To veg, or non to veg

Are you a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian, you ask, and fleetingly I envision seating you down and telling you.
Let’s start with pulling out my family charts. My father was a non-vegetarian, my mother a vegetarian. They’ve both become Krishna conscious (or – very, very religious) and now they’re both vegetarian.
I used to be a non-vegetarian as well, but one day my dad decided he wasn’t anymore, so my sister and I gave up too. No, we weren’t forced into it. We stopped cooking meat in the house, so we stopped eating it as well. It really wasn’t that hard, what are you gaping at me like that for?
Yes, everyone else in my family are non-vegetarian. No, it isn’t too much of an issue. Well, they did take this new development pretty badly at first. One of my aunts pulled my sister and I aside, and asked us in worried whispers- are you being forced into it, don’t be afraid to tell your auntie and uncle, you don’t have to stop eating meat because of your parents, okay?
I remember being legitimately shocked, surprised, and a tad bit offended, so the look that I gave her genuinely spelt out are you an idiot, and I don’t think my sister and I were bothered much after that. That one aunt still does look meaningfully at me every time the family works around a veg/ non-veg menu, but my dislike of all my relatives in general has overtaken my particular dislike of this aunt, so it doesn’t annoy me like it used to.
Yes, I’ve tried all sorts of things like prawns and sardines and reindeer and steak. Wait, beef? Your eyes widen, almost comically, and I make a face. I really didn’t want to talk about that.
But I will, and here is my two cents. I obviously can’t comment about it from a religious standpoint, god knows what that might end up doing, but I’m just worried about the fact that some people find it more scandalous that a cow was murdered than a human.
The whole I can’t eat it so by extention I won’t allow you to eat it bothers me as well. Think about it. If a sizeable amount of people declared that they wouldn’t
eat, I don’t know, potatoes or something, what would you do? I’m pretty sure
you’d scoff at them and just go about your daily life. (As I write this I realize that
this originally fictional group of people fall under the category of Jain, so I guess
my point is made.)
Eggitarian? Yes, I’ve heard of that. No, I think eggs stink and make my breath
smell disgusting. But if they’re in cakes, I don’t really mind. I did choose omelets
over idlis once, on a train ride to Calcutta, and since my friends were scandalized I
suppose I must report it to you.
The incidents I’ve had with accidentally eating meats are of a notable number, so
I feel like I must tell you about it as well. Some were because I was misinformed,
some because I was just plain stupid. Well, what do you think happened? I
swallowed it and made a face and put it away. But that one time I did make a fuss
and call over the manager of the café, but that was only so we could get another
meal, entirely free of charge, as a token of their apology. I mean, the dish was
listed in the vegetarian section, I figure they’d have to have this problem one day.
You look horrified. I’m pretty sure I’ve met non-vegetarian friends more
dedicated than me. Don’t eat meat on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they say gravely,
and it makes me wonder. What if you eat it late Monday or Wednesday night?
Won’t it still technically be in your body on those fateful days? What happens
then? Are you sent to hell because of your faulty digestive functioning?
No, don’t worry, I’m not looking down on religion. You can eat whatever you
want whenever you want for whatever reasons you like. I don’t care. Unless there
are some moral issues to it, because then I will be concerned for a brief period of
time, realize I can’t do anything, and then just go back to my life.
I do feel bad for people who are vegetarian because of religious reasons, though. I
think most non-veg people (not all non-vegetarians, don’t worry) seem to have
collectively decided to either make their life hell, or treat it like a joke, or both.
The number of people who have reassured me that since they took the meat
pieces out of the dish, which means you can have the curry, it’s totally all right! or
even got actually offended when I refused to eat food they offered, just because
it was non-veg, jeez, she’s so picky, do make me sympathize with my more
dedicated brethren.
We also happen to live in a cruel, cruel world, where a paneer sandwich will cost
the exact same amount as one stuffed with tuna. I don’t know just how expensive
paneer is, or inexpensive tuna might be, but I am so sure we paneer people are
getting the short end of the stick.
I only mention paneer, you see, because another suffering we have to go through
is the notion that every single non vegetarian meal can be replaced with a paneer
dish. I don’t know who thought up of this, but I am personally sick of it. So,
vegetarians, other than a pat on the back and panner butter masala, there is very
little I can offer you as compensation for this injustice.
You squint at me and ask me about my obsession with visiting Japan. I suppress a
sigh and wonder how you’ll handle this.
I do want to go there, and I do want to experience their culture, I assure you. All
of their culture? you prod. Yes, everything, including the sushi and the sashimi
and the okonomiyaki and the onigiri. I don’t particularly care about whether it’s
vegetarian or not, I want to be a part of everything that makes the country what it
is.
Then I’ll come back to India and say to your face that I won’t be eating your
chicken kebab, thank you, and really. What can you do?

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