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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.
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