By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
“We need Asian vegetarian”, said a woman behind me in the aircraft when boarded from Budapest to Doha, to the cabin crew when they started their food and beverage services. Normally, the airline crew is very careful dealing with ‘vegetarian’ Indians who are loud as well as contemptuous towards others, as if all others who don’t have the similar habits are criminals. The crew asked what kind of vegetarian stuff would you like. “No carrot, no ginger, no garlic, no onion, no tomato… You see we are Jains”, the attendant was told.
I was listening the dialogue. “Please don’t worry if these things are not there”, another woman said. “If you have Cadbaries, please give us.” The host was unable to understand and asked her to repeat. “I am saying, Cadbaries, I mean chocolates.” “Oh, we don’t have that”, was the reply. Then suddenly the woman asked, “Do you have microwave?” I was just about to laugh. The hostess said, “No, we don’t.” “OK, please give us hot water”, the woman demanded.
Till the flight culminated at Doha, we had this conversation going… Whether you have this or that. I was amazed how much we can converse for our ‘rights’ but not bothered about others. When I walked up, I slowly find the two men accompanying the women enjoying their drink. Both the men kept quiet during the entire conversation.
I am not amazed how Indians behave. They might have the right to seek specific food habits but they should also understand that sometimes they look as if they were a ‘distinct’ species. I can firmly say that people with distinct likings and dislikings can never make good travellers. If you don’t have time to taste the diverse food culture of the world, then there is no point of claiming to be a travellers, even if you have gone everywhere.
If you are taking your sattu or idli sambhar even when for a couple of days journey to, say, Latin America, and have no interest in tasting the local delicacies, then there is nothing that you have learnt. Those who don’t have this, can’t really appreciate the diversity of the world.
The culture of I, me and myself is nothing but a deep distrust towards others. I agree with your right to have your distinct identity and food habits, but then there will be spaces where you will find it too difficult to have people of your kind.
Though the number of such people or communities is less, as a large part of India is now enjoying food culture, yet this is also a reality, that past four years we have reinforced these values: That people who eat meat or are not ‘like us’ are kind of devils. The result with this would be a thorough isolation of Indians everywhere.
I respect your right to be a vegetarian. At the same point of time, I would request you to not to look down upon me due to my food habits. Whether it is jhatka or halal, beef or pork, fish or chicken, dal-roti or idli sambhar, they all make our culture strong and vibrant. Suppose if we were eating arhar dal daily in the morning or evening, or non-vegetarian all the time, life would become monotonous.
In fact, in many countries, I found it difficult because of too much meat eating habits but then our good culture is basically our agrarian system and climate. India has plenty of diversity right from vegetarian food to non-vegetarian one, and it is time to celebrate it and develop healthy relationship with all the people.
I would love to participate in a festival where all kind of people vegetarian-non-vegetarian, beef, pork, fish, halal, jhatka all sit together and enjoy their eating. Food should not be a weapon to humiliate or dominate people; it needs to be celebrated.
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