Not too long back I was stuck in a jam. There was an LGBT procession in place, a peaceful congregation to appeal to the law to allow them recognition and rights. And many of us had alighted from our vehicles, some in curiosity, others in solidarity, waiting. And that’s when it struck me, partner preferences aside, there was something else that made me an equal part of the procession for I too belong to a diminished minority, one that is losing representation, voice, choice, dinner, et al.
Friends, I am a non-vegetarian and I am proud of it. I come from my own school of thought which decrees that a man who will not kill for food obviously doesn't enjoy it enough and certainly doesn't know the need for it. So, in light of these reflections, I, and others of my ilk, will not join an anonymous group and will certainly not apologise for wondering how vegetarians get by or cope with the general ennui that is the lunch hour, or the dinner hour for that matter.
But standing there as people protested the inhuman inequality that some of us are meted out, I felt close to their cause. We non-vegetarians can empathise for we too have been similarly relegated. The under-currents were felt first when Chateau Margaux organised a dinner with pure vegetarian food. Their logic: the richest business families of India are vegetarian (six out of the top ten to be precise) and hence they must purvey their fine Claret with meals that comprise an onion for a main course, one that had been painstakingly cooked for more than 48 hours. Onion nevertheless. It was exactly like a hearty meat dish that one would normally be served with potato-mash and an onion on the side, but with no meat. Think of it like dancing, minus the music, or a partner, or hands and legs.
If that wasn’t pitiful enough, a popular food magazine decided to forever banish anything meatier than a soya nugget from its pages. This was much akin to a gentleman’s magazine growing a conscience.
Finally and most recently a TV food show scaled the heights of mediocrity when they decided to, and even writing this makes me squirm, go vegetarian! If shoddy food programming that tries to match saas-bahu show TRPs (with equal doses of drama, sadly) wasn’t reason enough to turn off the idiot box, now we have confirmed idiots running the show formats.
What’s the point world? When did choice become a matter of objective principle? Will one be told what to wear next? So why must it be imposed upon us just how we wish to make our way to the afterlife?
Sure there is a health concern when a clear segment of the population is obese and such would affect a countries productivity as also impose a burden on national resources. In fact, I am not against eating greens at all - I quite enjoy my broccoli and Brussels Sprouts I do – but to not have the choice to reach out for chicken and roast gravy or similar when I wish to would be quite upsetting.
Choice is what we have always thrived on, the only way we ever get to experience the thrills of freedom. Choice isn’t without responsibility but the latter is an obligation and can definitely not be considered an outright mandate. So when a magazine and a TV channel decide to remove the essence of choice they are no more a fair representation of that greater cause which they set out to be a part of.
Sadly, the only choice it leaves us then is to switch our reading options, or onto a different channel. But the bigger loss is that the conditioning process has already begun. Society in its effort to clean up the jetsam of all that’s to be considered “deviant” will not only weigh down heavy on communities like the LGBT, they will also throw us non-vegetarians and others similar rebels to the lions. Yes, it will be OK for lions to be carnivorous, provided they eat with a knife and fork I suppose.
Maybe in time we too shall learn to apologise for our carnivorous proclivities. Like sex offenders, when moving into a certain neighbourhood we may be required to put up a sign stating the contents of our daily meals. People may choose to socialise with us accordingly or we may be banned from certain gated communities. Like it already happens, in Mumbai…
Four scores for now, we’d eat in complete silence, shoveling helpings of nothing but vegetables into our systems, trying to keep it down with gulps of water. Every now and then we’d allow ourselves our daily craving but it may not be easy to find. Cocaine could be cheaper by then – maybe even legal – but not satiating enough to stand-in for pork ribs. Our next of kin wouldn't know what is missing but they would certainly sense that empty feeling somewhere lurking. And the old and wise who are left would gather around fires to tell tales of a glorious past when hunting was done for food and food needed to be killed before it could be prepared into something that made sense out of the teleos of civilisation and the human race like no philosopher has done before or since. The only time I am not having an existential crisis is when I am tucking into a good meal that once had a heartbeat and now comes willingly off the bone!