Are you still a fanatic vegetarian?
“Are you still a fanatic vegetarian?” an old colleague asked me recently when we met and had lunch together, “Oh Uday, that’s extreme religious fanaticism like Islamic Halal”
“I am a vegetarian. I also encourage vegetarianism whenever possible. But I am not a fanatic vegetarian. Also, no religious scripture commanded me to follow any food habits. What you eat should be people’s informed choice,” I replied.
“But you’ve used the word “Pure Veg”. Isn’t it an anti-progressive statement of purity and caste?”
“Yes, I prefer the ‘Pure Veg’ hotels in case I take outside food. Pure veg means the vegetarian food is not prepared in the same kitchen as non-veg or using the same utensils and equipment used to prepare it. It’s not about pure purity and caste.”
“Still pure veg has an indirect casteist tone. Like, made by Brahmin or upper caste Hindu cook…”
“Ridiculous misconception. Vegetarian is not a holy food prepared by a ‘pure Brahmin’ chanting a mantra. Can you show me a single Brahmin cook in any of the veg restaurants in this state? You may not even find Hindus in many veg hotels here. The majority of the veg hotel staff are Bengalis (read illegal migrant Bangladeshis) who are not even vegetarians. If you check licenses you will know that many veg hotels near famous temples are run by non-Hindus…”
“But ideologically, Vegetarianism a religious doctrine like Islamic Halal…”
“No. Vegetarianism is a choice. It’s not propagated in any Hindu scriptures. Even Bhagavat Gita advices us to eat “Swastik” food. Swastik doesn’t necessarily mean vegetarian food. Indian vegetarianism is essentially a continuation of the practice of non-violence. At the best, it is a cultural evolution, not religious. Halal is a religious doctrine. Muslims have no other choice there. Only a devout Muslim can be a butcher. He must chant their God’s mantra while killing the animal by slitting the throat, slowly draining its blood as the animal fight and gasp for their last breath. It’s a practice done for and by the religion. What’s more, Halal mostly deals with meat, not veg. How can you compare two unrelated things?”
“But I believed vegetarianism is a Brahmin idea”
“The word Brahmin is used for some castes. But the real meaning of Brahmin has nothing to do with caste. Okay?”
“Caste is a reality in Indian social context Uday”
“Even if you take caste, India has only less than 4% of the population as Brahmin caste – it’s a minuscule minority. Still, how come more than 30% of Indians are vegetarians? Even within Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, many communities are traditionally vegetarian. And in my area, a lion majority of ‘so-called caste’ Brahmins eat non-veg. A few families like mine continue to be vegetarian as my ancestors choose a vegetarian diet not because they thought it was more nutritious or healthier than meat. They decided not to kill any creature for their early food. It is a sin to kill an animal for that purpose, they said. Vegetarianism is an ideal that transcends caste, race, color, and land that Western vegans to Mahayana Buddhists can travel together in the same moral vegetarianism.”
“Many people in India won’t allow eating cow meat…”
“You should go and ask them why. How is it related to vegetarianism? There are many areas in India where you cannot eat pork or pig meat. In states like Kerala, political parties celebrate the beef festival. But till today I haven’t seen anyone who dares to conduct a pork festival. These are all local issues that can’t be generalized. I believe that in today’s world, what to eat should be positioned based on one’s own morality. Vegetarianism is just a choice.”
“Aha, that’s a good stand. But you shouldn’t cover up your nose when you see someone eating non-veg…”
“I might, because I don’t like the smell. But what about you people who eat non-veg food? I see many non-veg people getting puked when they see others eating the meat of a dog or cat. Would you eat cockroach bajji, lizard biriyani, fried worms, or baked human meat? Each kind of meat has about the same content of protein and carbohydrates, the only difference is the wide range of fat content. Please don’t ridicule others. Everyone has perspectives. So leave things to people’s choice. I will continue promoting and encouraging vegetarianism as long as that’s not illegal in India. But I am not compelling you to eat vegetarian food. Meanwhile, you should respect my wish to remain vegetarian.”
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