Food Code

One of the things which has taken a bit of of my time has been the strong social code of vegetarianism in India. I have alternated between being vegetarian and non-vegetarian quite a few times in the last four years.

Just to perk up the conversation, on both the occasions when I was abroad (Bangkok & Hong Kong), my colleagues from abroad were under the assumption that all Indians are vegetarian.

Now, returning to the point, I sometimes wonder why people are so fixated with symbolism. One example would be an early morning routine just a few meters from my office. There would an old woman sitting on the pavement with a bunch of fresh green shoots on one side of the pavement, away from the road and a cow tied to a pole on the other side. People come to her, give her a few rupees, buy some of those shoots, feed the cow and pat it on the head, make a small gesture suggestive of a prayer (?) and then leave. It has it’s meaning rooted in the Hindu psyche that the cow is holy. It would be dilatory to analyse the modern day manifestations of this belief which leads to cows straying free in cities such as Lucknow, because nobody dare touch them for fear of being lynched.

The point is the lack of application of the mind, which leads to such acts placed on superficial arguments. I mean, what is meant by this word called holy? All other discussions in this regard stem from the understanding of this concept. For the sake of discussion, let me put forth the common explanation. If something is holy, one will incur the wrath of evil if one tries to cause harm to this holy object. There are so many terms which need to be deconstructed in this explanation of holiness. In the absence of any of these, people yet set out to project their beliefs on whatever empty mind is available. Parent to child, kith to kin, friend to friend, boss to sub-ordinate and so forth.

The amount of bull-shit that is being strewn around in the name of advice and moral education is unnerving.

Next comes the role of those who judge others on the basis of these concepts. How can I explain to a person who wears leather shoes and gives me explanation on how he/ she is vegetarian because they do not want to cause suffering to animals? What do I say to the people who call themselves vegetarian when they sip their cup of coffee, which is made from milk sucked out of those poor animals?

The next category is the people who comment on my act of flitting between a vegetarian diet and non-vegetarian diet. I am really at loss of words, because I see no difference between crushing an ant and eating fish fingers.One is an act of little consequence and the other is a monumental sin, is it? People are so engrossed in symbolism that the essence of the act has been totally lost somewhere.

In this background, I feel it is of no consequence if one is a vegetarian or not. It is immaterial if I have flitted between these two states in the last few years. For that matter, I think it is immaterial if one remains a vegetarian because his/ her family is vegetarian. I mean, then what is the role of motives in shaping one’s life? Does our mind have a role at all?

Where is my paper?