” athletes, and other celebrities. This was eventually raised to a Rs300 entry coupon, which at the very least could be redeemed inside with mall purchases.

Doctors are exempted from the fee as well. On occasion, I personally have been able to avoid purchasing the entry coupon by showing my Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) card at the entrance. Yes, I am a single male visitor as well, but supposedly of a higher class of single males that is better welcomed at Centaurus than the average Pindi boy.

What we have now is an entry ticket that surpasses ‘offensive’ and borders on ‘ridiculous’. Centaurus is not the alpha and the omega of Pakistan’s commercial scene and the pretence is rather baffling. There are other malls and markets in Islamabad – they are all secure, conveniently accessible, lighter shopping centres and they work just as well. To force single male visitors to pay a non-adjustable and non-refundable fee of Rs500 at the entrance is not just politically incorrect, it is a bad business practice.

Would I, as a single male writer, pay Rs500 at the Centaurus entrance just to go in and enjoy a Rs400 cup of coffee?

No.

Sadly, I am not paid enough to justify that cost. Sometimes, I do not have the right documentation to flaunt my doctor-privilege at the shopping mall. One wonders if there are rich shoppers demonstrating their degrees and fancy job titles at the entrance of Packages Mall in Lahore.

After all, if a woman gets gawked at by a single male in Centaurus’s ‘family-oriented’ atmosphere, that creep better have a medical diploma or an Islamabad club membership. Misogyny is misogyny, only when the lower classes get involved.

Perhaps the management at Centaurus considers a fair price for its class control. Surely, none of that high-octane brainpower is going into fixing the mall’s glaring accessibility issues; the long lines at the elevators that pack sweaty customers like refugee boats from the basement parking to the mall above. In addition, if you are struck by falling glass on a stormy evening, then well, who says quality and safety have to go hand in hand anyway?

It is no surprise that we live in a world that favours the rich. Nevertheless, it is appalling when that prejudice does not even attempt to be subtle, when it looks you in the eye and demands that you pay Rs500 to inhale the same air as the upper class. It is atrocious when the elite choose to reinforce class divisions by citing security and using the tired trope of protecting our women from their men.

It is our moral duty to condemn these class control tactics, but there is more – we must condemn the very system that tolerates these artificial divisions.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.