Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Vindaloo Against Violence" draws 17,000 diners

In Melbourne yesterday, over 17,000 people dined at Indian restaurants as part of the Vindaloo Against Violence initiative. The brainchild of digital media professional Mia Northrop, it aimed to show solidarity with the local Indian community and express a rejection of the violence that has beset Indian students in Australia recently.

By eating a curry.

Now, in one sense the idea could be regarded as the epitome of a kind of tokenistic multiculturalism that many Australians engage in. As in, they embrace the ability to eat different foods without really embracing any other aspect of a different culture. And it would be highly laughable to think that it actually could make a difference where it really matters - in the rates of violence against Indians in this country. And perhaps there could have been the effect of having participants go away with a sense of self-satisfaction at having done something positive and anti-racist when all they did was eat a curry.

But on the other hand, the personal is political, and small gestures do have a wider social context. Food can have such a major role as a social lubricant and a way of bringing different people together and opening eyes to new experiences and cultures. Many Indians here are feeling insecure and under threat by what they see as a climate of racism and violence right now. If all Vindaloo Against Violence has done is shown many in the Indian community that our nation is full of people who do value their presence and do not wish them ill, then that is a very noble and worthwhile thing indeed. So well done to the organisers.

I personally did not take part, although that says more about my lack of friends than anything else. I did however consume a particularly tasty and non-violent Gujarati thali on Sunday this week (which given it was vegetarian, is about as non-violent as you can get). Although judging from the burning sensation experienced by my dining companion later that day, there may just have been an element of violence in it. He should have had more lassi.

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