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Us versus them: Like India, meat divides people even in the US

There is a need to delink vegetarianism from an intrinsic morality. Failing to do so could be dangerous, as the multiple bans in India show.

Last week, Mumbai woke up to some startling news: the sale of meat would be banned for four days in the city out of respect for Paryushan Parva, a Jain festival marked by fasting and abstinence. The announcement put Mumbai’s famously tortured relationship with animal protein squarely at the centre of public debate.

Political activists reacted to the news by declaring that they would take a fattened goat to the chief minister’s house as a protest. On Friday, the Times of India carried a photograph of opposition party workers selling chicken on the street in defiance of the ban. On social media, people vented about the increasing limits on personal liberties and the creeping majoritarianism that the ban seemed to reflect. Liberals linked the Mumbai ban with a larger pattern: a week earlier, an eight-day ban on the sale of meat was declared in Mira-Bhayander, an extended suburb in the north of Mumbai. In March this year, a beef ban was widened in Maharashtra, and in 2004 city slaughterhouses were ordered shut briefly in order to protect “religious sentiments”.

A marker of social class

Like in India, dietary habits also serve as a differentiator in the United States.

In the US, people are vegetarian for a variety of reasons, most often unrelated to religious or community affiliation. For many, being vegetarian stems from a commitment to the surrounding world, to caring about where your food comes from and its effect on the surrounding societies. Vegetarianism makes sense if you are considering the health effects of eating meat produced on factory farms, their destructive impact on the environment, and the potential to inculcate an ethic of non-violence in a violent world.

But vegetarianism, like all dietary restrictions, also functions as a symbolic act. It is not only about what you eat, but about what those restrictions mean in a larger context. Food choices in the US are not often framed explicitly in terms of community belonging, but as individual choice (often with deeply personal reasons – growing up in a meat-loving family with a history of obesity being a common one). As such, these choices become associated with specific politics, geographies and class positions.

Vegetarianism is more commonly found in the US where there is wealth, higher education and political liberalism – in places such as Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Berkeley, California. In these places, food restrictions have become a sign of status. Generally speaking, the more educated and wealthy you are, the longer your list of what you cannot eat. Being vegetarian, pescatarian or vegan, like being gluten or dairy free, is interpreted as a sign of taking care of yourself, of being a responsible and thoughtful citizen, of taking a moral stance toward the world and its future.

The problem is that when vegetarianism – and what you eat in general – is associated with morality, it serves to strengthen distinctions, marking class, education and other indicators of status.

Vegetarianism and morality

In Mumbai, and in India generally, what you eat is often shaped by your religion, ethnicity or caste (although there are also environmental vegetarians in India, as elsewhere). It is common for some vegetarians to not eat in a restaurant that also serves meat or not eat at a house where non-vegetarian food is cooked. In a national landscape moving towards a narrow definition of what it means to be Indian – specifically, Hindu and high caste, and specifically not Muslim – such distinctions have potentially serious consequences.

We can already see its effects in cities such as Mumbai, where the discourse of purity and pollution around what you eat is so powerful that certain groups are denied access to the housing market on account of their dietary choices. If you belong to the “non-vegetarian” groups – including anyone from Muslims to Christians to Maharashtrians to Dalits – it can be difficult to purchase or rent an apartment. Potential buyers are turned away, presumably, because smells from their kitchen might pollute a neighbour’s flat. With vegetarianism used as a distinguisher between “us” and “them”, Mumbai is becoming an increasingly hostile place for religious minorities.

In this context, choosing not to be vegetarian in India, like its opposite in the US, can actually be a political choice. Eating meat can be a principled refusal of the distinctions among castes, religions and ethnicities: a powerful statement that you will eat with anyone, whatever food they give you. It can be a sign of progressivism and solidarity, a refusal of the narrow politics of Hindu chauvinism.

Despite the good intentions behind the new consciousness around food, new lines of distinction have begun to appear in the American food landscape as well. Do you eat processed food or fresh vegetables? Do you shop at the big grocery chain or the local farmer’s market? Do you drink Coke or Kambucha? Do your kids eat Fruit Loops or chia seeds for breakfast? And what kind of person does that make you? Given the devastating effects of such distinctions in Mumbai, what do they foretell about their consequences elsewhere?

This is not to say that vegetarians should rethink their food choices. Rather it is a challenge to delink vegetarianism from an intrinsic morality and to recognise that distinctions (between “us” and “them”, “insider” and “outsider”, “friend” and “enemy”) are established through dietary restrictions everywhere. In the US, and much of the West, vegetarians see the refusal to eat meat as an inherently ethical and progressive choice. The current situation in Mumbai is a reminder that all political choices are context-specific. Being morally opposed to the killing of animals can contain a violence of its own.

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As corporate India changes from strait-jacketed to stylish, here’s how you can stay on-trend

For men and women, tips to make your office style game strong.

Office wear in India tends to be conservative. For men, the staple blue or white shirt and dark trouser arranged in a monotonous assembly line has been a permanent feature of the wardrobe (a tactic shrewdly administered to ensure minimum time is spent shopping). For women, androgynous work wear has been ever reliable and just as dull.

But camouflage is of no use in the corporate jungle anymore. The Indian office is no longer a place for dull, unthinking conformity, it is a place that expects vibrancy in thought and action. With a younger workforce and a greater mix of multinationals and jobs, there is a greater acceptance of edgier trends. Men are stepping away from their blues and greys and women are reshaping their workwear to be more interesting and distinctly feminine. As corporate India is proving its mettle on the global stage and to itself, it’s also growing confident in expressing individuality and style in the formal work environment. From clothing to office décor and fashion accessories to work tools, the workplace is becoming a place to display merit as well as taste.

Work clothes have shed their monochrome and moved into the light of technicolor. Bright colours have steadily become popular as Pantone’s annual colours of the year show us. For the corporate warrior who wants to be stylish here is our pick of trends worth considering.


Statement jacket. A statement jacket is one that doesn’t merely stand out in a crowd, but blows it open for you. How do you recognize one? You’ll know it when you see it. Most statement jackets have a non-traditional color. They could also have subtle prints on them if you want to go funky.

Technicolor socks. Multicolored socks (or hipster socks as they are known in some quarters) peek out every once in a while and brighten things up in the workplace. From polka dots and caricatures to geometric patterns, you can choose a pair to suit your mood or your workplace. A great way of telling people you don’t take fashion rules seriously (except these ones).

Plaid: Well played is well, plaid. Great for your 9-to-5 and even performs well after. Plaids, in shirts and jackets, are perhaps the most versatile tool in the corporate warrior’s armory, and straddle the fine line between formal and casual effectively. They’re also age-resistant meaning a young buck in his twenties can rock them as much as your seasoned forty-plus campaigner. Plaid, though Scottish in origin, has an Indian connection too, in the Madras checks that became popular all over the world after the World War.

Inside collars and cuffs. If you like to keep it classy but still a little edgy, nothing does it like contrast or printed insides of your collar and cuffs. After the work day, when it’s proper to roll up your sleeves, it even adds a touch of evening character.

Coloured Shoes. Alternate your staid blacks and browns with variants like burgundy, light buttery browns and ashen blues. Play with moccasins, tassel loafers and lace-ups. Go beyond leather and try suede and maybe even canvas. But do remember to take a quick course in matching.


Floral prints. Flowers are back (though one could argue that they never went out) and now they’re storming the bastion of your office. Even the traditional Indian paisley is making its way into formal wear. With the prevalence of digital printing, with a little hunting, you’ll even find beautiful florals in watercolour style.

Scarves. The first rule of wearing scarves is to rid yourself of the notion that they are to be worn only in winter. A colourful scarf paired with a monochrome top works wonders. A dozen online videos will teach you to wear it in a dozen ways. Plus, it always comes in handy when the thermostat isn’t to your liking. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw wears scarves frequently, and is a great example of how you can use it strikingly.

Pants. Yes. Pants. Experiment with different styles and you’ll be surprised how they can really spruce up a boring look. Silhouette is everything when it comes to pants. Choose from high-waisted, wide legged, pleated to ankle length pants and what not! The best part is offices rarely prescribe silhouettes, so you can always get by with some style even if your workplace demands a uniform.

Houndstooth. The houndstooth pattern is at the sweet intersection between casual and formal and can be worn to make a splash in either occasion. Whether its jackets or a dress or a simple top, a houndstooth pattern is incredibly versatile.

Chic suits. A sharp suit is a must for a modern professional’s wardrobe. And please don’t even look in the direction of black. Pastel colours or even greys with patterns are great options for suits. Uncoordinated suits are also a great option depending on how edgy you want your office attire to be.


It isn’t enough to be well-dressed in the modern workplace. A good professional is known by his or her tools and how they carry it.

Designer laptop sleeves. Your high-precision instrument deserves a cover chosen with as much care. Black Neoprene is out. Pastel monochromes, geometric patterns and bold designs are very much in. Different materials like cotton, leather and even paper are a great option.

Natural fiber or leather bags (yes kill your black synthetic one now). Briefcases are ancient and black messenger bags are done. Go for a color variant or a subtle pattern. Pay attention to the different leather finishes. Adding a few nicely done metal trims can make all the difference. But convenience and ease are top priority. If you travel a lot, get a stylish strolley and thank yourself later.

Commute pack. The urban corporate needs to be productive at all times, or at the very least, needs to be accessible. A modern commute pack should include wireless headphones, a USB battery pack (power bank) and a wire/gadget organisation pack just so that you’re always prepared.

Machine. We’ve all showed off our latest smartphones. Your work machine is way more important. And like in smartphones, a good laptop is no longer only about performance. The specifications must be top-notch but it has also become an expression of your personality. It can up your style quotient and significantly impact your experience.

Source: Dell
Source: Dell

The Dell XPS 13 is one device that achieves excellence in both form and function. With a virtually borderless infinity display that maximises screen space, and measuring a super slim 9-15mm, the Dell XPS 13 is an unalloyed delight. A sixth generation Intel® Core™ processor and the latest Intel HD graphics gives cutting edge performance for 18 hours and 14 minutes per charge—the longest battery life in any 13-inch device. The Dell XPS 13 epitomises the ethos of the modern day corporate warrior—chic and smart. To make even more of a fashion statement, you now get a free TUMI laptop sleeve worth Rs. 9000 with your XPS notebook purchase (offer valid till 31st October). For more information about the Dell XPS 13, see here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Dell and not by the Scroll editorial team.

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