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In a country that has a majority of meat eaters, it’s high time we stop policing food choices and stop perpetuating food stereotypes. Especially if they are gender based, like “women are usually vegetarian”.
Whenever it comes to depicting the food habits of a woman in Bollywood movies, the scene is pretty standard. It would either be a chaat wala or a gol gappa wala dishing out puchka after puchka to the heroine who is literally squealing in delight. This is her forte and you can see it in the way she deals with the chaat wala.
Aur khatta karna bhaiya, thoda aur meetha, bas thoda teekha, thoda aur pyaaz and the list of instructions are never ending, until she is finally satiated after she achieves her foodgasm. And the last gol gappa, the sukha wala, is her birthright, which no one can deny her. If by some chance the gol gappa wala does not give it as part of the deal, then only God can save him from the mouthful that he will have to endure.
Meanwhile the hero watches his girl in admiration and love. He doesn’t lose the chance to wipe of that trickle of pani puri liquid making its way through the corners of her crimson lips. I am sure majority of the women as well as men would relate to this classic portrayal of an Indian girl, because after all chaat, gol gappas, or anything khatta are almost synonymous with women.
But then there are women like me, who when they think of their favorite food, it’s either a chicken leg, or grilled fish, or gosht that makes its way into their thought bubbles. Just the mere thought of a succulent meat dish can make her drool and the lack of it can make her behave like a lover pining for her lost love.
Meat eating is generally associated with men and machoism. It’s mostly the villains in the movies who are shown tearing away at the flesh from a chicken leg with their teeth with a viciousness that is highly unnecessary. I have often wanted to eat a chicken leg like that in a public place but instead separate the meat from the bones with my fingers in a lady like fashion, just as it is expected from me. But I do fulfill my rakshasi proclivities when I am in the comfort of my home. My plate resembles a battle field once I am done.
It was somewhere in 2007 that I realized the magnitude of my love for meat. We were in college then and the only meat we could afford then was chicken.
We had tried every sort of dish with this form of meat including the chicken biriyani (as mentioned by the seller; there were rumours of it being a kauwa – crow- biriyani, nevertheless it was delicious) which was sold for a meagre 30 Rs. It was also around that time that the city was hit with a bout of bird flu.
Days turned into weeks, yet there seemed to be no chicken in sight. My best friend and I would crave for some meat. Luckily my mother came to our rescue by couriering some prawn pickle for us, which we polished off a tad too soon. Our life was still devoid of meat, life was getting tougher, and the days longer. Finally we gave in and our greed got the better of us. We were even willing to succumb to the deadly flu just to satisfy our meat cravings. And yes, that’s the day I discovered that I had tasted blood (pun intended).
Even though India is a so called the vegetarian country, the statistics point at something else altogether.
According to three large scale government surveys only 23- 37% of Indians are vegetarian. Studies also point out that its more women that are vegetarian than men. This can be attributed to the fact that more men eat out of their homes and with a greater moral impunity than women.
Patriarchy, religion and politics have a huge role to play in this skewed ratio. The onus of carrying the tradition of vegetarianism often falls on the women. Among the couples, 65% claim to be meat eaters, while 20% are vegetarian. And in 12% of the cases it’s the husband who is the meat eater while the wife is vegetarian and only in 3% where the reverse was true.
As a woman who is a staunch non vegetarian, there are instances, just by the virtue of being a member of the ‘fairer sex’ and often being the only non-vegetarian in the women gang, when I have been alienated from the non-vegetarian aka men-eating section. Such scenarios make me really mad, but instead I put on a mask of calmness and swallow the vegetarian food offered to me with all the poise I can muster.
I think as a country we still have a long way to go when it comes to respecting another person’s food choices. Whether one is vegetarian or non-vegetarian, it should be an individual’s decision and not something that has been thrust on someone in the name of tradition.
I know of many vegetarians who are so, because they feel strongly about it and I respect that. At the same time I also know of many women who cook meat for the men folk, yet can’t imagine taking a bite of it. Often separate utensils are used for cooking non vegetarian food and they are even washed outside the house. India is still the land of many closeted meat eaters. Many in fear of being labeled as impure, anti-religion prefer to keep the fact that they enjoy meat under the wraps.
It’s high time that we stop policing food choices and stop perpetuating food stereotypes. In a country where the cuisine and culture changes every 40 – 50 kms, we must realize that we are a privileged lot and not only accept but endeavor to try out this rich tapestry of cuisines.
Image source: pixabay
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I am a mom who works from home and dabbles with writing when time permits.
Hi there! Love the posts in this forum including this one in terms of how women are being empowered to make their own choices and not depend on others’ judgement and the ever popular stereotyping of women.
However, in order to be just to the other section of victims – the animals, it should be noted that billions (trillions if sea animals are included) suffer in extremely painful conditions imposed on them by us humans. They are separated from their families, their bodies are mutilated and bodily secretions sold as if they are nothing more than objects or milk making machines. They go through body-breaking cycles of artificial insemination (the females) and mass slaughter (males) only because we, the society, have asked for it. It is no one’s place to ask anybody on this planet to eat or not to eat anything, to wear or not wear something. But if looked at it from justice point of view, there is a form of discrimination that makes us look at animals as inferior beings and nothing but commodities (called Speciesism) while it is a fact that they have individual personalities and feel love, pain, fear and joy just like humans do. And therefore, eating animals or animal “products” is really a matter of social justice and can no longer be justified in the name of personal choice – cause it affects their very existence and if they could speak and express the way humans do, they would have stood and fought for their rights just like women have had to fight for ages, for our own liberation (and sadly, we still continue to do so because patriarchy is deeply rooted in this system). Here are a few links you could go through, to understand my point. We can live happily and healthily even without eating animals and animal products, without wearing animal skin, without using animals for entertainment or labor, without experimenting on them. But they cannot live happily the way they wanted if we keep continuing to follow our choices and lifestyle. Again, I am not here to judge anybody and I constantly strive to be a free soul just as you do – doing things in private that I am not privileged as a woman to do in public. But I only request you to kindly give this a thought and understand it from the perspective of another set of victims whose voices can NEVER really be heard by us 🙁
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