Monday, October 16, 2006

My pound of flesh...

Deconstructing the meatrix...

Flight CO083. Destination: New York. Time: Somewhere between 1 am New York time and 11 am New Delhi time, a couple of hundred vertigo-inducing miles over Greenland, a uniformed matron in a Mohawk (apparently they call ‘em hostesses up here), who looked like she just got fired from her job as a warden for delinquent kids, asks me if I’d like a vegetarian snack or eggs instead. Strengthened by a surprisingly strong gust of early morning integrity, the struggling vegetarian in me settled for the former. But lo and behold, lurking in the corner, behind a row of beans lay the evil temptress, a mouth-wateringly sweet-smelling sausage. A casanova in the nunnery would not have known greater temptations of the flesh than the seductions of that beenie baby... Whether Americans consider anything with vegetables, ‘vegetarian’, or did that drill sergeant in a skirt think I was too ‘brown’ to care, I’d never know , but to cut a long story short, my vow survives, for now.

For the record, I’m not really a vegetarian, nor have I ever been one. Not too long ago, I used to be a connoisseur of flesh… all kinds of flesh. From snails to whales, raw or rare, I was your man without a bone to spare. Consuming meat for strength and health, I would extol the virtues of meat eating to vegetarians, reminding them that we humans owed a great deal of our intellectual and physiological growth to the extra proteins of a meat-enriched diet, which perhaps was an evolutionary choice that wasn’t available to our fellow primates. Some of them would perhaps remember how I’d maintain that although I loved animals – and not just on a plate – I “owed it to my genes” to live off meat.

And yet, it’s been years that I’ve given up meat, though I still yearn for it on occasions. My ‘epiphany moment’ has nothing to do with the innumerable acts of cruelty perpetrated on our behalf by the meat industry on a variety of livestock from poultry to retired race horses and milk dry cows, or with the terrible toxins pumped into such livestock, which find their way into our blood streams and erupt as cancers. No, dear reader, the reason I urge you to consider vegetarianism has nothing to do with these ethical or medical issues, but with our fundamental desire for growth, development and freedom.

There isn’t a soul in this world who can truly claim to ‘live’ without being loved and the secret of being loved is to be able to give without need, to be able to serve without want, to be self sustained and therefore truly free. By this, I do not mean to ask you to sacrifice your desires for the sake of others, but to simply remind you of the axiom that service for returns begets profit, while service without, love. But true service can only begin when we are ready to give away and not just share resources. From Christ to Krishna, Gandhi to Mother Teresa and from Che Guevara to Jane Goodall, they are all loved by those who loved them because they gave off themselves, free from the shackles of needing anything at all, but simply spiritual expression in return. There are many other hallmark examples of individuals who have exhibited such remarkable freedom in their lives, and whose tales I’ll pleasurably share with you in issues to come, but for now, at least, it is fair enough to know even this that the path to freedom and love surely cannot go through an abattoir, where others die to keep me alive.

Weaned on the green

The dilemma that self-proclaimed vegetarians often find themselves in, is described best in the hilarious scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. John Corbett, at his in-laws, declares he’s a vegetarian, to which one of the many Greek aunts spontaneously offers, “That’s OK. I’ll make lamb!” The vegetarian platter and its crunchy greens may not exactly match up to the succulent snacks made out of knifing life, but nutritionally, there’s enough and more.

Tofu: Commonly called bean curd, Tofu is to soy milk what paneer is to cow milk. If proteins are your excuse to dig into non-veg, Tofu is sufficiently stuffed with those, minus the curse of cholesterol. For appetiser, main course, or accompaniments…

Fruits and Nuts: Fresh or dried, fruits are nature’s sweetmeats that are deliciously filling, any time of the day. Avocados to pistachios, bananas to raisins… healthy options that would bear ‘fruit’ for a long and healthy life to come.

Milk: More than half the numbers of sinewed stars internationally have been caught soaking up on steroids, but the traditional strong men of India – the pehelwans – will tell you that a diet rich in milk is all it takes! And tell the lobbies to go after the colas…


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