Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why so many Indians are vegetarians?

"1 aloo tikki burger, please", my friend who had just landed from India, placed his order to the McDonald's at Bugis junction in Singapore and the sales girl looked perplexed.
"what the hell is he talking about", she said to herself but what we saw was just a trained courteous smile.
"oh shax, how will she understand aloo means potato", my friend said to himself and with fake apologetic face ordered, "potato pattice burger with large meal please"
The trained courteous smile remained unchanged and fake apologetic face turned into genuinely irritated face.
"buddy, this is not India. You won't get anything vegetarian here", I had to pull my friend aside and explain.
"what the heck! What should I do now. I am a pure vegetarian"
Well, he is not alone. There are many Indians who go overseas and find themselves all at sea with food. Very few countries in the world understand what strictly vegetarian food is and  Nobody ever understands what is big deal.

Big question is why Indians are vegetarians?

To get facts straight, not all Indians are vegetarians, only handful of them are.  They are likely to belong to Brahmin caste in general. Brahmins guys were supposed to be knowledge guys. They were supposed to have single minded pursuit for knowledge. Kshatriyas were supposed to pursue power, Vaishyas were supposed to pursue money and trade and Shudras were supposed to provide services to all. Brahmins were also priest and role models for the society. Brahmins were supposed to hold moral high ground and advise the rulers about what is right and wrong from ethical and religious point of view. They were supposed to stay away from sins, one of  which was killing animals. They also believed that eating flesh and blood would diminish their satvik (pious) tendencies which are essential in their pursuit of purity. Non-vegetarian food would have rajas tendencies which are more suitable for pursuit of power not knowledge.

These practicing Brahmins are still vegetarians. They believe human digestive system has more similarities to fruit eating primates than meat eating carnivores. They talk about world acknowledged green credentials of vegetarian food and believe vegetarian societies are more harmonious and sustainable. They are convinced what they are doing is right and soon world would follow.

The world sees this as a business opportunity. Universal studio in singapore has a high percentage of Indian tourist and boasts of pure vegetarian food stall which is the busiest stall around. All airlines offer Indian vegetarian as a food option. Most of the conference managers now a days check your food preference before hand. So much so that McDonald's, world's most standardised and globalised brand, had to enter Indian market with a large vegetarian menu. They also had to give it an Indian twist. Every McDonald's  outlet in India has separate work areas, cooking equipments and cooking oil for vegetarian and non-vegetarian sections. All of this is visible to the customer.

The rate at which Indians are travelling the day is not far when my friend would order an "aloo tikki burger" and the girl with courteous smile would say, "having here or take away sir!"

Read extended short story version of Why Do Indians blogs with a few more interesting indian inscrutable ways in Why Do Indians..? - The Book


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