On being non-vegetarian
Why does India hate non-vegetarians? What did we ever do to you?
My name is Rohan Joshi and I’m non-vegetarian. I’m not slightly non-vegetarian, in that odd Indian way that draws the line at chicken and fish. I’m all in, with both my feet. I eat any and all poultry, seafood, pork, beef, and, if you can manage to cook them right in a delicate honey-mustard glaze, both my feet. I considered going vegetarian once, but luckily the LSD wore off before I could jump off that cliff.
Vegetarians often ask me strange questions like “Will you stop eating meat?” or “Why not go vegetarian?” and “Want to go for Jab Tak Hai Jaan?” The answer to all three questions is of course “No. Katrina Kaif’s lips scare me.” The truth of the matter is more complicated; I respect hard work. And it took us millions of years of hard work to fight our way to the top of the food-chain. So to not eat the meat that our ancestors worked so hard to dominate would be to fail them and the ideals that they strived, spit and roasted for.
Except, it’s hard being non-vegetarian in India. Aside from the reproachful looks of judgment you get from the ‘ethical’ vegetarians, you have to deal with groups who judge you on grounds deemed religious and moral. You’re told that if you eat beef, the Hindu god will spank you. If you eat pork, the Islamic one will. The other day I ate a chilli-beef starter followed by a pork-chop with caramelized onions, so I guess those two have joined forces with the Jain god to create some sort of Holy Avengers to take me down. Do Indian vegetarians imagine a command-center up in the sky, where a giant red light goes off every time I eat meat? That would be cool:
Man at computer: Sir, we’re picking up chatter about some horrible goings-on in India.
God: Is it the UPA again? We’ve already cursed them with Digvijay Singh, I’m out of punishment ideas really.
Man: No sir. It’s much worse. A man just ordered a special mixed-meat grill.
God: May God have mercy on us all.
Man: Ugh, I hate people who refer to themselves in the third-person.
God: Stop fooling around. That man just ate crab-meat. Cancel my appointments on world hunger, infectious diseases, and genocide. Dear God this is serious.
Man: No seriously Prakash, stop with the third person.
I’d be okay defending my non-vegetarianism if it were something I had to do as a part of dinner-table debate, but it isn’t. We live in a country where what you eat can mean the difference between being offered or denied an actual life-choice. And now, a school-textbook for kids in the sixth standard has been found, that says the following about us non-vegetarians: “They easily cheat, tell lies, they forget promises, they are dishonest and tell bad words, steal, fight and turn to violence and commit sex crimes.”
When I was in the sixth standard, you could have written “The world is triangular and made of chicken nuggets” and I would have believed it. Because I was conditioned to believe that textbooks contain academic certainties and facts, not the illiterate opinion of some loathsome uber-vegetarian. And this is what the kids reading these books are going to believe. But let’s examine the arguments that statement makes; Apparently non-vegetarians “easily cheat, tell lies,” and are dishonest. It’s safe to assume that whoever wrote that book is vegetarian, so clearly lying, cheating and dishonesty aren’t concerns that are exclusive to non-vegetarians. Non-vegetarians are also accused of fighting and turning to violence, which is weird because Pol Pot and Adolf Hitler were vegetarian. Narendra Modi still is. (So is Shahid Kapur, but his crimes against humanity deserve a column of their own). And the final accusation in that line is that non-vegetarians “commit sex-crimes.” I challenge any vegetarian out there to be able to even think about sex after a great steak and pie dinner.
I’ve never worn my non-vegetarianism on my sleeve, because I didn’t ever think I had to. But now, as an act of defiance, I will. My non-vegetarianism is awesome. It protects me. From the sanctimonious idiots who believe anything. From housing-societies that thrive on intolerance and ghettoization. And most importantly, from Shahid Kapur.
Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on www.facebook.com/therohanjoshi