To start, a quick riddle:
I am round.
I am red.
I have seeds.
I am a fruit.
Ok maybe not the best riddle I have ever crafted. Especially in conjunction with the title of the post. Bit of a give away, eh?
But I blame my disturbed state of mind for this lack of creativity. Would you be making flummoxing riddles if you were dealing with existential dilemmas? Would you spend your time carefully honing the edge on the punchline of a mere riddle when you were wondering why you were ever born (or grown)?
I grew up on a farm surrounded with others of my tribe. We little green spheres grew on creepers with stars in our eyes. Us little green ones watched in awe as older tomatoes turned a bright shade of red. Turning this way and that they managed to get the light glinting off their lustrous coats as they awaited the greatest adventure any vegetable could look forward to.
To be caressed by human fingers, turned this way and that, and finally being chosen to be plucked! We heard rumours and epic stories about the adventures these picked tomatoes underwent. Laying down their lives for achieving what they were born to be. A ketchup here, a curry there or even to serve in the humble green salad.
What a thrill it was when I first sensed the faint murmur of adulthood. I could see the other green tomatoes stealing glances at me as I was the first one to grow a faint aura of orange. I was so proud! I was growing well, the orange hue was fast turning into the deep deep red of the best tomatoes, our heroes who hold our banner high in the vegetable / fruit world. I could sense it.I was destined for greatness.
And indeed the journey started with great promise. The moment the farmer came in to examine our plant he reached out, almost hungrily, towards me. It was my proudest moment. The farmer took less than a second to examine me. I was such a perfect specimen that to be picked was but a given. I looked back at my still-green brethren. And I will not lie, I could see that they were jealous and I felt elated.
Maybe this was the folly for which I find myself punished now. Who knows, karma works in such mysterious ways.
I braced myself for my adventure. I had heard that the ripest tomatoes were taken to the back of the kitchen and converted into fresh ketchup. While this was an honourable adventure I wanted to retain my essence a bit longer. I knew I was a good specimen of my tribe and would've loved to be in front of the final customer. Afterall to reach the table more or less intact I would be able to see the glow and awe on the faces of the diners as they reverentially partook me.
"This is a bright red one. Let's keep it as an accompaniment"
I could've died when I heard this. I thanked God and mother-creeper for the great genes they had bestowed on me. I was going to be showcased. No better career could a tomato have. I was going to be a hero amongst tomatoes.
I knew things couldn't be without pain. Lofty goals are seldom achieved without sacrifice. And so it was that I took the searing pain of getting cut into two in my stride. I was nearing my destiny and this was no time to be overwhelmed.
But my preparation was still not complete. The chef took me and gently fried me a shallow dish of oil. Ah, more pain. But I could see by the smile he had on his face as the flavour wafted up that I was still performing beautifully. I smiled as I knew I was nearing the fulfillment of my ultimate destiny.
I was part of an English breakfast ordered by a discerning customer. As I was gently lowered onto an exquisite plate I could see a mound of scrambled eggs, some baked beans, a fried egg, some mushrooms, some bacon and a couple of sausages. Oh what joy, I was the only one leading the charge for vegetables. A leading part on debut! I was delirious with joy (I hardly considered the mushrooms as worthy characters in this production of 'The Breakfast').
However, little was I to know what awaited me. Sigh, how naive I was.
The knife and fork rose and I expected any moment to reach my zenith. To finally reach the fate I was preparing myself for since my childhood. To be devoured and savored and to satiate the human for whom I lay down my essence.
The eggs disappeared. Then the beans. Again and again my hopes were raised as the fork reached in my direction. Again and again my hopes were dashed as it picked out the other characters. Even the lowly mushrooms seemed to be preferred over me. Me, with my shiny coat and bright red colour. Oh, how my tribe would laugh at me if they saw me. Thank God that wasn't going to happen.
But alas, this was a day for complete annihilation. The human picked up a bottle. The ketchup that poured through seemed to be accusing, "Atleast we fulfilled our role. What did you do?" The torture continued till the entire plate was wiped out except one morsel. Moi. The bright hero who no one wanted.
And so I speak to you from the bottom of the garbage can. And I am not alone. Most of the bin seems to be filled with fried tomatoes. Proud, bright red tomatoes that seem to be bewildered at their fall from grace. Some of them have already lost their minds with grief while others are bawling with sorrow. I, however, have managed to hold on to my controlfor one final project. A plea to all chefs and humans - make ketchup of us, make us into soup, shred us or puree us but for heavens sake don't fry us as a side dish.
PS: The idea germinated when ST (legendary chronicler of itchy feet) and I met up for breakfast this Sunday after almost an year. While matters of international importance were discussed, we were unanimous in our support of the cause of the plight of the poor fried tomato. We believe it is never eaten, and we will not stand by while this torture is inflicted on the brave tomato.