I missed writing about a personal milestone that fell on January 11, 2015. On January 11, 2015 I completed one full year of becoming a vegetarian (no animal products except milk and derivatives of milk). I never thought I would continue to be a vegetarian for such a long time. This has surprised both me, my family members and close friends as well.
Right from a young age, I was fond of eating non-vegetarian food. The fact that my mother was an expert at cooking and she was always interested in cooking new dishes for us was an added incentive. I was so fond of non-vegetarian food that in the three and half years that I lived in Hyderabad, except on Saturdays on all other days I used to have either Mutton Biryani or Chicken Biryani for lunch and dinner. During that period the concept of eating vegetables and leaves never appealed to me. There is even a saying in my mother tongue Tamil, ‘Konna Pavan, Thinna Pochu’ (If you a kill an animal it’s a sin; but if you eat it, you will be absolved of the sin).
During my college days, the most famous punch dialogue among me and my fellow non-vegetarian friends was, ‘Neenthurathula Submarainayum, Parakurathula Aeroplaneyum thavira maththadhu ellathayum sapiduvom.’ (We would eat everything that swims except the submarine and eat everything that flies except the aero plane). The most famous joke for me and my nephew was, ‘Eating non-vegetarian items is the most efficient way of eating vegetarian items.’
All these were about to change; only that I did not realize the sub-conscious change that was taking place inside me. I lived another three years in Bangalore continuing to be a non-vegetarian. In that period I got married and instead of eating non-vegetarian items in restaurants, I started eating non-vegetarian dishes cooked by my wife. And that’s where the seeds of change were sown. When I was a bachelor, I used to see only the non-vegetarian dishes at restaurants. I did not get to see how these animals were butchered. But when my wife started cooking for me, I had to visit the butchers’ shops at least once a week. There you get to see and experience all the gory details. For one, the live birds would be stored in cages in front of the shops. Every now and then, one of the shop guys would catch hold of few live birds and take them to the back yard. Within a few minutes he will come out with the butchered bird. After seeing these scenes as few dozen times, it became very difficult for me to ignore the fact that I am the reason that a bird had to be butchered that day.
Slowly I was losing the inclination to have non-vegetarian dishes. While earlier I used to give suggestions to my mother and/or wife on what non-vegetarian items to cook on Sundays or other festival days, now I was becoming indifferent to what’s being cooked. For a long time I was thinking about becoming a vegetarian at least for a short period of time. By this time, I had moved back to Chennai. One day as I was riding on my bike, I was about to cross a butcher’s shop when I saw live sheep being delivered to the shop (they were being unloaded from the truck and being pushed into the shop). Suddenly, one of the sheep was trying to escape and was about to run towards the road. One of the shop guys caught hold of the sheep and threw it very forcefully into the sheep. It hit me hard that it was non-vegetarians like me who are incenting butchers like him to throw those poor animals into certain death. Suddenly the statement, ‘I am not killing those animals’ that I used to justify myself seemed far from truth. I started hearing voices in my head: ‘Those animals are being killed to satiate the sadistic taste buds in your tongue. People like you are the reason why those animals are being killed. The foundation of health for your body is ultimate misery and merciless cruelty to animals.’
From here, it was only a matter fact that I give up eating non-vegetarian dishes. I chose January 11, 2014, the day of Vaikunta Ekadesi, an auspicious day for Vaishnavites as the day to discontinue being a non-vegetarians. Initially I was very skeptical that someone like me, who for more than thirty years has enjoyed eating non-vegetarian food could give up on meat, fish, crab, prawn and egg. I thought I’ll try for a brief period only and I was too confident I will not be able to do that itself. But as of today (28th January, 2015) I have not eaten non-vegetarian items not only in their direct form but in indirect forms as well (pastries, biscuits and puddings that contain egg).
While I don’t miss eating non-vegetarian food, there are couple of issues that I have faced quiet frequently. Since I do not eat even egg, I have to read the list of ingredients in packaged foods. Also my favorite bakery does not carry its entire line of pastries in their eggless form. Also when I attend family functions of close relatives, I run into an uncomfortable situation if they serve non-veg food; they feel offended if I say I have become a vegetarian and hence cannot eat non-veg food. I am not sure how long I will be a vegetarian. For now, I am proud and enjoy being a vegetarian.