What caught my eye was the sign board that said “Veg only”. I first thought it was a restaurant before the slightly inconspicuous “To Let” board came into view with the side note “Veg only” mentioned right beneath it one more time for good measure.
I was reminded of my meeting with an old friend this morning. She was looking to move homes. Hearing that the previous tenant in her new home had been a meat eater (or “non-vegetarian” as we call them here), she had insisted on changing the chimney of the house, a detail she had to share as she was being repeatedly called by the chimney delivery for directions. “A non vegetarian person can never understand how we pure vegetarians feel about cooking meat”, she remarked.
As a person who has shifted camps to vegetarianism four years ago, I can relate.
The very thought of blood and flesh and bones being part of food experience can be downright revolting to someone brought up as a vegetarian. Think of people who faint at the sight of blood – those who make bad husbands as they get nauseous by the side of the laboring wives during childbirth. It is a bit like that, but a strict line that is hard to cross.
As strict as it is, it is, like many other things in India, it is also a very grey line with way more than 50 shades. From vegetarians who eat eggs (lacto-ovo meal, I specify, when I make my airline meal bookings) to those who eat only specific types of meat to those who don’t eat meat on specific days, it can get downright confusing.
Vegetarianism is not strictly religious (except may be in Jainism). Ram, being a Kshatriya king must have eaten meat. More recently, Sai Baba, a very popular God Man is known to have cooked and served meat. In fact, I tend to think Brahmins traditionally embraced vegetarianism as they spent all their time learning scriptures and had no time to practice hunting.
It is not an elevated spiritual practice either. While our social Brahmin sect has traditionally been vegetarian, our Aghoras are famous for hanging around cremation grounds to scavenge for human meat.
Abstaining from meat requires some amount of self control, as people usually get hooked on to its taste. Meat was also thought to increase Rajasic qualities, resulting in arrogance and dominant behaviour. Probably why many scriptures recommend vegetarianism.
But somewhere along the line, eating meat became “impure”.
Where I am getting with this is that India has been an inclusive and tolerant community. We have scriptures that recommend vegetarianism, probably more from healthy living and environmental perspective. We have religious practices that recommend giving up meat for certain periods, more from a self control perspective. But these don’t intend to establish a moral ground for being vegetarian.
This is where I have trouble with meat bans showing up across the country.
A ban, in my mind is an act of violence. A ban allows a group of people in power to impose their notion of right and wrong on the rest.
Yes, it is hard for a vegetarian to use the same serving spoon that was used to serve meat; (may be even use the same chimney). It is certainly a lot healthier to eat more vegetables and fruits.
But it is and should be still ok to have places where meat is accepted and even celebrated. Where would we be without our mouth watering biryanis and fish curries?! After all, it is a problem that a new chimney can fix for those who have issues with it.