Saturday Features

The vegetarian

  • Every Dashain season, those of us who don’t eat meat hear the same questions and face the same mockery
- Bibhu Luitel

Oct 13, 2018-

Now that Dashain has begun, so many people I know have already started making plans to buy goats and sheep of a fair weight. “Let me enjoy kebab, korma and taas. You can indulge in ghiraula and farsi,” teased a friend who keeps mocking me for every little thing I do. And with the holiday season, the vegetarian jokes have also begun.

I grew up listening to comments like this. As a child, they would bother me. I never got to eat meat because my mother was a vegetarian. And she was a vegetarian because her mother was one. So my ‘rule’ of not eating meat comes from my mother’s side of the family. There would be times when I thought I should start eating meat, fish and eggs because everyone around me, including my father, was an omnivore. I never actually did it though. With time, I started realising that not eating meat was perfectly okay.

I have heard all of the sardonic questions that meat-eaters ask those who don’t eat meat. The most common one has to be, ‘What are the poor herbivores supposed to eat if you continue eating their food?’ In return, I choose to express my sympathy with the carnivores whose food they are head over heels in love with. A few laugh it off while others carry on with their illogical debate. To be honest, I do not mind either. Then, there are a few of the insurgent kind, who go so far as to ask, “What would you do if I say I exchanged my plate of momos with yours?” Now that’s scary. And there are others who ask me to start eating buff momos because according to them, veg momos taste like grass and flour combined. I do not really have an answer for that.

My vegetarianism has often been linked to some kind of religious practice as well. “Are you a Vaishnav?” To this, I shake my head. The questioning does not stop there. “Does that mean you are a Krishna Pranami?” I am not even sure what that is. Then comes this huge word called ‘Brahma Kumari’ whose meaning I had to google when I heard it for the first time. I always end up explaining my reasons for not eating meat to people who have greater knowledge of religions and sub-religions than I do. But still, they do not stop questioning. I often get asked if my mother cooks meat for my father. Now that surprises me, as there are people who, even today, believe that a woman prepares or should always prepare food for her husband.

There used to be a popular joke that cows and buffaloes do not have to put on spectacles, as all they eat is grass. I have few friends who still remember that and keep reminding me of it. I wear spectacles worth a few dioptres. Perhaps you can already imagine what they must be saying to me. This is one of the most stupid, yet fun, things I have to come across. There are restaurants around my office that serve really good food. One of them sells kathi rolls of all kinds. They have an open kitchen, so customers can clearly see everything that’s being cooked. I once happened to see the ‘chef’ there chopping meat and veggies using the same knife, tossing them into the same pan, before rolling them separately and serving my colleague and I. I ate the roll. That’s what I do when I eat out. I do not care about the utensils they prepare the meal in. Or, the oil they use for frying because I know that life will get harder if I do not learn to adapt to things like these.

‘I do not believe you’re a vegetarian because I have seen you angry’, ‘your life must be really boring’, ‘you should consider taking protein supplements’. These are common refrains and I am sure many vegetarians out there can relate. Yes, I get angry when you try imposing your preconceived notions on me. That has nothing to do with the food I eat. No, my life is not boring. There are other fun things to do than eat meat. And, no, the protein I get from other food is enough to suffice my body growth.

I recently visited a few slaughterhouses around Kathmandu for a field report, to be published in Nepal magazine, about unhygienic meat practices. I do not mean any offence to anyone who eats meat, but what I saw broke me. How animals are hammered to death while others are still alive, looking at what is happening around them in agony (I assume they knew they were going to be next). Those slaughterhouses did not have proper drainage systems, severed legs and heads were scattered everywhere, I do not even want to recall how many flies and gnats were hovering around my head. Things were dreadful there. It made me slightly happier that I do not eat meat.

Published: 13-10-2018 08:25

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