The Pakistani rendition of the Spanish tomato throwing festival has the making of a great social gathering for Lahore’s youth. But its participants should bear in mind the fact that the country is home to millions of starving civilians when they go about hurling food at each other.
On Saturday, September 14, Lahore will be painted red, for La Tomatina – the Spanish tomato throwing festival annually held during the last week of August in the Valencian town of Buñol – has found its way to the city. The event, which caters to the city’s adolescent crowd, is being organized by a company called HK Events will take place at a farmhouse on Bedian Road from 1 PM to 7 PM.
Its description, as seen on Facebook, is as follows: “Music, Food and.. TOMATOES! These words perfectly sum up the world’s biggest food fight “La Tomatina” that is held in Spain every year!And now on the 24th of August (note that the date has been changed), for the first time, Lahoris will experience the same rush by drenching each other in squashed tomatoes whilst grooving to the beats of the best DJ’s from all over Pakistan. Just when you’d think can’t get any redder, water would be sprayed at the crowd for endless rounds of smash and squash! Remember, everyone’s a target! So wear your oldest tee and shoes and let your wild side take over. “Bring on the madness to La Tomatina!”
This should be an exciting gathering for those intrigued by the concept. After all, it is one-of-a-kind, never having been conducted in Pakistan before. However, the conveners of the event may not have spared a thought towards its insensitivity for the feelings of the common man – somebody who struggles on a daily basis for the sake of a single roti to feed the entire family. It shows the apathy that many of the privileged show those who barely have the means to survive.
The United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) stated that 50 percent of the country’s population, or 83 million people, were food insecure by the year 2010. This number increased to over 90 million as a result of the catastrophic 2010 floods that inundated one-fifth of the country’s land mass. The program’s website states: “…worryingly poor nutritional indicators recorded in the recently launched nutrition survey: including 15.1 percent wasting among children aged 6-59 months, with levels of stunting and underweight at 43.7 and 31.5 percent respectively. One third of all child deaths are associated with malnutrition, and micronutrient deficiencies are widespread. An estimated 51 percent of women and 62.5 percent of children under five are anemic.”
The statistics show the severity of food scarcity in Pakistan and the extent to which many of our fellowmen are being affected by starvation and malnutrition. It is criminal that tomatoes – commodities that may be considered lifesavers by such a large proportion of the population – are being tossed around like water balloons for the sake of the merriment of a few teens, when they could be utilized for a much greater cause.
It should be noted that this piece is not meant to question the right to participate in it La Tomatina. Indeed, organizers and participants alike have every right to partake in it as long as it is being paid for with their own money. But I do hope it would get them to reconsider. There are so many of our countrymen who are dying because they do not have the access or the earnings to afford the simplest of food items. Can we at least show them some respect and not play around with their means of survival?