Yesterday was the birthday of our younger son, Derek. So, for dinner, we had one tomato.
I had gone to the market and selected the tomato. It was not the best tomato, but nearly the best. The best costs Rs. 40 per kilo, this cose Rs. 38. I had picked it from a pile of tomatoes, carefully studying the texture of its skin and testing its ripeness. The vegetable vendor has said: "You have selected a very good tomato, sir. And it is a bargain. Soon this also will not be available, what with the fresh burden on the corporate sector in the new industrial policy."
The wife had wondered whether she should boil it or scramble it in eggs "naturelle will be best. The chidren, who have forgotten what a tomato tastes like, will experience its original taste."
So there we were, sitting at the birthday dinner, with the tomato. There were, of course, other dishes, but the tomato was the main item.
The wife asked: "Shall we have the tomato first or as the dessert?"
"Let us have it as an entry," I said.
My elder son, Darryl, said: "I am not going to have anything else, I will only have the tomato."
"I said: "Now there is not that much tomato that you can onlu have it and fill yourself. It is only a medium-sized tomato and everybody has to share it, not just yourself. After all, it is not even your birthday."
Derek said: "It is my birthday, so I should get the largest slice of the tomato."
The wife siad: "Everybody will get equal shares. And those who do not eat the rest of their food will not get their share."
My dog, Bolshoi the Boxer, who was also participating in the birthday dinner, asked: "Do I also get a chance to partake of this wonderful fruit that you are talking about?"
"It is not a fruit, it is a vegetable," I corrested him. "And it is the most expensive vegetable in the world, more expensive than Brussells sprouts. As a rule, dogs are not given expensive vegetables, but you may have a little of it. And I hope you appreciate that."
"Will you carve the tomato, please," the wife said, passing the dish with the tomato in the centre, and a large carving knife and fork on the side, to me.
"I think Derek should cut it, since it is his birthday," I said. "And we will all sing Happy Birthday while he does so."
It was a nice tomato, we enjoyed it very much. Afterwards, Derek asked me: "When will we eat a tomato again?"
"I do not wish to raise any false hopes in you," I said, "so I will only say I do not know. May be one day, perhaps when Mr. Chandra Shekhar or Mr. V.P. Singh become prime minister once again."