a year ago

When tomato makes an irate wife leave her husband

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Tomato is considered a superfood because of its nutrient-dense contents which offer a whole range of health benefits from supporting healthy skin to weight loss to heart health. It can help fight cancer, diabetes, constipation and light-induced damage to eye. On the count of popularity, it is the fourth most popular fresh-market vegetable behind potato, lettuce and onion in the USA.

In terms of popularity, the vegetable's ranking in countries like India and Bangladesh may not be available but it is likely to be quite high ---certainly higher than lettuce. With so many benefits and popularity among the peoples, tomato has of late made news for a completely different reason.

The story runs like this: A man running a dhaba (eatery) with his wife at a place called Dhanpuri in Madhya Pradesh added just two extra tomatoes in food that is prepared for tiffin supply without his wife's knowledge. Discovering that he has done so, she started arguing against the logic behind using two extra pricey tomato. There ensued a heated argument and hours later, the woman left with her little daughter. For three days the two were traceless and this forced the man to look for help from the police. The police were later able to find out that the woman with her daughter was staying at her sister's home in another town.

This incident looks like a family feud. Indeed, disagreement over trivial matters at times may irk one or the other of a couple. But wives do not leave their husbands so often and rarely do the husbands. However, the reason behind the wife becoming so irate in the Mahya Pradesh case is not quite dissociated from economic compulsion. Economic turmoil for low-income groups almost all across the world has pushed them on to the edge. Even the more tolerant at times lose poise and throw tantrum.

In the Indian couple's case, it is the high price of tomato that fuelled the feud. In the retail market of India a kilogram of tomato was priced at Rs 150-160 at the time the couple quarrelled. Other vegetables have also registered considerable price hikes. In comparison, prices of tomato hit the record Tk320 mark on July 14 last in markets of Bangladesh about the same time the couple fought over the addition of two extra tomato in curry. Prices of other vegetables are far below in India compared to Bangladesh.

How the outrageous prices are affecting conjugal or family life in Bangladesh can be a serious subject of extensive socio-psychological studies. Tomato is unlikely to be the cause of leaving a husband by his wife at the social level here where inflation has hit hard. It is because, many families have already adopted the policy of doing away with nutritious food items and even gone for reduced intake of the staple. They have their backs to the wall.

People in this part of the world once were highly rebellious. Now they are suffering in silence, although there are more reasons for them to protest the artificially created short supply of commodities by syndicates to fleece the consumers. The authorities are, according to their own admission, business-friendly. In the election year, it could not be otherwise but the ordinary people also deserve to enjoy their due rights. They must not be subjected to pay more than the rates beyond a reasonable profit margin.

Floods have not affected Bangladesh as much as they have done India. But that country's saving grace is its vastness so that crops damaged in one or two states do not affect production on a large scale. There is news that a farmer in Maharashtra sold tomato worth Rs 20 million recently. Like him other farmers in his area also made good profit from the sale proceeds of tomato. In Bangladesh, a farmer in Jashore also garnered hefty profits from what he calls 'untimely crop'.

Farmers here have become more enterprising and resilient in growing vegetables and fruits including the exotic varieties. But they are not as much beneficiary as the traders are. In India, this is impossible. Profit margin cannot be yawning enough to fleece the consumers.

Last but not least, only 200 years ago, tomato was considered poisonous in the USA because the plant belongs to the nightshade family. In Bangladesh too, tomato was least popular even in the 50s and 60s of the last century. Before 70 or 80 years it was called 'tak begun' (sour brinjal or eggplant or aubergine) and very few villagers knew about sauce, salad, pickles and stewed preparations from it. People's tastes change and change continuously.

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