Non-veg In­dia

In­di­ans are eat­ing more meat and en­joy­ing it. Higher in­comes, global food chains and a vast pop­u­la­tion of young peo­ple in­dif­fer­ent to re­li­gious taboos are shat­ter­ing myths about "veg­e­tar­ian In­dia", finds LATHA JISHNU. But this ap­petite for meat has en­viro

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS -

It's of­fi­cial, In­di­ans are eat­ing more meat than ever

Wnon-veg. That’s E ARE how Vishal Jain de­scribes him­self and his younger brother Ankit. Non-veg, short­hand for non-veg­e­tar­ian,is In­dia’s quaint con­tri­bu­tion to the so­ci­ol­ogy and cul­ture of food, a hold-all term that sig­ni­fies we are con­sumers of meat of some kind— chicken, beef, mut­ton or pork. Or fish. Or eggs. Per­haps, all of th­ese. To de­clare that one is non-veg,or eats non-veg—the term is in­ter­change­able—is a nec­es­sary dis­tinc­tion in a land fa­bled for its veg­e­tar­i­an­ism and made leg­endary by its most fa­mous prac­ti­tioner, Ma­hatma Gandhi.

Vishal Jain’s dec­la­ra­tion un­der­lines the shrink­ing na­ture and num­ber of those who abide by a meat-free diet. For the brothers be­long to one of the few re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties who are rigidly veg­e­tar­ian. The Jains es­chew even vegetables that grow un­der­ground for fear of killing any crea­tures when th­ese are pulled out. Vishal, 28, a soft­ware techie in Hy­der­abad, says he took to eat­ing meat with the ad­vent of the chicken burger, cour­tesy an Amer­i­can fast food chain. “I worked late hours and this was a con­ve­nience food.But also tasty—like noth­ing I had eaten be­fore. Be­sides, the meat it­self was not so much in your face.”

From chicken in a bun, he went on to other non-veg fare that Hy­der­abad is tra­di­tion­ally fa­mous for, such as haleem, the city’s sig­na­ture dish which is a thick broth of wheat, lentils and mut­ton/beef cooked spe­cially for fes­ti­vals. And he in­tro­duced Ankit to its epi­curean de­lights.The brothers, how­ever, are care­ful to keep this hid­den from their par­ents who are strict in their re­li­gious ob­ser­vances. One rea­son the two broke re­li­gious taboos is the en­vi­ron­ment.

At the work­place, col­leagues, although not ex­actly cos­mopoli­tan were open to change and ex­per­i­ment­ing, while the ur­ban am­bi­ence and cul­ture made this eas­ier, ex­plains Vishal. Hy­der­abad is a meat-loving city, with both the Mus­lim and Andhra cui­sine cel­e­brat­ing it in di­verse dishes. Re­cently, its mu­nic­i­pal com­mis­sioner Somesh Kumar was reel­ing off statis­tics to im­press a con­fer­ence of may­ors about its meaty pro­file. Ac­cord­ing to him, 70 per cent of Hy­der­abad’s 7.8 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion is non-veg­e­tar­ian, con­sum­ing as much as 300,000 chicken, 8,000 goat/sheep, 2,500 buf­falo and 50 swine daily. On peak days, the us­age sim­ply dou­bles.

In a coun­try where food and di­etary habits are gov­erned by com­plex rules based on re­li­gion, caste and re­gion, the old ways are yield­ing place to the new. Tastes have changed and what was con­sid­ered in­fra dig by some meat eaters in ear­lier times is to­day’s flavour of the day. Tra­di­tional meateaters look down upon those stuff­ing them­selves on mass pro­duced broiler chicken as up­starts and lament the in­abil­ity of the neo non-veg­e­tar­i­ans to ap­pre­ci­ate the joy of all kinds of meat.K Das­gupta, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sional work­ing in Delhi, rem­i­nisces about the chang­ing pro­file and so­ci­ol­ogy of meat-eat­ing. “At our home, for in­stance, till well into the mid 1990s, a typ­i­cal week used to be three-four days of fish, and mut­ton on Sun­days. We rarely ate chicken; it was con­sid­ered food for in­fe­rior peo­ple.”

There was also the ques­tion of avail­abil­ity. “As a kid, I would some­times take sand­wiches with cold cuts to school and on those days I was quite a star,” says Das­gupta about the 1980s. “Close to where we lived in West Delhi there was a place that sold salami and ham—a rar­ity in those days. In fact, some of my young rel­a­tives would visit our house just to have those cold cuts. I re­mem­ber I would look for­ward to eat rolls on my visit to Cal­cutta (Kolkata).To­day, there is a roll seller almost ev­ery kilo­me­tre in mid­dle class lo­cal­i­ties in Delhi.”

In­creas­ing af­flu­ence in ci­ties has changed all that. The frozen ke­babs have be­come ubiq­ui­tous and in ev­ery lit­tle mar­ket in res­i­den­tial ar­eas a momo ven­dor or two and

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.