Last evening as I looked up from my writing, I smiled at the vegetable puff my wife brought me along with my mug of 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 Kisan was the only company manufacturing it in India, and it being a rarity in my home because those days anything tasty or delicious was always rare in most homes, I decided that 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’m 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 neighborhood 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 dishum-dishum 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 in 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 unemployment figures, 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 on 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 smaller countries by larger ones and on poor civilians by a powerfully backed nation state.

Then one day, someone will shout, “It’s blood!”

“No, it’s ketchup!” we laugh till, suddenly we 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 Kisan 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 you people think it’s ketchup..!

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.