The bold and the vegetarian
As the world celebrates World Vegetarian Day, Dhara Vora invited some of India's most popular representatives to share with MiDDAY readers about their turning veggie tales, and why it's cool to be a part of their ilk
Are you a vegetarian by birth?
Shashi Tharoor, Parliamentarian: No. My parents tried to bring me up to eat everything!
Sushil Kumar, Olympic champion wrestler: I have been a vegetarian since birth, but for my protein intake I eat eggs, as they are very rich in proteins.
Richa Chadda, Actress: No. But since the age of three I have been a vegetarian.
Rahul Sharma, Musician, Santoor player: I was more of a vegetarian. I seldom ate chicken and eggs but didn’t really relish it. So, I decided to turn a complete vegetarian.
Mallika Sarabhai, Dancer, Activist: I grew up in a vegetarian household, Ahmedabad has a very vegetarian atmosphere. By the time I was 15, I had a choice but I wouldn’t want to eat anything I can play with.
Why do you choose to be a vegetarian?
Shashi Tharoor, Parliamentarian: I don’t like the idea of biting into anything which in its living state would have bitten me back! Or more bluntly, I’m revolted by the thought of sinking my teeth into a corpse.
Sushil Kumar, Olympic champion wrestler: I have always been a vegetarian. I think eating what is natural and healthy is beneficial for the body and mind.
Richa Chadda, Actress: I am a Punjabi, and for me it’s not about religion. I am a hardcore animal lover and can’t think of killing an animal.
Rahul Sharma, Musician, Santoor player: It is healthier and I feel more balanced with a fruit and veggie diet.
Mallika Sarabhai, Dancer, Activist: Aesthetic reasons. I have seen photos of dead people with rotting meat in their stomach, I wouldn’t want that. Also, fodder used for feeding cows could feed the world.
When abroad, how do you manage to find vegetarian food? Any interesting incidents related to it?
Shashi Tharoor, Parliamentarian: When I was a graduate student in the US in the mid-1970s, all I would get were salads or boiled peas that accompanied the meat dishes. I ended up surviving on pizzas. Today, it’s not very difficult.
Sushil Kumar, Olympic champion wrestler: It’s a myth that you don’t get vegetarian food outside. People all over the world are opting out of eating meat. Finding vegetarian food is no longer a task. Vegetarian Indian food is available everywhere.
Richa Chadda, Actress: The world is open to Indian cuisine. The Emirates airline serves Jain food! Long ago in Bangkok, I saw a guy selling fries and ordered it but he garnished it with raw fish! I had soy milk for the rest of the trip.
Rahul Sharma, Musician, Santoor player: Earlier, while travelling abroad it used to be difficult, almost lived off french fries, salad and fruit diet. It’s easier now as there are Indian restaurants all over where you can survive on except maybe Greenland!
Mallika Sarabhai, Dancer, Activist: Formerly was, but it’s lesser trouble now. If one wants Dal, Chawal and Sabji in every meal, one can’t travel abroad. If one is okay with eating breads, cheese and salads, it shouldn’t be a problem.
What’s your favourite dish?
Shashi Tharoor, Parliamentarian: Urulakazhanga Uperi, a dish from Kerala, made of potatoes sauteed in a chilli-onion paste and burned almost black in the process. Delicious!
Sushil Kumar, Olympic champion wrestler: Aloo Parathas. They are my indulgence.
Richa Chadda, Actress: It keeps changing but, a creamy Rissotto in White Sauce and White Wine dressing and mushroom... the thought of it is making me feel hungry!
Rahul Sharma, Musician, Santoor player: Indian is my favourite cuisine, next up is Chinese and then, Italian.
I love Rajma Chawal, Chinese Burnt Garlic Fried Rice and spicy Schezuan food; I love Mushroom Rissotto too.