I've got to admit. India is a wonderful place. The culture, the food, the colours... it's a very beautiful place. But there's just one thing that seems to bug me a little. Don't get me wrong! The people are just awesome! And to think I'd even imagine them being hostile would be blasphemous. But there still is a lot of xenophobia here.
Being an Indian myself, one may wonder what's so "xeno" about me that might scare those around me. Well, when I mean xenophobic, I don't mean someone from an unknown place but rather someone with hiterto unknown ideals and principles.
Just the other day, I was out with a few friends and relative strangers to the mall and it was time to choose one of the numerous stalls at the food court. I seriously don't understand why anyone would be awed by McDonalds or KFC too much but everybody seemed to squeal at the sight of the aforementioned stalls and ran towards those. Now, being a vegetarian, I just couldn't bring myself to order food from those places and so, I told them I'm heading to a sandwich counter to get myself a vegetable sandwich. And as soon as I had said that, they sniggered and giggled. For the life in me, I didn't know I had cracked a joke. I guess my dazedness must have caught their attention for they went on to elaborate.
"Veggies and salads are for the cows and goats!"
Right... that was probably the funniest comment ever! That means we as a nation are a nation filled with cows and goats. I just shrugged it off indifferently and walked away to get my sandwich, leaving my friends to giggle like a bunch of teenagers in the KFC alley.
It got me thinking... everytime I tell someone that I am a vegetarian, they ask me why I would choose to avoid something when I have never tried it. They automatically assume that I've been a vegetarian all my life. And then I tell them - that I chose to be a vegetarian. And then, they look at me as though they're in the presence of something hitherto unseen and unheard of.
Then the barrage of questions begin. Don't I miss meat? No. I don't. I'm actually happier and healthier now. Why should anybody be vegetarian just like that? No. You shouldn't be a vegetarian unless you absolutely want to. Why would I hate meat so? I just have my preferences. And so on....
But there's one thing that gets to me. This sudden sense of hostility from the other person. As though I had affronted them somehow by following my heart! It's actually funny. Why is it that a meat eater is always offended when someone tells them that they've turned to vegetables for good? I mean, I do not ask anyone to give up meat just because I did. I find it a better way to live - and I also find that I can sleep better at night. But I am not imposing my way of life or my principles on anyone else ever!
So, I think I'll appreciate it better if certain people were to stop taking offence in me being a vegetarian and be comfortable in their own choices. Makes me wonder... why the sudden defensive offense? Why the twangs of guilt? You're enjoying that meat aren't you? Then why bother what anyone's telling you. But that also means that you can keep your "anti-vegetarian" jokes to yourself.
Like I mentioned earlier... India is a wonderful country. But sometimes I wish we'd stop scorning the few people who have the guts to stick to their principles.