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Ketchup and Our Blood..!

Robert Clements Robert Clements
26 Feb 2024

Last evening, I smiled at the vegetable puff my wife brought me with my tea. It wasn't the puff or tea that made me smile, but the tomato ketchup poured quite lavishly for me. I love tomato ketchup, and many, many moons ago, when Kissan was the only company manufacturing it in India, and it was a rarity in my home because those days, anything tasty or delicious was always rare in most homes, I decided it needed to have a place on our table.

So that birthday, not mine, but my mother's, what a pleasant surprise she got from her twelve-year-old son, to find he had gifted her a bottle of tomato sauce.

Even as she hugged me and thanked me for the wonderful present, she knew I was sure who would be the beneficiary of the gift.

Unfortunately, my ketchup joy was short-lived because our cat, during one of her numerous fights with neighbourhood toms, jumped on the dinner wagon, and that night, when we came home, I saw the floor flowing red. It was my mother who warned me about glass pieces and managed to prevent a devastated me from licking the sauce off the floor!

Then, later, I was shocked to hear that my precious tomato ketchup was often poured lavishly on floors during the fight scenes of old movies. "Bob, don't look so pale, that's not blood; that's tomato ketchup," said my first date as she held my trembling hand at the theatre.

"Tomato ketchup!" I cried, "How dare they waste my precious ketchup, instead of spilling some good ole blood!"

Ah well, we all believe there's a lot of tomato ketchup that's used today, isn't there?

Tomato ketchup poured on Twitter to keep mum about the farmers' agitation, also on unemployment data. Ketchup poured on the freedom of the press, saying all's well. The red sauce poured on hunger statistics so the country won't know what's happening inside. We laugh at the ketchup that flows from lynching incidents, rapes and even recently from Punjab mayor election results. "It's just ketchup," we smile as we hear communal statements against religious communities, and in countries across the ocean, we grin to hear of ketchup laid thick on Palestinian children by Israel and in Ukraine by a bully Russia.

There's tomato sauce all over, till one day, someone screams, terrified, "It's blood!"

"No, it's ketchup!" we laugh and then find the same ketchup on ourselves as we discover our fundamental rights violated. We touch and find its blood.

I shudder as I remember the broken Kissan bottle of my childhood, but in my imagination, as I stumble to clear the mess that's on the floor, I know today it's blood, red and thick, that's spreading all over, while our people fool themselves, it's ketchup..!

bobsbanter@gmail.com

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