When I first saw the Tomatina festival in Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara, like many other people out there, it undoubtedly got added in my bucket list. A list of things which I want to do/visit in my lifetime. So visiting and attending International Tomatina festival which is held every year in Bunol, Spain became my dream. I had never really dreamed or thought I would actually visit and would attend the festival for real. Since 2011, this thing had in my mind and with the flow of time, it disappeared and a few other things over-took the space.
So, I had almost completely forgotten about La Tomatina and my list. That day, I was listening to Bollywood songs on YouTube while cooking and a song from the same movie started. I said to myself, what a great movie it was! I really liked it and, and..?? Oh God, how can I forget about that scene, that part of the movie which blew my mind and skipped my heart for a while? I so wanted to do it that time and how can I forget about it now. Now, when I am so close to it. Now, when I am in Europe and can actually do it. I left everything I was doing and sat down near my laptop, opened a new tab and searched for Tomatina Festival, Bunol.
There it came. I read, “La Tomatina festival is held every year in Bunol, Spain on the last Wednesday of August. People in there has been celebrating this festival since 1945 and is purely for entertainment purpose”. I saw the date, it was something in April 2017. “Bam, I have plenty of time to prepare”, I said to myself. I saw all the details like how to travel to Bunol, entry tickets to the festival and all other necessary bookings. I started again with the cooking and resumed from where I left it with my mind all occupied with the Tomatina and it’s thought.
That day, as soon as Deepak came, I told him that I have been dreaming about this moment since so long and that we should go and attend the festival. He agreed and yes, flights are booked for Spain in April and we are travelling to Spain on August 29th. Yayayyy, I was happy, too happy and literally started planning for the tomato festival since that very day.
Days passed by, followed by weeks and months. We were finally in Valencia, Spain and I was so eagerly waiting for tomorrow morning when I would actually living my favourite moment and would be visiting the La Tomatina.
We got up very early that day. With all the excitement of the day keeping aside in our mind, we got ready and left for Bunol from Valencia. We were staying in Valencia and decided to take a day-trip to Bunol and the festival by train. We arrived at the beautiful Valencia railway station some time ahead of our train and you know, sometimes we feel whoever person we see around us, we feel that person is also travelling to the same destination we are going to and even for the same purpose. And trust me, every person I was looking at the station, I was thinking he/she is also travelling to Bunol for the festival. Ahh, damn.
Finally, after some time, we started our journey to Bunol. Bunol is around 60-70 min far from Valencia and there are frequent trains on the routes. The train was fully packed and I knew for sure everyone was travelling for the same purpose. After around 70 min, we reached Bunol station. Considering the number of people and all, there was quite tight security everywhere around the station and in the village. We started walking with the crowd. The location of the main event was around 1.5-2 km far from the railway station. We were walking fast towards the location while taking the glimpses of the small and beautiful Bunol town yet rushing a bit.
By the time we reached the main location, we had already missed the main part of the event in which trucks filled with the tomatoes comes and everyone squeezes the tomatoes. I was a little disappointed by looking at the crowd at the ticket and bag counter and realised to spend at least 30 min in the queue.
Almost after long 30-40 min, we submitted our bags at the counter and got our entrance tickets to the event and now, I couldn’t control my excitement. I literally ran inside and the next view I saw was so unreal.
There were 4-5 big trucks filled all with the tomatoes, and every single person was almost completely immersed in tomatoes.
Everyone was red, tomato residues lying on their hairs, clothes and god knows where all. It literally thrilled me and for a moment I was like, “am I actually going inside it? My hairs would be full of tomatoes, I will stink and god knows where all these tomatoes will go.” And all of a sudden I got this little jerk from the backside and in next blink of a second, my head and shoulder were full of tomatoes.
“What the hell? Who the hell did this? This is so disgusting. It actually stinks real bad.” While I was saying this, this man while pouring some tomatoes on Deepak said, ” only you were looking so clean and we can’t see that” and he ran away. Ahh, Deepak and I, we both were looking at each other with no expressions and laughing our heart out.
Now as we were already half-immersed in tomatoes, we decided to move forward into the crowd until we completely become full red just like tomatoes. People were standing by the road, completely red and wet and as we were moving forward and half red, almost every other person was pouring tomatoes or you can say tomato puree on everyone. It was that moment and feeling when they say, festivals always bring people close to each other.
It was the same feeling. We didn’t know any person in there but everyone was so happy, excited and friendly and while they were attacking us with tomatoes, we were also started doing it back to them, which made us laugh a lot, share a smile with numerous strangers out there. What a great and magical moments were those! Everyone, irrespective of their gender, colour, religion was equally happy, excited and was sharing the same laugh and smile with each other. We were really enjoying it a lot while throwing some squashed tomatoes at each other.
After almost 2 hours when we were all wet, red and tired, we decided to move out and get us clean. It was a difficult task because of the crowd. Anyhow, we managed to get out of the whole place after 20 min of continuous walking and realised the nearby showers are too crowded to wait. We were all wet, stinking and were freaking cold as we were looking for showers. We saw the natives of Bunol village were so kind and nice and they were giving water from their own houses for many people to get clean. This water supply lasts for not less than 3-4 continuous hours to almost an entire day. We also cleaned ourselves a little bit at the nearing neighbour’s house, took our bags and started our return travel.
While on the return route, we observed so many similar natives who were offering water pipes, towels, drinking water to tourists. It really felt so nice seeing how welcoming and big-hearted these people are. On our way back, we had Spain’s famous paella rice and beer and jumped in our train back to Valencia.
Again, the almost the entire train was full of red coloured people, some already cleaned themselves while some were still full of tomatoes. It was fun to share some stories and experiences.
I closed my eyes for some time, as I leaned on the nearest window of a fast-moving train and was recalling every bit of this fun-filled day and how much thankful I am to my life and my husband who gave this day to me and how much I loved living it and lines automatically crossed my mind:
“Pighle neelam sa behta hua ye sama, Neeli-Neeli si khamoshiyaan
Na kahin hai zameen, na kahin Aasmaan, Sarsarati hui tehniyaan,
pattiyaan Keh raheen hai ki bas ek tum ho yahaan
Sirf main hoon, Meri saansein hain aur meri dhadkanein
Aisi gehraiyaan, aisi tanhaiyaan Aur main sirf main
Apne hone par mujhko yaqeen aa gaya….”
Some tips before you visit “La Tomatina”:
- La Tomatina is held every year on the last Wednesday of August in Bunol, Valencia.
- Book your tickets in advance. Though you can buy one at the venue you will have to wait really long.
- You can go for a day -trips to La Tomatina festival to and from Valencia, Madrid or Bunol. You can book your seat here.
- Same is with your bag. Either carry plastic bags or wrap your bags with plastic covers or simply don’t bring any. Because the queue at the baggage counter tooo long to wait for.
- Make sure you wear comfortable clothes and one which you don’t want to use again. Because it will be really a hard task to take them away with all the tomatoes and their smell. We literally dumped our clothes there.
- To enjoy the best view and moments, reach the venue a little ahead of time so that you can get a good place to stand.
- If you are travelling from Valencia or any other city by public transport, try to take a return ticket.
Lines from a Bollywood movie “Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara”