It is not that I suddenly began to despise non-vegetarian food. As far as I remember, I had always been a non-vegetarian. Sundays especially were special days when I got to eat the delicious ‘mutton-thow pyaaza’ cooked excellently by my father. Mummy was a vegetarian and would have nothing to do with anything non-vegetarian so, Papa did all the purchasing, cleaning, marinating and cooking.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process as I could walk along with him to Linden Street in Bangalore where they sold meat. As a small girl of about six years or so, the weekly walk meant a lot to me. This was way back when the computer was unheard of and Bangalore was as beautiful as it could ever be. At other times, whenever we went to the club, the restaurant or visited friends, tandoori chicken, butter chicken and chilli chicken were my favorites apart from mouth-watering biryani.
I can still remember just how I used to feel as I chomped away all the juicy flesh. Never once did it cross my mind that non-vegetarian food need not be a necessity. We could do without it too (no offence meant to the strict non-vegetarians!). In fact, I took great pride in calling myself a non-vegetarian. After all, it placed me in the league of my father who I loved and admired so much! That it left my mother with her solitary vegetarian meal did not bother me. I was too busy relishing delicious food like any other tasty dish. That is what mattered.
And then, I got married. No, no, my husband was no sagely vegetarian! He was as hard core a non-vegetarian as I was. In fact, he had tasted other kinds of non-vegetarian food too like crab, lobster, prawn etc, dishes that I had not been exposed too or had not taken a fancy for. My husband and I continued with our non-vegetarian rendezvous. It was fun but sometimes, I found myself discussing about the ethics of non-vegetarianism. I was yet to become a mother then, so my husband and I were free of major responsibilities. We were going through the phase when we were getting to know each other better. So, we would discuss about a host of issues, some just to pass the time, some serious ones too. And, giving up non-vegetarian food figured in one of these conversations. Now, don’t ask me who started the topic. I do not remember that but what I do remember is the thought that I should be able to give up non-vegetarian food some day. Time passed. My baby came into this world. Too busy to think of anything else other than feeding, rearing, cooking, etc my mind did not even bother to think of the non-vegetarian issue.
Out of the blue, several years later, I found that I was not exactly enjoying non-vegetarian food like before. Maybe, I had reached a stage when I had had my fill of non-vegetarian food. I seemed to have reached a point when my mind began to dwell on giving it up altogether. When I asked my husband, he gave his casual, “Why not?” and we left it at that. For many born-again-vegetarians, giving up non-vegetarian food can be for several reasons. Maybe, they feel that it is spiritually wrong to kill an animal and then eat it. Some give it up for health reasons as non-vegetarian food especially meat is said to cause heart disease, colon and prostrate cancer and obesity. Many state scientific reasons like the dangers of boric acid used by food producers to conserve fish etc causing probable liver damage and seizures while beef and pork are known to release a lot of toxins into the bloodstream.
The Mad Cow disease and Bird Flu are commonly known current dangers of eating non-vegetarian food especially meat and chicken.But then, I did not know all this when I decided to give up eating non-vegetarian food. I was simply no longer comfortable eating it. Whenever offered I would eat it but something inside kept thwarting me. Finally, after continued failed efforts in giving it up I made one last final attempt. I was to visit Varanasi the coming winter. It is said that one is supposed to give up something in the holy city of Kashi. Again, I was not aware of this.
I went to the Ganges river for the traditional dip and made a spontaneous vow.
“I am going to give up eating non-vegetarian food from now on.”
The year that followed this vow was difficult for me. I found opportunities sprouting up like unending saplings of mouth savoring non-vegetarian dishes being spread before me. It would be a friend calling us home for dinner or some friends visiting us. I even encountered one or two close acquaintances who quaintly accused me of upsetting nature’s balance by not eating meat.
“After all, it is the survival of the fittest,” they would say.
To my dismay, I even found my husband continuing his non-vegetarian streak with an unimaginable vengeance. I kept telling myself that if I really want to give it all up from the bottom of my heart I need to only remember my vow. And, remember I did.
This was about three or four years ago, just some years before my mother passed away. I knew she was happy that she now had somebody to share her vegetarian meals after years of watching my father, me and later, my husband enjoying our non-vegetarian delicacies. Today, I cook non-vegetarian food like before but it does not tempt me anymore. Apart from that, I know that I have a host of healthy vegetarian choices of tasty food in the form of Indian, Mediterranean, Latin American and Asian food available for me. And, before you mistake me, I do not vehemently advocate going vegetarian to anybody. After all, it is a personal choice taken for whatever reason – spiritual, moral, health or environmental.