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Staged brawl, for what?

Last updated: 25 September, 2011
Kavya Balaraman 20:59 IST

Foreign festivals

When Shashank, a Bangalore-based musician heard that the La Tomatina festival was soon to be hosted in the City, he was shocked.

Splash: Aping the West has become a fad.  He had heard of the tomato-throwing orgy before, but never imagined it would be popularised in this country. He says, “It’s one thing that this festival is celebrated in Spain. But over here, it’s nothing short of a crime. Don’t people have any idea about poverty and hunger-related death statistics in India?”

The fact remains, though, that several western festivals are finding immense markets in our country. Hardly anyone had heard of La Tomatina — a sort of Spanish version of Holi, which is played with tomatoes — before it was popularised in the Hrithik Roshan-starrer Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. A mere two months later, plans were made for grandiose La Tomatina celebrations in Bangalore and Mysore.

Another foreign festival that has struck root in the City is the Oktoberfest, which originated in Munich, Bavaria. The original festival includes costume parades, gun salutes and copious amounts of beer. But certain liquor and hotel brands in the City have picked up this opportunity to convert it into a commercialised venture.

While several hotels have introduced special menus and offers in honour of the beer-filled extravaganza, a three-day Oktoberfest, which will involve several prominent rock bands and individual artistes, is to be held in Bangalore from October 22 onwards.

What is most astonishing is that a whopping 75,000 people are expected to attend the celebrations.

But why are these western festivals finding takers in the City?

Naveen Rao, a surgeon, believes that a lot of this can be attributed to the globalisation effect. “Earlier, people used to think twice before travelling to Mumbai. Today, trips abroad have become exceedingly common. People see the different cultures that exist there, and then try to ape them when they return,” he explains. He believes that these festivals have an allure for Indian markets, “They appear fancy, and have a glamorous appeal. A lot of youngsters take to them, and so they become instant crazes.”

Shashank, on the other hand, believes that the phenomenon has less to do with globalisation and more to do with making money. 

“This is just a fad which is started by a select few people, and promoted by event management companies. It’s simply a business idea for them. But in the case of La Tomatina in particular, I think it would make more sense to give those tomatoes to hungry children rather than throw them at each other,” he says.

Another school of thought suggests that these festivals are becoming popular in the City because they offer youngsters something that Indian festivals don’t — freedom. Syed Mustafa, a professor at HKBK Engineering College, elaborates, “Youngsters face so many restrictions at home, and are simply looking for an excuse to have a good time. Festivals like these represent a sense of freedom to them, which is why they catch on so fast. However, one can’t tell how long the interest in these festivals will last.”

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