No affront or insult could possibly be worse than the blood-curdling indignation, alarm and aversion that ‘V for Vegetarian’ induces. Parents almost always never teach it to their children, preferring A for Aleti-Paleti, B for Boomla, C for Chhamna… instead.
When it comes to tucking in, bawajis just cannot do without their botas – reformists and traditionalists alike. Food is the great leveler for every Parsi reveller!
Suggesting vegetarianism is akin to asking Warren Anderson to return to India and take some accountability for the Bhopal gas tragedy – it’s pointless and a perfect waste of time. So why are we bothering to bring it up?
Well, it’s Bahman mahino – that time of year when we’re supposed to spare poor little animals the tragic plight of being butchered, basted, broiled, baked and barbecued for our meals – at the very least on some days of the month.
Should you decide to continue reading ahead, a few unresolved questions: Are animals meant to be eaten? We have heard of the food chain and how vegetables are intended to be eaten by animals and, conversely, animals are supposed to be eaten by human beings. This is theoretical the ‘cycle of life’, but is it really so?
Do animals hurt as much as we do? In their final moments, as the fish is hooked and writhing for that last breath before being forever stilled for saas-ni-machhi, or the goat is hacked and bled to death for Sunday’s dhansak-kawab, or the chicken is slaughtered and de-feathered for those deep fried faarchas, in their final moments, do animals feel the pang of separation from the little families they have nurtured… or been nurtured by? Do they wish they could spend a few more moments on God’s great earth, unfettered under a blue sky (or a starlit one), instead of having their lives snuffed out for voracious human palates?
Parsis have been indomitably feasting on animals for the longest time. We even seem to delight in all their bits and parts with grisly zeal – puchri, doki, pag, bheja, kalejee, paya, khariya, jeebh… go on, feed your greed!
Our lagans and navjotes are occasions for mass animal slaughter. Of course, we don’t feel guilty since we don’t actually kill the animals ourselves – we just pay the butchers to do so and enjoy our meal. Which is how it should be, isnt it? Our social conditioning ensures we don’t get unduly bothered.
Vegetarians are often asked, aren’t you killing plants when you eat them? Perhaps. Or perhaps not – most fruits and vegetables are the offerings of plants and trees. You seldom eat the whole plant or tree itself.
Animals on the other hand are, well, animate. They run, they yelp, they see, they react, they bleed. Ironically, as a community, we love animals and care for them with the sort of deep devotion you don’t often find.
Bahman mahino, then, ordains a little more respect and a little more restraint when it comes to making a meal out of innocent animals. They have a right to life too.