19 February, 2005 at 04:09 Leave a comment

Indians, Vegetarians?

Went to the “The Nexxt Big thing in Inflammation” event on Wednesday evening and met with a person in the Veterinary Medicine faculty over the course of the buffet.
Over a lot of nothingness like farm-animals, pets and dogs and that here in UK, Vets are not called doctors and all that, she happened to see that I was devouring a chicken-mayonnaise sandwich and having kebabs made of lamb (or some four-legged creature for what I care). She asked –
“You said you are from India and you eat meat?”
Somehow I got used to this question for quite a while now. And my standard answer is –
“Not all Indians are vegetarians you know. It is quite a huge diverse country”
And there ended the matter but while I was walking back in wet, dark, cold Glasgow, I started to ponder of how did this Wests perception of Indians being vegetarians came into existence. And the answer was quite plain and clear unlike the clouded sky I was under.
There are two major explanations I could think of. One is that of Indian diaspora. And by Indians, I mean the non-Muslim and the non-Punjabi Indians because everyone knows that Muslims and Punjabis (the people with turbans) eat meat. The Indians who came to Western countries long time ago were often the richest and most educated of the lot and even until a few years ago, the ones who were rich and educated in India were the Brahmins who are born vegetarians. It is really amazing how one can explain almost everything sociological-political-economical things in India by falling back on that atrocious caste and class and creed system we had and which still exists. Anyway, that is the theory.
In the present climate, this theory would not hold because everyone who can put a pen to paper wants to leave India and go to some other foreign country (even Pakistan) and then do the same things they do in India (make a lot of noise, watch films and eat rubbish) and these Indians are decidedly non-Brahmins and even if they are, clearly eat meat of a capitalist variety (KFC, McDonals, Pizza-Hut…) and feel proud that they can afford to eat it. So, why then has the perception of Indians as vegetarians not changed?
– the other is the media silly
– people see some pictures and hear something in books or lonely planet and think everyone else is like that
– like Linus, Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta Jones
– we tend to plug our gullibility with junk media and try to force people into stereotypes
– would it be accurate if I thought of Scotland as a kilt-wearing, haggis munching, whisky drunks?
– and the media  always plays down to what public wants – most NatGeo programmes show tribal costumes
– and when they show India, cows on streets, rituals, Brahmins
– story of Ramanujan
– all those Pandits and Shankars
– all those musicians and the celebrities who fashionably state they are veggies
– we all have some fixed notions of countries and their people, dont we?
– we are surprised when we see a Swede who is not tall, blue-eyed and blonde
– or a French woman who does not smoke and carry a wine glass in her hands

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