A: Am I your friend?
B: Yes, of course!
A: Would you eat me?
B (Handles the ‘taken aback’ face with a wink): Yeah, you’re delectable!
A: I’m serious!
B: No. Maybe, if you’re dying and I’m dying and we’re stuck in a place where there is no food, but you’re more dying than me and I have no other option, but to save you the misery by eating you and save myself a ‘delectable’ story of survival. (chuckles while trying to sound serious at the same time)
This was me, standing by my previous statement as much as possible in the most “practical” scenario possible.
I knew where she was coming from. But I acted ignorantly. She knew that I knew but this was enough of a plug for one lunch and so she acted ignorantly too.
The first of many such plugs
My grandmother had cows once at their place and I tried my hand at extracting milk from them. Those with that experience know that already how difficult it is. First you have to convince the cow, then find the right position to sit so that the cow couldn’t stomp on you, and finally, access those muscles in your arms which you never even caught existing in the first place.
So one morning, I was up early and saw the cow’s caretaker monstrously pull the little calf away from his mother’s udder. I felt enraged and since I was too young to question him, I ran off to my mom and narrated her the scene.
She replied, “The cow doesn’t produce milk for you. That milk is for her child, that poor calf,” and handed me a glass of milk.
I still remember how I looked at that glass of milk. No goosebumps. No blinking.
I went back to the cattle shed and poured that glass to the calf’s crate. He didn’t drink. Didn’t smell it. I tried petting him but he looked away.
Next day, that 7-years-old girl had forgotten all about the incident.
Over the years
I was reminded of that incident many times as I dusted a particular book from my library – Cows Don’t Give Milk: It Has to be Extracted Drop by Drop – a business management book. The title.
Was I taken over by the same feeling? Yes.
Did I give up milk? Never.
And we all have come across many advertisements from PETA which described how we would feel if animals caged us people and tortured us like we do to them.
The result was that I happily gave up silk, leather shoes and jackets, fur items, and street circus, if any. It felt good telling the sales people that I’m a friend of animals and would like to be suggested the “faux” items only.
The last nail in coffin
I always felt that PETA’s ads could only do so much – offending people, hijacking news and comparing women to meat. And believed that the desire to turn vegetarian has to come from within.
I was wrong. Partly.
With their “Animals for the Ethical Treatment of People” campaign (yeah, reverse psychology at its cleverest), they almost proved me wrong.
In ATEP, a cow explains how they inseminate females (human) again and again so that they continue producing milk, and a fowl describes the ‘superhumans’ who can take force-feeding three times a day via tubes shoved down their throats so that their livers could fatten up and become delicious foie gras someday.
Patients at hospitals fight intubation and so they are kept sedated. Imagine being done that to you when you are wide awake.
Imagine watching someone gulp up your child’s food as your child looks at you, pining. Imagine this done to your each child whom you bring to this world every 9 months! As a woman, I’d rather die.
Imagine not having that choice!
PETA’s media director, Ben Williamson quoted, “Sometimes a new perspective can provide the push that people need to make kinder choices that spare animals a lifetime of suffering, such as choosing soy or almond milk over cow’s milk.”
I get your point, PETA.
As I sit here writing, my eyes wander to this divine combination of khichdi and curd, something I could have every day. I’m literally revisiting and reevaluating my reasons while coming to terms with what giving up dairy translates to – giving up ghee!
“Sookhi roti koi kaise kha sakta hai?” (How can anyone eat dry bread? – I’d say this while coating my chapatis with another layer of ghee.)
I can’t help but recall the scene from Baahubali 2 here – Katappa smearing Baahubali’s blood on Shivagami’s hands – Was I smearing cow’s blood on my chapati?
Yep, it would take a long time to get this picture out of my head. Canceling all such future “reason revisits”.
Me as a non-vegetarian
Though I have never mocked the vegetarians calling their food ghaas-phoos (grass & husk) like many do. Never have I judged them for their choices. But, I have often wondered why would anyone give up on food that tastes just so heavenly. Or what’s keeping them from trying it once?
Most of them said that it’s a lifestyle that their parents (or religion) have chosen for them, or that it’s not allowed. Some of them mocked me back calling me a hypocrite, claiming to be an animal lover while relishing their taste.
Honestly, the only loose argument I could use to shield myself was that these animals were farmed and raised for this and that they are just doing their jobs!
I was ashamed of myself when I watched a video recently of a poultry farm – how the chickens were “farmed” in a so-called “cage-free” environment, and in what grotesque situations they live and peck grains thrown right next to their fellow dead ones. Sometimes these poultry people don’t realise that a chicken is lying dead in its pen.
Coming back to my non-vegetarian arguments, some of my more ‘evolved’ friends went ahead to degrade my feelings for another person tagging them as “fish love”! You know, like someone would say, “I love fishes!” only to roast them later.
Being a writer, I used grammar as my lifeboat saying that there’s a difference in saying “I love fishes” and “I love fish”.
As for the dairy, I just love it – I have two large glasses everyday (annoyingly religious about it). Some days, even more. Recently, I’m hooked to an additional jar of milkshake too.
Talking about the veg non-vegetarian a.k.a. the eggs, I fancy them once in a while. However, for reasons even unknown to me, I replaced eggs with sprouts and legumes. I don’t feel sad or missing out, or even proud of it. I’m just “meh!”
Quite contrary to the image I built for myself above, I have also been that person who would walk into a restaurant well-known for its non-vegetarian delicacies and ordered pure vegetarian items. But that’s not helping my case. Duh!
Life ahead as a vegan
I can imagine the flood of jokes and confused looks (and statements of betrayal!) that will come my way for attempting this. I can visualise my finger tracing the food menu, like I do to my wardrobe every morning thinking that I have nothing to wear. And I can foresee myself giving up coffee too!
Life ahead? Really?
Yes, for some chickens, numerous marine fauna, and many calves!
I don’t feel sad. Just a bit confused. You see, I’m in an alien territory here. A whole new world.
- In how many ways would turning vegan affect my pocket? (Animal life is important, but so is this.)
- What would become of cheesecake now – just cake? Or crust?
- Aloo parantha without butter in breakfast and Americanos in evening?
- With such experience in non-vegetarianism, will I recommend others what cuisine to go for and where? Or should I?
- What if I give in to my cravings and then I’m never able to go vegan again?
- Where can I find the same flavour of shrimp pickle from Manipur in vegetarian food?
- Should I start feeding my cat food items other than tuna?
- Where will I find soy milk or almond milk stores in Delhi?
I was almost ready to eat my friend if that situation came up. I now have to give up on that and I’m wondering if I’ll survive. What kind of a monster am I?
A meek voice from inside: the human kind
Okay! I’m a little sad now. I have no way fend off snooze bouts post lunch!
You know, like many who write their feelings to understand the situation better, I started writing this piece to talk myself out of this “Go vegetarian!” phase. Instead, I talked myself INTO vegan!
I’ll have my food now. Devoid of dairy.
Going vegan is a major lifestyle change.
I don’t think PETA expected that with its current campaign.
There are many things to consider.
Things I should have considered before making this decision.
I can still consider them.
Vegan! Done deal!!