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Sunday, January 06, 2013

A non-vegetarian family cornered among vegetarians during a train journey

By Indscribe

I was travelling in a North-bound train, perched on the side upper berth when I witnessed this interesting spectacle in the compartment.

Often during journeys, one or two people due to their talkative nature, change the atmosphere of the 'coupe' and then everyone gets friendly. So was the case here.

There was a couple, in late 30s, who hailed from Bihar, on the lower seats in front of me along with their children. There was another family--Mr and Mrs Maheshwari with their kids. Apart from them, two other men, one of them was Mr Agarwal from Bhilai (Chhattisgarh). Another was Mr Garg who was basically from Indore.

Mr Agarwal brought out a pack of cards and soon he was playing cards with Mr Garg and another person from a nearby seat who came there. He was cracking jokes also. The children were also getting interested, and were keenly watching the three 'uncles' play 'taash'.

From 4 pm when I boarded the train, till 8 pm, they had all got friendly with each other. The kids were loving this new 'uncle' [Mr Agarwal] who could show them all sorts of 'jadus' [tricks with cards] and tell them jokes apart from recalling funny anecdotes about his family including his nephews and nieces.

All of them had become a big middle-class family, who had discussed everything under the sun in these four hours. They were quite aware about each other--the jobs, the places where they lived and whose parents or in-laws stayed where in India.

You eat 'Non-Veg'....

It was at around 8.30 pm when the family [Bihar origin] decided that the kids should have their dinner. The Tiffin was brought out. Mrs Pandey opened the boxes one after the other. As the aroma wafted in the compartment, Mr Agarwal asked, 'Non-veg hai kya'.

At that moment, the chirpy Mrs Pandey seemed to have lost all her confidence. Mr Agarwal was surprised, 'Aap log non-veg khate hain'. Poor Mrs Pandey was embarrassed though Mr Agarwal was so mild. Now Mr Garg also jumped into the fray, 'You people are Pundits, na!'

Mrs Pandey was totally on back foot now. She was fumbling for words. 'Bachchon ko khila dete hain' [we let the children eat it]. The guys said, "no we don't have any objection but...". Mrs Pandey had now put the lids back on the dibbas. "I will send the children to the XYZ's seat [perhaps a relative or acquaintance travelling in same bogey] in the other end of the compartment'.

"No, no you don't need to do that", Garg sahab said, touching his nose. Koi problem nahi hai. We are not used to anyone eating non-veg.

"We don't even eat eggs. My wife in fact doesn't touch onion or garlic", he added. All the fun had ended by now.

Mrs Pandey murmured: We make it for kids. She seemed really sorry for existence. "We don't eat regularly now.

Actually we are from Bihar na, Brahmins eat mutton in Bihar", she said. Her husband who was squirming, said something about the days every week when they keep fast.

Vegetarian Virtues

Mr Maheshwari, who wasn't talking much, suddenly joined the conversation. "Once my brother's friends had come and cooked mutton on our 'chauka' in our absence. You know, she [pointing at his wife] had got the entire cooking platform washed so many times. She didn't step in until we had the kitchen white washed again", he said with pride.

My God, it was going too far now. Politically speaking, a 'vegetarian majority' here was psychologically crushing a minority non-vegetarian family which had allowed itself to be bullied. It was like, 'We thought you were just like us, how come you be so different'.

One felt like intervening but then they were all so close just a while ago that interference would haved seemed odd. The Pandey couple was silent. But Mrs Pandey's behaviour and mannerism suggested that she was 'apology personified'.

Being Brahmins [highest is caste ladder; the other three families were Vaisyas and veggies], they were supposed to carry the vegetarian values but here, they were caught 'red-handed' and that too when passengers all around [coupe's on either side] were listening to this conversation.

Apologetic about Eating Habits

"Arrey bhai, bachchon ko khane do", said one of the veggie brigade. The discussion on Indian values and how non-vegetarian food [taamsik] leads to corruption of not just soul but also body, took off. Even Mr and Mrs Pandey were supporting the virtues of vegetarianism.

They said how because of their upbringing in Mithila region, they had this habit, but that they no longer cherished mutton or chicken. Mrs Pandey suggested that even the kids were not too fond of it and will perhaps shun it once they are old enough.

It was sad to see the two kids [bhai-behen] go towards the window, sit and eat without talking. The elders' conversation continued about how people in Rajasthan and Gujarat have 'saatvik' food and that it is so tasty. The wonders of desi spices and the miracles the 'maida' and 'besan' can do, were discussed.

From 'baati' to 'baafla', we heard about all unique vegetarian delicacies. And how celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan don't eat non-vegetarian food. If the couple had any plans to eat the food brought along by them, they couldn't dare to think of it. The ordered the 'thaali' and had it along with others. After all, they had claimed that the non-vegetarian food in the Tiffin was for kids.

Call it 'Food Fascism' or just a funny episode!

Though it was a pretense. Perhaps, the veggie brigade also knew it. None of them asked the couple that they  should eat the non-veg food.

The Bihar couple was clearly under massive moral pressure and feeling guilty. No one had blamed them. They should have spoken for themselves.

Had they taken a stand and said that food habits had got nothing to do with religion or given examples and said that 'Look, its our choice what we eat', the situation wouldn't have taken such a turn.

They could have said how Brahmins originally in the Vedic era ate mutton but later under the influence of Jainism or due to other factors, quit it.

But they did nothing of that sort. They sounded apologetic. Perhaps, because they really felt that being Brahmins they should have protected the 'tradition', which all the Bania families around them were doing with such conviction.

The manner in which they got cornered was a bit sad. It took a while before the topic of conversation changed. But it couldn't get as lively as in the earlier phase. However, as the journey was coming to an end, they all noted each others phone numbers and promised that if they visited each others cities, they would make a call.

The kids said goodbye to the uncles. Perhaps, they will remember them for a long time. Often people get friendly during train journeys but the promises to call or meet are forgotten once they get off the train. But this episode will surely stay with me for quite sometime.

Is there any moral to draw from this incident?

READ my experience of journey along with members of Tablighi Jamat AT THIS LINK


Anonymous said...

So true of narrow Indian middle class.

Free and Footloose said...

Let us hear a food fascism similar story about hotels shutting down in Ramzan and non-Muslims being beaten up for eating in public in a Muslim country.

Let us hear about your secular beliefs.

Danesh said...

Like you have mentioned, take a stand. No point being apologetic on what you believe.

indscribe said...

Free and Footloose: I write about my country and what I see. What you mentioned is of course condemnable wherever such things happens.

Danesh bhai, Anon, thanks

gunjan jha said...

You are factually incorrect. Except a few verses in Rik and Atharva, which are very-very symbolic, not to be taken literally, there is no authentic reference of non-vegetarian food. Perhaps you are not aware that first two theerthankars of Jain - Adinath and Rishabhdev - are authors of Rigved. So, Hindu and Jain practices are indistinguishable. Learn from the sources before making statements on other religions. If your blog is meant for propaganda and Islamic perspective, please continue. Hindus don't really care much. We believe in marching ahead.

Mark Kumar Sharma said...

"Had they taken a stand and said that food habits had got nothing to do
with religion or given examples and said that 'Look, its our choice what
we eat', the situation wouldn't have taken such a turn"

Why say all that crap? If I ever get in such a situation I say "Agar un desh ke dushmano ko marna hai i.e. Pakis then we must eat non-veg" and everyone agrees!


indscribe said...

Gunjan Jha ji: You are assuming things and presenting the Jain beliefs, not facts or Hindu thought.

You might have read or heard a bout DN JHA's book on how Vedic Hindus ate meat.....

MARK: Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

She would have said that sir if she has the same sick mentality as yours ..

Anonymous said...

Disgusting comment !

Lucknowite said...

Many cummunities across India have non-veg food as their staple diet regardless of their caste or religion. Mutton in Kashmiri Pundits cuisne, Fish in Bengali cuisine, North eastern states, Kerala etc where people can have non-veg cuisine as part of their diet without being asked about their religion or without being frowned upon by so called custodians of religious values! in many cultures within Hinduism, religious ceremonies are conducted with animal sacrifice to deities.

gunjan jha said...

Indscribe Ji, Perhaps you are taking me as someone who doesn't know what he is talking about. Anyway, before commenting on other religions, you would do good to your knowledge if you try to learn Vedas from one of the religious men rather than relying on "derived" sources, which literally translate Vedas. If you literally translate Vedas, more than half of the verses are cow-focused. In reality, they are all symbolic. Bottomline is, don't go to a historian to understand a religious book.

Anonymous said...

Gunjan Jha...have you heard about Sage Agastya and "Vaatapi Jeerno Bhava"? It was after this incident i think that Brahmins were asked to stop eating meat.

But i dont think this is a majority minorty piece here and there is no need to draw any parallels...

Anonymous said...

Vaatapi - Jeerno - Bhava speaking again...however i dont see any bullying here...people who are veggies have their opinions and i dont see any harm in their discussions...so what if they launched into a surprise discussion??

gunjan jha said...

Brahmins don't have just one book and there have never been any diktats for Brahmins. Brahmins have never had an association or only one way of doing things. If you find a guru, very easy these days, then you can be put on the sacred thread and nobody can stop you from being called a Brahmin. Vedas were written by sages as and when they experienced God in their own unique ways. Therefore Vedas have no one diktat and perhaps the best summary of Rigved is, "Truth is one, wise men call it differently".

A practical example of a lack of diktat or an association is Manusmriti, which was written as a law book, but even Guptas didn't follow a bit of it.

Non-vegetarianism was never promoted in Hinduism unless you literally translate Aaranyaks of Rik and Atharva. As I said earlier, Aadinath and Rishabhdev, first two Jain teerthankars, are also among the authors of Rigved. Hindu and Jain philosophies are inseparable in almost all ways, including the stance on non-vegetarianism. The only serious difference is Jains don't believe in Vedas, Hindus do.

Anonymous said...

So typical of vegaNazi!!

Anjali said...

Interesting observations! I always find your level of patience and tolerance at offensive and rude remarks admirable.

I myself am a vegetarian and would like to see more and more people turning vegetarian for ethical reasons. I value life including that of animals.

What you observed in the train bogey was indeed sad. No one should make others feel miserable about their food. Not in good taste at all.