I read the deploring letter from the tomato festival organisers/initiators/sympathisers, published in this forum recently, who did not dare to reveal their names or other true identities that could doubtlessly link them to a particular tomato event. Upon reading, I felt a little confused — not by their vacuous argument in favour of such an event in India, but by their decision to stay anonymous. I felt they were intentionally hiding — not from a lynching mob of self-deprecating hypocrite liberals — but from their own public wretchedness in supporting such an event. Their own defence of the tomato events was lukewarm, conflicting, unsure and pleading in nature. So much so, that the only concession they could extend as a justification for the cause was to assure us that they were not going to use “fresh” tomatoes for this event, and would instead use “soggy tomatoes”.
They seem to be saying that these tomatoes are already rotten, so not edible, and that makes these events not narcissistic, anachronistic and prickly that we ‘educated, Left-leaning intellectuals’ assume them to be.
In fact, they presume that these events are beyond that — they think that the prospective revelers of tomatoes in India are just a bunch of cool folks from Bangalore (oops Bengaluru it is now!) who just want to have fun. And instead of appreciating this innocuous intention in its true simplicity, we, the anti-Tomatina crowd, are just making a mountain out of this breezy molehill that make us very ‘uncool’. They want us to understand that there is always a social ’cause’ and a philanthropic ‘message’ embedded in a venture that cool guys organise. They further continued this absurd reasoning by arguing that in India, vegetables such as tomatoes anyway get wasted every day due to lack of cold storage and other infrastructural deficiencies, which somehow seem to justify the existence of events like Tomatina.
Just like Marie Antoinette, they seem to be asking: “If we don’t get fresh tomatoes, why don’t we use tinned tomato purees instead? And why can’t we throw the rotten ones at each other for fun?”
I am just scared of such reality orientation.
They also seem to be arguing these events bring justice for tomato farmers as well, albeit in a warped way. The corrupt middlemen traders may never give farmers their fair share for all the tomatoes they grow, and events like Tomatina could pay these farmers a fair price and thus uphold social justice.
As I read their directionless sermon on the virtues of rotten tomatoes, I kept on wondering about their motivation to organise the festival — and then write this letter — at the first place. They must have seen the macro-economic numbers that highlight India’s hunger index. I kept wondering if these ’cool’ folks from urban India are outraged over the recent petrol price hikes. Are they mad at the wage disparity in our country? Are they angry at the ever-increasing wealth gap in our society? Do they know our unorganised labour is ever increasing? Does their outrage make them throw tomatoes at the corrupt powers that enable such discriminations?
I wish someday, by some inadvertent flip of fingertips, their iPad2s take their Google Earths to Kalahandi, where people feed boiled wild leaves to their hungry offsprings day after day. Where the primal desire for food is also the primal desire for pleasure.
Consciousness of this later kind could actually make them truly cool.