During our recent travel by train from Goa to Kochi, my family of five had a terrible experience. Being vegetarians, we literally had to starve through our journey between Kasaragod and Kochi. Not a grain of vegetarian food was available on board or in railway stations in Kerala.
I even wrote to the New Indian Express in the letters to the Editor column. I went to the extent of calling Kerala “God’s own Non-vegetarian Country” Being a vegetarian in Kerala is a big curse. Be it functions, parties or during travel; we have to suffer for want of quality food. And I don’t have any hopes this will ever change. Vegetarians will always remain second-class citizens in Kerala.
But was I a veggie all my life? Far from it, I was a vociferous non-vegetarian until a decade ago. I used to love chicken, fish, prawns and crabs. We used to have jokes like “I love animals, they are so very tasty!”
But once my little daughter was born in November 1998, things started to change. Whenever I saw fish in the aquarium or little chicken running around, I used to feel a tug somewhere inside me. I used to think, “Oh Goodness, aren’t these the same things that I am eating?” There was an unfailing tendency to equate the chicken and fish with my little one. But my lust for that taste was so strong, I couldn’t quit.
Then came that defining moment in April 1999. We were visiting Tirupathi with our five months old daughter and with my in-laws. I was carrying our daughter most of the times since she was a little too heavy for the others! She was 10.5kg at 5 months !
In the Padmavathi Temple, with a big crowd pushing and pulling us all over the place, we had to exchange hands to carry her in turns. During one such exchange, the baby’s head hit against the wooden door frame and the baby went blue and breathless. She wasn’t breathing and wasn’t crying either.
That was an absolutely desperate moment for all of us. At that moment I was praying to all those Gods whose existence I have always questioned. I was praying for the safety of my little one. And I made a resolution at that moment “Oh God, save my baby and I shall never ever eat non-vegetarian stuff again”. I have remained a diehard and born-again vegetarian since then and it is a decade now!
Now I go back to 1991. In our Medical College Hostel in Bellary, we had many blocks for boys. We had as many messes. Most of them were mixed messes that catered non-vegetarian food on select days.
We also had an exclusive Vegetarian mess in our block. There were a handful of vegetarians. Others were forced to eat vegetarian food due to the rules of the mess. I was one of those members who fought and succeeded in changing the mess into a non-vegetarian mess.
We were euphoric on the day when chicken was served for the first time in the mess. We also had an exhilaratingly satisfying feeling after having vanquished those bloody vegetarians! What right did they have to force us to eat grass? We quoted Ivan Lendle “Grass is for cows and we are not cows!”
Life has indeed come a full circle for me since then. Eighteen years is a long long time and today, I am at the receiving end. Perhaps, it is the curse of those poor little vegetarians that forced us to starve for want of availability of vegetarian food on that dreadful train journey. But will I ever change? No, I am a vegetarian by conviction today and will remain one, come rain or shine!