For the Love of a Good Biriyani
There is this girl I have been seeing recently and I had assumed (optimistically, as usual) that I was onto a good thing. Till a sudden revelation, something like a bombshell falling squarely on my head, came when I least expected it and showed me a different side to her beyond the obvious prettiness which had attracted me. There we were, having a cup of coffee on Sunday talking about innocuous/safe subjects (or so I thought) like two people prefer to chat on in the initial stages of courting, when the talk veered around to her travels in Europe- she being a frequent traveler to those parts in the course of her busy work life. And that’s when she went on to say (with a shudder) that she hated all europeans as they all stank so bad all the time because, you know, they eat non-veg food (for the un-initiated a non vegetarian eater is someone who eats meat/fish/egg or basically anything which is not a plant, which is all that pure vegetarians or plant eaters eat) and what else can you expect from “such” people, she asked me.
Alarmed at her blanket condemnation of non vegetarians as stinkers, I stopped to sniff my arm pits (twice) just to make sure she didn’t mean present company and once satisfied that the deodorant I had sprayed on earlier was still masking my natural scent I leaned back away from her (why risk it?) and in a aww shucks you must be kidding me tone of voice, I asked her to explain in fuller detail her theory of non-vegetarian stinkiness, which of course she was happy to do, for which girl can resist talking non-stop on her pet hates? In a rambling speech full of disdain for people other than the “superior caste” to which she belonged, she expounded her pet theory of how meat eaters were responsible for the downfall of our once great society and for which sins they would all be punished severely after death by lord Yama (the Indian Hades).
And as she dug more and more the grave of our friendship, I couldn’t help but reflect how even an expensive education and a good job traveling around the globe couldn’t erase the prejudice against the “other” instilled in her from her early “orthodox” upbringing. Her modernity had just been a veneer to cover up the shallowness and prejudices underneath. Here was a perfect example of obscurantism masquerading as traditionalism and if parents brought up their kids instilling such thoughts we would soon see an Indian version of the taliban. Of course the blame should be equally divided between her parents who had failed to teach her that all human beings are born equal and her education which had failed to bring her to the same realization independently. She took my silence as agreement with her views and went on and on about the ugly habits (and lifestyles) of non-vegetarians in general and how infinitely superior vegetarianism was as deriving its authority from the ancient vedas and how they alone were the ones dedicated to the maintenance of the purity of our great Indian culture and vedic way of life (vegetarianism) – at which point I felt that I should maybe introduce her to my best buddy in college –arun raghavan.
My friend Arun’s from the same caste/sect as this girl was- a Tambrahm- but I have never seen anyone else who could polish off a plate of chicken 65 faster than him- so much so that whenever we ate out (on our meager pocket moneys) to celebrate our minor achievements in college – it was a case of the fastest eater gets the most pieces when it comes to side dishes like chicken 65 or butter chicken. I am sure every one of you has known a friend or two like that in your life, who you miss every time you leave a dish half-finished. Anyhow, my point is all kinds of people enjoy eating meat in our modern society and there is no relation between what you eat and what your status in society is. And even if most tambrahms are vegetarians from birth – as specified by their tradition- I haven’t found them to be haters of non-vegetarians like the person who was sitting opposite me prattling away her pet theories of hate for others.
As I sat there listening to all the caste BS she was spouting, I could feel all the mystique of her attraction evaporate like mist and my respect for her growing less and less with every minute. I couldn’t help but think on what a long term relationship with her would mean- no more chicken 65, no more butter chicken, no more mutton roghan gosht, no more mutton biriyani, no more sampling the fine things of life, which alone make life bearable. Was any girl worth this hassle? Of turning into a lifelong vegetarian? What was it to be- a hot biriyani or a hot babe?
In the end I was thankful that a totally innocuous topic of conversation had helped me see a hidden facet of her- the realization that here was a closet bigot who covered up her prejudices under a false modernity. Wearing modern wear does not translate into modern thoughts- there was still the same old caste fanaticism in her talk by the way which she used even the culinary choices of others who didn’t subscribe to her traditional way of life as evidence of their inferiority to her caste.
I suddenly felt I needed air, fresh air away from all this and I hurriedly mumbled my excuses and made a break for it before my temper got the better of me and I said something to show my utter contempt at her assertions of caste superiority. I almost never get angry and rarely lose my temper and I most definitely don’t insult girls (at least to their faces) – but in this case I was tempted to make an exception. Only the reminder that she was there as my guest that day and Athithi Devo Bhave (guests are god)- as per our “superior” culture which prevented me from speaking my mind frankly on her superiority bias.
A half hour later – as I was traveling back home in the auto rickshaw I made a sudden life decision- one of the most important ones of my life. I told the auto driver “Bass, don’t cross the Chintamani signal, just drop me off at the Buhari Hotel entrance” and getting down at Buhari restaurant I went in, ordered a mutton biriyani and chicken 65 and ate with the relish of a condemned prisoner who escaped the noose at the last minute. And I sent a silent thank you up there for rescuing me from a fate worse than death- which I might have fallen into eyes wide open, if not for providence and a loose tongue.
Moral of the story- Bi***s come and go, but a good Biriyani is forever.
P.S. I wish all the bigots could take a trip out to space and from there once they take a look at our earth- a small little planet in the huge cosmos- they will realize how stupid all this artificial divisions of race, religion, caste and colour is.