Just finished watching a program on Amritha TV called `Samagamam' where you get to know interesting people; the topic was traditional Malayali food. A famous specialist on the art of cooking was describing the classical Namboodiri(Brahmin) `Sadya' (feast) in lip-smacking detail. I thought for a moment on the fantastic variety of Indian vegetarian cuisine - isn't it interesting that while almost all other nations of the world take pride in decorating their eating tables with the remains of dead animals brutally tortured and killed in the worst possible conditions, the Indian civilization has evolved an exquisite tradition of food based on Ahimsa (non-violence) and respect to all living beings. There is enough evidence to prove that ancient Indians too killed animals for food; then somewhere down the evolutionary path, our civilization reached the highest point of its development when it realized that as the most intelligent of God's creations, we have a duty to respect and protect the life of all other living beings - that was when Indians evolved a Vegetarian diet. I don't think there is any other civilization in the world where we have whole societies which live a `vegan' existence. We are now going the other way; from Ahmisa to barbarism. Every day, truck loads of cattle are brought in from neighbouring Tamil Nadu; each truck holds atleast 2 to 3 times the cattle it can really accommodate. They endure horrible torture during the journey; most of them have their necks broken or stomachs gored by the horns of fellow occupants by the time they reach their final destination, the slaughter house. Here, their heads are smashed into pulp, throats slit and skin peeled off the body while still alive. Then, they are hung upside down for public display in every nook and corner of our villages and cities. The poor and the rich, on cycles and in luxuary cars, arrive to inspect the goods and take it home for consumption. Do we have to submit gentle and innocent creatures to such violence and torture to satisfy our hunger? Food habits acquired over the years are difficult to change; but all of us can do the following:
- Realize that the pretty non-vegetarian food we eat was once part of a living, breathing, conscious animal and was taken out of it after inflicting horrible pain; pain which no human being can witness even his worst enemy suffer.
- Realize that we Indians are the proud inheritors of a custom of Vegetarian diet; our veggie food is not cabbages-and-carrots (which is the popular western conception of a vegetarian diet) - it can any day beat non-veggie food in taste and quality (as well as health benefits). Give it a try.
- If we find it difficult to change, let our children not follow our own path; let them grow up as vegetarians.