Monday, March 9, 2015

I choose what dress my friend should wear.

Let me clarify this first. No, I do not choose what dress my friend should wear. I cannot even decide that for my parents and in the future for my kids. I am a VEGETARIAN and not a vegan. I am a Hindu and come from a community who are known for their non-vegetarianism. So eating non-vegetarian food is not an issue in our family. But I was raised to be a vegetarian. We used to have around 20 cows in our home when I was a kid. During our grandpa’s time we used to have bullock carts too. We used oxen to plough our field and to dig out broken rocks and mud for a new well in our farm. I once gave a deadly blow with a thick tree branch to a cow on its head when I was in my early teens (the reason – it had trespassed in to our farm and had eaten a few sq.mts of our crop). Luckily the cow survived. But my mom still believes it is the reason I broke my leg 6 months later.  Does it really have anything to do with beating the cow. Or is it really karma that broke my leg? I do not know. My dad is a heart-patient and has a heart valve problem since 2001. Sometimes he attributes that to the number of rodents and snakes he has killed in the farm. Hailing from an agricultural village, I have seen few people dying of snake bite when I used to be a kid and killing a snake is considered a heroic act. Even the cobras were not spared though we used to visit a Snake temple in a nearby town called Nagercoil  (The name of the town means, “Temple of Snakes” and there is a big snake temple in that town) to offer prayers. Do not know if that was hypocrisy or to wash away the sins.

I have seen my cousins, killing (with an air-rifle) and barbecuing squirrels and pigeons. During my eighth standard vacation, I went to my cousin’s place and my aunt was the ladies hostel warden in the Government Engineering College where she worked as an Assistant Professor. I befriended a guy named Vikas whose dad worked in the same college. He had an air-rifle. I always used to ask him to take it out so we can hunt few birds (Vikas died a year later during one of his NSS camps). He said there is this girl from third year who advised him not to kill birds and lectured him about spirituality. I just wanted to break her head for doing so. Now, he is not taking his rifle out because of her. When I went back home, all I wanted was an air-rifle. Dad said, ask anything but not the rifle. I was like; get me a rifle and nothing else. My cousin had one who happens to be my neighbor and he acts super smart with me by letting my dad know of whatever I tell him. Dad used to tell me, if you have a rifle, you’ll kill something. I promised him, I will not be doing that. He wasn’t convinced.

Later when I joined engineering, my parents told me I can eat non-vegetarian food if I wanted to. But I was too proud in being a vegetarian and not to have even tasted flesh till today. Few months after engineering, I called my father from Mumbai, telling him that I killed a crow. He was shocked and asked me how and why? I bought a rifle with my first month’s salary from Voltas and my first shot from the rifle killed a crow.  It was not intentional. When I was showing the rifle to my friend, he asked me, what the range is and I mentioned 20 meters. He asked me if this could kill a crow that was on the branch of a tree which we could see from the balcony. I mentioned, it should and pulled the trigger and was it beginners luck, I do not know, the crow fell (do not know if that crow was an innocent one). And hence the phone call to dad. But I didn't feel pleasant anymore. Even now the memory of that day haunts me. I could see hundreds of crows gather around the dead crow and paying their last tributes and for the first time I felt guilty for killing something.

Fast forward few years, I told my uncle, let us have a poultry farm, he said, the money we make by killing other animals will not last long. Dad mentioned the same when I wanted to set-up a fish-farm. But I did not stop. I sold fishes for a day to see how it works. That’s it. I could not stand the smell and the flesh of fish being chopped like vegetables. I asked the guy who was chopping it, how does he feel to cut the flesh of a live fish. He smiled and said, “Kid, go home!”. With the blood dripping from the knife he was holding, I didn't protest. That was it. No more money making ideas that involves animals (Rational animals –humans are excluded).

It was in Mumbai, I saw a lady who brought a cow to a temple with a stack of grass. You need to buy some grass from her by paying her and feed her cow. Yes, That is what I saw in Mumbai. It is a very unique business model. The grass is yours, cow is yours and you charge people for buying the grass from you to feed your cow. I have seen people worshiping cows by touching its head/back or both. The college where I studied engineering was on the border of Kerala and we have a few restaurants serving beef there. I have seen friends who never had beef in their life tasting it there. And most of them were not Muslims. They are Hindus. We saw Maharashtra banning beef and the social media getting flooded with posts of people either in support of it or against it. But does it really amount to good karma if you don’t eat beef but you can still eat other animals. Or does karma only apply to eating animals and has nothing to do with killing them. Or this is all just like my broken leg.

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I am not sure which side to take. But I am sure of one thing. I cannot advise anybody on their food habits. I sometimes stay with a cousin of mine who is a beef lover. Even I take parathas from the same restaurant he buys beef. Once, when a friend visited me, I referred this restaurant to him and added that my cousin takes beef from this one and he likes it. But do I eat? No, I do not. Can I advise him not to eat? Why should I be doing that? They are my friends irrespective of what food they eat or what dress they wear. Can I decide what dress they should wear? Not even in my dreams. Then who are we to advise them on their food habits. If you are a staunch Hindu and if you believe in Karma, wait for the karma to take things over. Do not take it in your hands. Like my dad who attributes his heart ailment to Karma and my mom who attributes my broken leg to hurting that cow, leave it to Karma or God and do what is acceptable to you. If something has to be banned permanently, I would ask the Government to ban polluting industries, polluting vehicles, Ghutka and smoking in public. And not what people should eat or wear.