I’m a vegetarian, have always been one and I don’t even like egg. In the sense that I am a vegetarian because we’re Brahmins and my parents raised me on a vegetarian diet and I just can’t bring myself to eating non vegetarian food now. As regards eggs I don’t eat them directly (boiled egg / omlettes and that kind), but am perfectly fine with eating them in baked foods or even putting it in my hair!
Now coming to the more sensitive parts, do I think non vegetarian food smells? Does it make me gag? Well I am extremely sensitive to smells, very strong smells like garlic, onions, some spices used in Indian cooking, deodrants, cleansers, indeed non vegetarian food affect me. I do eat out in hotels that serve both veg and non veg food and I find that in the finished form the food is fine, does not affect me except perhaps for certain ish based dishes. I’m not proud of this, but I can’t bear to even look at butcher shops on the road..hanging carcasses really repulse me. The smell of non veg food cooking also puts me off most of the time.
But the fact is that is my problem. Not the person cooking, eating or selling the food. Its food for the other person, the same way that I relish my potatoes and carrots. Why am I rambling about all of this? This post of Chandni’s and also a heated argument we had at my workplace.
People who have problems with living in Madras and some parts of Bombay find this to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks, finding a house to rent if their non Brahmins (read non vegetarians). I find it absolutely apalling. I mean its not like you as a landlord is sharing space with your tenant. It isnt as though the tenant is going to be rubbing chicken pieces on your wall or cleaning the floors with fish. What is your issue? Does a vegetarian’s presence make your house holy?
I really believed that such thoughts and beliefs were more in the minds of older generations and that the young people are more open minded. Turns out that I was wrong. My colleagues let’s call them G and S are both scouting for houses and happened to chance upon a property (a smallish unit with only 4 individual apartments) which was sounded good for both of them. They even went and took a look at it and they seemed fairly interested in the property. Then G came and suddenly announced that only one of them could buy the property. S is non vegetarian and G is this pure Brahmin who cannot breathe the air polluted by the smell of non vegetarian cooking. Well fine, go ahead and have such opinions, its really your problem, but in a public forum, your workplace at that, you really cannot afford to say things like “I cannot bear the bad smell”, ” Sunday afternoon vandha podum, veetliye iruka mudiyadu” (Sunday afternoons are the worst, I cannot stay at home). The decent thing to do would have been say this politely and back off, giving her the option to take the flat. But no, our man made a couple of noises about the dirty smells and proceeded to call up all his Brahmin friends to figure out whether they were interested in taking these flats. Now mild mannered S backed off, but this really got my goat and I tried arguing with him. I didnt have the support of even a single vegetarian in the group, I mean I was not even denying his right to feel that non veg cooking smells bad, but the least you can do it be a bit subtle about it and try not to hurt the sentiments of people who love to eat non veg food.
I basically gave him the example of agarbattis and me. I just detest the smell of agarbattis. The damn thing gives me a huge headache. But that is a nice smell, how can you not like it he said. Precisely my point dearie. Loads of people don’t think non veg food smells. But you do. Loads of people don’t think agarbatti smell is annoying. But I do. Now I can’t go around saying I won’t come to your house if you have agarbattis on can I? An wrinkle up my nose in disgust and say this is a nasty smell and that I’m repulsed by it? No sireee.
But he seemed rather unmoved and my guess is that not too many people who think that way are going to be moved either by what I have to say. And this will remain what it is, a rant. But the thing is that my guess is that these people don’t even realise that this is bad, uncivil behaviour..as bad as smoking in a crowded AC room, as bad as not offering a pregnant woman a seat in a bus.