“If the slaughterhouse had glass walls everyone would be vegetarian”
– Sir Paul McCartney (The Beatles)
Whenever I am in a random get together of friends or acquaintances I am always an outsider in some context or the other. It’s been like that since I went to hotel school in the year 1999. In that batch, there were students from all parts of India but in the circle of friends I had, I was the only Delhi raised, south Indian.
It has been more than a decade since I went to college but life continues to put me in situations when I am an outsider. These days I am usually a single guy in a circle where everyone is married. Going by the kind of plans of I have for my life, this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Married guys (and gals) have completely different things to talk about than a single guy. They talk about how priorities in their lives have changed after marriage or how they are preparing for arrival of a new member of the family or how their little kid is learning to walk etc.
At times, I am an outsider because of my vegetarian eating habits. I have been a vegetarian all my life as I was born into a strictly vegetarian family. I ate chicken in my college once but my delicate, 18 year old vegetarian system got surprised and I didn’t enjoy the taste of chicken. So, I left it. Other than that, there have been rare occasions when I am travelling and I have deviated from my vegetarian ways but these instances have not been out of choice but because of the circumstances.
Being a vegetarian serves as an excellent conversation starter. The conversation usually goes in 2-3 predictable directions. They are:
1. “You have no idea, how big a challenge it is cook for a vegetarian separately when everyone other that you coming over is ok with eating meat”. My reply: “Oh, really? I am really sorry. All I need is Rice/Roti and dal…or fruit salad. I promise I won’t be offended if I don’t make it to your invitee list because of my vegetarian ways”
2. “Oh! you are a vegetarian – I can’t live even one day without eating meat. Don’t you find it difficult?” My reply: “No. It’s not difficult at all being a vegetarian in India. In fact, the sheer diversity of cuisine we have in India supports my vegetarian eating habits very well. I consider myself incredibly lucky to be born a vegetarian in India because of which I have access to various cuisines”
3. “Back in college/when we were working together, you used to meat…how come you are a vegetarian now?” My reply: “You are probably confusing me with someone else, but I was a vegetarian in college canteen/staff cafeteria”
Number 3 above has come from people who have known me very well. But I guess, remembering me as a vegetarian is completely irrelevant information for friends who eat meat. That is ok; I don’t want to ask too much off their brain space. Killing an animal with the only intent of eating is irrelevant to them, then why would they care about remembering my vegetarian ways?