I am a British vegetarian visiting India and read with both interest, and a little amusement, the debate about “separate plates” for non-vegetarians at a mess in IIT-Bombay and the alleged link to conservative attitudes.
I understand the age-old links in India between vegetarianism, caste, culture and religion. However, in my own society, I am regarded as something of a “radical” for being a vegetarian. I do wonder if it is possible to be a vegetarian in India and at the same time be regarded as “modern” and “radical”?
There are, after all, many reasons to be a vegetarian, such as health, moral and environmental reasons, as well as cultural and religious. I do hope that when I ask for vegetarian food in India I am not being regarded as some sort of “conservative” – with the views and attitudes that I hold I cannot think of a greater insult. For what it is worth, as long as plates, cooking pots and cutlery have a proper cleansing regime, for hygiene reasons as much as anything else, I would have no problem sharing their use with meat eaters, while at the same time hoping that these meat eaters will one day see the error of their ways.
I follow no religious faith and would not wish to intrude on the religious beliefs of others. I would say, however, that a “pursuit of purity” may well be an acceptable life choice, but a “demand for purity” is something else altogether and smacks of religious fundamentalism and fascism.
As a vegetarian I have a “live and let live” attitude to both animals and humans and this often involves compromise with, and inclusion of, all sorts of things that I maybe would not do in the perfect world. Tomorrow I may touch the hand of a butcher on a crowded bus, or I may hold a handrail just touched by somebody who has been eating meat with their hands. Get over it, move on. Life is too short to stress over such stuff.
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