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Between Hunger And Excess

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I have always suspected that we Indians are schizophrenic.

On one hand, we send our children to the best schools and colleges, hoping that they would get a seat in the best professional colleges across the world, earn money in dollars, travel to Hawaii and the Far East for holidays.

On the other, we would be outraged if our sons (forget about daughters) married outside the caste. God forbid, the son should marry a woman from another religion! An American (white, female) wife would not be so bad, as long as she respects the in-laws and, of course, her husband. If marrying her brought home the green card, so much the better, so long as she does not blurt this out at family gatherings.

Short of touching their parents’ feet every time they saw them, we want our sons to observe every religious custom and celebrate every festival, no matter how insignificant. But of course, we raise our sons (and daughters too) to be equally at home at the office parties, raising toasts to their brilliant futures.

This schizophrenia is not limited to the personal. Our public life is a study in abnormal psychology. To be caught by the traffic cop while speeding, who senses your urgency and asks for the mandatory Rs 100 and to give it without batting an eye lid – and then crib about the fact that nothing moves without bribes being given, is an everyday occurrence. We will shake our heads at the morning newspaper and pronounce ominously, “this country is going to dogs, ” before getting ready to go to work, where we will either sign files or get files signed only when the mandatory Rs 500  is exchanged.

One other example of our collective schizophrenia, which we are seeing today, is the huge ocean of humanity which has pledged it support to the Anna Hazare campaign. Don’t get me wrong. I am pro-Anna or like our co-protestors are saying, “I am Anna.” I also dislike losing that Rs 100 to the traffic cop and I literally burn up inside before I give chai money to the ‘operators’ from the telephone department, whose job it was to have set right my telephone connection, a fortnight ago.

But what really amazes me is that once we are home and dry from our own Ramlila Maidans, how quickly we get back into our Hyde selves – each one for himself/herself. We sure are glad that Anna fasted for us. But we are even gladder that it is not us who are doing the fasting. Corruption we are going to fight, but in the meanwhile if there is a buck to be made, some fun to be had while making it – we will not let that opportunity pass us by. Even if it means bending a rule or two, or exchanging some moolah this way or that.

It is said that 30,000 people marched to the Freedom Park in Bangalore a few days ago – to show their solidarity with Anna. To show our corrupt politicians their rightful places. And to tell the world that we are not going to take it lying down. And now someone tells me that a group of people are going to meet again in Bangalore – not to stomp out corruption, but to stomp on the lowly tomatoes.  In the true spirit of ‘we live but once’ – and at a measly price of Rs 1100/- they are going to stomp on hundreds of kilos of tomatoes. After all, it is clean fun.

Paying thousands of rupees to stomp on tonnes of tomatoes – in a country which ranks 66 out of 88 countries on the Global Hunger Index (GHI), a country which is home to the world’s largest hungry population- around 200 million who go to sleep hungry each day.  A country where dowries are asked for, and given – happily or under duress, everyday. A country where millions of its citizens are called lower castes, and treated as inferior beings. A country where women cannot walk confidently in public. A country where millions of people come out  day after day in support of a non-violent crusader. Surely, there is something wrong here. Or maybe, I don’t get it.

Asma has done her Masters in Journalism and worked with several newspapers in Bangalore and Chennai. She is at present, a full-time mother, a part-time editor of her own newspaper –Positiv+ and a sometime media consultant with several organizations.

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10 Comments

  1. August 28, 2011    

    Superbly penned! Schizophrenia indeed! How true.

  2. KADAM KADAM
    August 29, 2011    

    Shame… but nothing can stop SADISTS GALORE….

  3. Nitin Nitin
    August 29, 2011    

    Asma,
    I am running a campaign against the tomatina festivals that are to take place in Bangalore and that is when I stumbled upon your blog. It is an extremely well written article and it is heartening to realise there is still some sanity left in our country. I shared your blog on my facebook page without your permission but would like to ask you now if is ok for me to do it :)

    I will be glad to remove it if you think otherwise.

    I also welcome you join our page on https://www.facebook.com/pages/WTF-is-Tomatina-in-Bangalore-Use-that-money-to-feed-the-poor/210926535631478

    Warm Regards,

    Nitin.

    • August 29, 2011    

      Nitin, do put our link on your site so that people can come back and read the story on the site or mention our site when u share, thanks
      Reema (asma will get back to you am sure:)

  4. Praveer Praveer
    August 29, 2011    

    Indyeah!-Abundant in Contrast

  5. asma asma
    August 30, 2011    

    Thanks for reading the article. Many more thanks for feeling so strongly about the insanity that goes on in the name of fun.
    Nitin – I had started a page called Protest the tomatino festival on FB. Please check it out. There are people who want to protest against the festival in Bangalore. I will also share the link of your page there, so that they can get in touch with you.

  6. Nitin Nitin
    August 30, 2011    

    Reema, thank you ! This article has been very popular with members on my page and I will continue posting it on a regular basis for the benefit of new members :)

    • August 30, 2011    

      there is another one on the same subject nitin..do check that too :)) thanks!

  7. Ashish Soni Ashish Soni
    August 30, 2011    

    appreciate. Its a thought for everyone to imbibe in daily life, so that we dont have face a calamity to be united

  8. rajesh arora rajesh arora
    August 30, 2011    

    first i wd like to thank zoya akthar for not making these guys ie katrina, abhay, farhan n hritik roshan to visit some nudist club in spain otherwise only god knows what wd be happening here.
    jokes apart, i think u are so right when u say that in a country in which 200 million sleep hungry, hw can you destroy 100 of kilos of food meant for consumption just for sheer celebration. I think organisers must realise this n device some ways by which poor people here are not at all affected They can easily import these tomatoes from china. The ship will take only 12- 15 days to reach chennai port and another 2-4 days to be cleared and trucked to bangalore. Or they may double the ticket money and half the money they get from ticketing can be utilised for making godowns with better storing facilities in punjab n haryana where tons of unconsumed grain rot every year due to poor storage.And there can be a lot of other ways by which they can not only make this event happen morally unburdened but also help poors.

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