La Tomatina in Karachi and the power of social media

Published: September 24, 2013
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On September 18, 2013, news was received from the event managers that they had decided to change the La Tomatina event in Karachi to a water festival instead.

September 14, 2013 was another day in Pakistan where the rich shamelessly failed to take in to account the plight of the poor. On this day, some 3,000 people got together and pelted each other with tomatoes. “La Tomatina, Lahore” was celebrated at a Bedian farmhouse, shamelessly organised to perfection by HK Events.

One wonders if the people who attended this ghastly display ever thought about the other 50% of Pakistan – the ones suffering from food insecurity and those who go to bed on an empty stomach everyday. While the sheer number of people who are starving in Pakistan may catch many by surprise, a more surprising fact is that this figure has only deteriorated since the early 2000’s.

So, who is responsible? I feel that as a nation, we find it easy to blame the government for just about anything and everything. However, there are moments when we must stop and assess if we too are a part of the problem. It seems like such soul-searching was done by some and the event in Lahore did face a lot of criticism. There were many who raised their voice to communicate how socially irresponsible and unacceptable they found it. Ali Zafar, a freshman at LUMS aptly observed:

“Although we have become immune to the feelings and suffering of the poor, we only have to take one look out of our air conditioned cars to realise that this is not the place to be wasting resources.”

However, regardless of the many voices from within and outside Lahore, the event did take place. Hundreds of tomatoes were wasted without an iota of guilt. Not to be left behind, Karachi soon followed suit, with rumours spreading that a similar event was being organised by Bonfire Events in this metropolis. The event, from the very first announcement, was met with the highest level of criticism from a vast cross-section of society. Since The La Tomatina Lahore had caused quite an uproar, it actually paved the way for the people of Karachi to stand up and take timely and decisive steps to ensure that such a waste is not witnessed again. It was heartening to see that people from all walks of life were outraged at the sheer waste of tomatoes, especially at a time when they are being brazenly sold at the ridiculous price of Rs100 per kilogram.

Consequently, ‘Stop Food Wastage’ trended on Twitter for almost eight hours in Pakistan; this was a huge achievement given that many people came together to put a stop to something detrimental to all Pakistanis.

In addition, a concerned citizen, Aisha Yaqub set up a Facebook page against the event.

While many expressed their outrage on social media, there were others who took it one step further to ensure that the concern was raised in the right quarters.

They sourced the contact details of the event managers and calls were made to communicate their concerns to the organizers. These phone calls were received by individuals who were respectful and attentive to the concerns raised and promises were made to get back after consulting with the team. On September 18, 2013, the event managers confirmed that they had decided to change the event to a water festival instead.

Although this change was also met with some criticism, as it was still considered to be a waste of resources, I am grateful to Bonfire Events nonetheless for the responsibility with which they responded to the concerns – responsibility that was lacking in the event that took place in Lahore.

So, it all comes down to the fact that while we, as a nation, may not be able to solve all our problems in a day, the efforts of vocal and responsible members of the society gives us hope. It was inspiring to see that the people who raised their voice did not have to do so, but instead chose to take responsibility of those with no voice – the less privileged. As Farahnaz Zahidi, at The Express Tribune, put it,

 “Being able to feel is a blessing in itself.”

At the end, I would like to salute the people who stood up for this cause and ensured that such wastage is prevented. People like you keep hope alive and at times, hope is the only strength needed to make miracles happen.

Ali Rahman

Ali Rahman

A banker who lives to love and respect humanity and Tweets @Baahirezaman (twitter.com/Baahirezaman)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Rahul

    I think this article is misguided. You cannot stop living because there are hungry people in this world. So what do you do? Stop all celeberations, weddings, merriment etc. until everybody is rich? Are you kidding me. These people should be applauded for trying to enjoy life in the disaster that is PakistanRecommend

  • gp65

    Water festival? Cannot bring yourself to call it Holi even though throwing of tomatoes was going to be called by its Spanish name not just plain vanilla ‘tomato festival’.

    Anyway, if social media is so effective in modifying behavior, the next action it should take is to send out twitter messages saying ‘Stop bhatta’, ‘ stop kidnapping”, stop target killing’. Do let me know how that goes.Recommend

  • 007

    Nice to see a sensible blog.Recommend

  • Iram

    Storm in a tea cupRecommend

  • adii

    yahan pe to bara khayal aa rha hai sab tweeters ko k TOMATOES zaya na ho… what happens when people go for buffets and waste the FOOD with both hands which as mentioned above 90 M pakistanis dnt have enuf.. and how can we forget the thousands of rs individuals spent for dinning at lavish resturants??? and its not the mighty rich who spent lavishly.. us pakistanis love to spend on luxuries.. im not in favor of such events.. but pakistanis should now stop criticising on every single event tht goes around…Recommend

  • enjay

    Ok everyone how about we applaud what the social media folks actually did instead of bashing them too? Maybe show a little respect? We cant expect to wake up and find the world a better place one fine morning. Lets take it a step at a time.Recommend

  • سارا مزمل

    Dear Rahul, celebrations and merriment is obviously something positive that everyone enjoys. However, it is grossly disgusting to be wasting food so blatantly in a country where many go hungry on a daily basis.Recommend

  • سارا مزمل

    1. Holi is not just a water festival. It has several other things such as colour, bhang etc.

    2. Change comes in baby steps. There are hashtags that talk about all of the atrocities you have mentioned in your comment and more. Some have influence, others don’t. That does not mean people should be silenced.

    Cheers.Recommend

  • سارا مزمل

    You are absolutely correct in your personal opinion. Food is wasted in large amounts at weddings and buffets. However, just because we cannot make a difference there does not mean that we stay silent everywhere.Recommend

  • Shaka

    When fearing from Allah erased from hearts, then ways of obscene are open for all without any fear…Recommend

  • Ghalib Khalil

    Great work Ali. I have personally witnessed you working hard on this issue. Hats Off man. You have the power and indeed youre the power. Awesome JobRecommend

  • Ziad shahbaz

    A truly well written BLOG. A must read !!!!Recommend

  • Rameez Javed

    @c807149b7de1a520446ca057d03c91a0:disqus – really disappointed to hear this out from you! An event was about to take place where 100’s if not 1000’s of tomatoes were about to go to waste. May it be even the smallest of considerations of a concern to be put up in the face of social media & a change that needs to be brought on, this is an effective step and a gauge of the power of the public! Living out on a lavish lifestyle in a country where you see the poor & next to defunct people at every signal stop asking for a rupee while you sit in your car about to throw up a party & get wasted? Listen up! It is within you!

    @abc5b6dc6d7ef3e147a42f2a4284dcf1:disqus – Jitna khayal hoska kara unho ne! If you are talking about buffets, many places do not throw out the left out food! They package it and send to a lot of charities & or their employees board it out!

    When such events are not suited for a country – they are not! This small change showed the power within us and our ability to make things better! Either stand up to something if you see something is going wrong or just become a part of it.

    We are playing our roles – Are you?Recommend

  • sars

    nope noone has to stop living. why can they not enjoy without wasting food?
    But as we like to keep reminding everyone , we are predominately muslim, this is a religion that asks you to not waste a morsel of food, and if you dont have enough to share with your neighbours then dont send your kids out to eat infront of them.
    How can this food wastage be justified in a poor country where a large proportion live below the poverty line?Recommend

  • Muhammed Usama Aziz

    At least appreciate what is going good instead of criticizing each and every thing. If you dont stand up for smaller things, you cannot ever stand for bigger things! So stop criticizing and do your part!Recommend

  • Ali Rahman

    Thank you…Recommend

  • Ali Rahman

    Adii, while your views are appreciated, there is a difference between spending at personal events and publically organized events with an objective to just waste food. Although I agree fully that such expenses/wastage need to be checked at home front as well.Recommend

  • Ali Rahman

    Rahul, indeed we need to continue living. However, a society, at large is a represtation of the nation. Un fortunately, in our country, times are not normal and therefore, it is felt that each and every one of us need to be watchful and do whatever little we can to curb evil. As Mr. Jibran Nasir, a advocate, mentioned in a vigil arranged for the Peshawar blas victims, if the events unfolding around us are not normal, how can we then continue with normal lives. Having said that, the event was changed and indeed the effort is applauded. Thank you for your feedback.Recommend

  • Ali Rahman

    There is no sea without a single drop :)Recommend

  • Ali Rahman

    Have no issues calling it Holi and respect each event/festival in itself. Only thing is if you would look up and read on Holi, the festival has a religious background and celebrates a particular event. Hence I disagree with calling it Holi everytime water/color is played with. Furthermore, social media is indeed effective. Wish you had followed how more than 100 countries within Pakistan and many outside Pakistan became one in demonstrations/protests against Hazara blasts. Having said that, indeed there is a need of maturing and I believe social media in Pakistan will also go through its natural learning curve. Stopping this even may just be a small example of what marvels can be done. Regards.Recommend

  • aa

    ridiculous act!Recommend

  • Waqas

    I think you you are not using social media very often go to FB and Twitter where almost everybody raise their voices against Bhatta and Kidnapping. Why always critisizing.
    I think its a very good article.Recommend

  • Waqas

    If someone spent thousands of rupees on foods that does not justify that we should waist resources of such stupid festivels. This is not justification of that event.
    Plz stop criticising on every single artice. If we dont raise our voice against these silly eventys then they will become part of society.Recommend

  • Waqas

    Why you people always takes everything so negative. So you are saying that such events should take place. Why you comparing it with weddings. What do you mean by enjoying there are other ways as well why waisting foods and it is also prohibited in Islam as well.Recommend

  • shahid

    sara, i read all your comments and very impressed with your positive frame of mind. keep up the good work.Recommend

  • Sanam

    Positive story. And yes it is sadly true that nothing can be achieved without shouting loud and raising hue and cry.Recommend

  • Jamal Gulzar

    Water festival?

    Just go to a water park and have a good day.Recommend

  • Parvez

    You win some, you lose some………….but you never give up trying.
    On this issue Karachi + 1 , Lahore – 5…………..shame on you Lahore.Recommend

  • s

    oh no how pretentious!Recommend

  • سارا مزمل

    Thank you :)Recommend

  • huss

    well they could have just raised the price of registration/attendance fee and used the profits for charity, that way everybody is happy. Peace.Recommend

  • Sajjad H K Awan

    If something is happening around without damaging the roots of our religion then I am with every such move otherwise totally against it. I am surprised that beside doing hulla gulla and something that somehow fueling the anger of Allah …. why we are not getting united by offering sincere prayers as a nation before GOD and beg for His forgiveness? Yesterday we faced a massive loss of precious lives, today we again faced a great anger of GOD through a heavy earthquake and loss of precious lives, why we are still going against the rule of Allah? Were we not informed by our holy Prophet (PBUH) about the sins due to which we can be caught in troubles and the signs of dooms day? …. gender mixing, vulgarity, rape, earthquakes, and all the problems Muslims are involved or facing today are the clear signs and proofs …. Why we are not getting united against the Media that is spreading disappointment in our society every second? Why we are not getting united against the forces that are propagating vulgarity in the name of enlightened moderation? …. I wish one day we gather as a nation on roads, parks, public places etc. and recite holy Quran, offer prayers and repent to Allah Almighty with full devotion …. that day would be the day of unity when we will say “NO” to anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan forces in a true sense …. there is no concept of success or unity without the will of Allah….ALLAH Almighty give us Hidaya and show us the right path … Aameen
    Sajjad H K Awan
    Lahore, PakistanRecommend

  • Sajjad H K Awan

    To all my blogging friends ….. I damn care about your views who said that it is not a wastage of food but just a way to release tension and get united as nation ….
    PLEASE READ A CLEAR SAYING OF OUR HOLY PROPHET (PBUH) ON WASTAGE OF FOOD …..
    Mafhoom:
    One day Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) entered into his house and saw a piece of dry bread on floor. He picked it up and at it up after dusting. He called up Mother of Ummah Hazrat Ayesha (R.A) and said, O Ayesha (R.A), respect the food, because if Allah lifts up food of any nation, He never returns it back to them.
    Now we should look at our self and our intellect, are we able to neglect any saying of our holy Prophet (PBUH) ? or is there any doubt ?

    God Knows Better !Recommend

  • gp65

    I did not suggest that anyone should be silenced. I was just asking that people need to have reasonable expectations about what social media can achieve. I certainly thing hat Karachi should be congratulated for avoiding such a waste which pod countries like ours can ill afford.

    For the person. That said it cannot be called Holi because Holi also has bhang, I would like to say that Bhang is not a prerequisite. On one day people play with water and on the other day with color.

    @Ali Rahman- I am quite aware of the origin of Holi, just as I am about Xmas or St. Valentine’s Day. But when non Christians follow the rituals of Christmas such as having a tree or putting a gift under the kids bed, they are simply celebrating the festival without owning the religious significance. Same thing with St. Valentine’s day which is also celebrated throughout the world and not just by Christians. For the rest, it is just a day they give cards and chocolates to a special person and perhaps go out for a dinner with them with nary a thought to the actual religious significance. By the same logic the festival could have been called Holi but for the dislike for all things Hindu.Recommend

  • kooooki

    if they have so many tomatoes to waste why not donate them to the poor.
    this event managemnt company needs to go diga hole and jump in it in a rotten pit worm infested dung. idiots.
    the real problem of pakistanis is ke ‘ cool ban na hai’ no matter if it is socially irresponsible.
    atleast those who critised showed they have a heart!Recommend

  • koooki

    yes lets go kill people, murder,loot and rape too while at it, im sure its a source of fun and merriment too, who gives a two hoot whether its socially responsible…you only live this life once dude!!….ughh…

    just because you are not responsible for ‘them’ being hungry does not mean you should not do something to stop them from going hungry to bed.
    morality and conscience is not exclusive to certain beliefs, compassion is a universal concept, learn it please!Recommend

  • Aslam Shaikh

    Lahori Badshahooo! Please don’t waste Tomatoes we need it desperately!Recommend

  • Sonia

    How can one change ignorance even in those that claim to be educated. Knowing and understanding the situation of so many peoples lives around us, how can so many, without a speck of guilt in their soul, with complete confidence say, “so what”? They could’ve used this crowd to instead take that truck load to people’s houses and gave them two days meals!just my opinion…Recommend

  • Sonia

    At buffets food is eaten. Not wasted under people’s feet in huge volumes. Can’t even begin to compare the two it’s so ridiculous. Stick to the point. People went to this event with the intention of throwing it in the garbage.Recommend

  • Sonia

    It really all depends on how insensitive a person is towards the pain in the people around them. One person will be the type who will leave his own food when he sees a hungry kid, just to let that kid get one days meal. Others are like u, with a who cares attitude, Let them die. It’s not our problem. Like I said, ppl who see the difference in such people who have a soul and others who don’t, will react and see the point. Places like Spain can afford tomatinas-Pakistan can’t. There are millions of other ways to have fun.Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    So they wasted water in a city where water is scarce. Good!Recommend

  • Furqan

    dont worry, we dont live thousand years .. We will get to know the importance of everything on judgement day :) then we will know “ZIndagi na mileygi dobara” and Game Over ..
    May Allah show us the righteous before its too late :)Recommend

  • Sane

    I congratulate people of Karachi saying NO to such nonsense events.Recommend

  • Salman-HBL

    This nation is suffering for healty entertainment deprivation. When you ban youtube, Basant etc etc…public will find their own ways of entertainment.Recommend

  • Chouhan

    Why we have turned into heartless group of peopleRecommend

  • Chouhan

    Why waste basic things like food or water. there are so many other ways to enjoy.Recommend

  • Jamal Gulzar

    Yes I totally agree!
    but it is more important for our Muslim brothers to copy foreign trash than caring about the poor!Recommend