Popular belief about food represents both humans and animals. Indian gurus persist that vegetarians have a balmy character, while meat makes them aggressive. Closer examination would find little or no proof for the common claim. In similar fashion, the fact that snakes do not drink milk seems to be a popular belief. A case in point is the flawed but commonly used language that refuses to yield to convincing facts. It insists that to give milk to a baby snake is to feed an enemy.
Indian vegetarian leaders
The Express report on the growing number of meat eaters in India struggles with the number of vegetarian leaders the country has elected, including the current one. The three from the Kashmiri Brahmin lineage – Nehru, Indira and Rajiv – ate meat and practised yoga. The other meat eaters were A.B. Vajpayee, a Brahmin of the Hindu flank. Chandra Shekhar and V.P. Singh, the two thakurs of Uttar Pradesh, and the two lords of Punjab, Inder Gujral and Manmohan Singh, were regular omnivores. Gulzari Lal Nanda, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Narasimha Rao, Deve Gowda and now Narendra Modi, form the group of vegetarians. Shastri and Indira Gandhi fought wars ably despite their different eating habits.
Kissing enemy blood
The film actor Dharmendra was more popular than his contemporaries for kissing enemy blood in frequent climactic scenes. He was applauded, not booed, for using the North Indian language of bloodlust. The phenomenon is evenly distributed in many nations. The military upholds the tradition of our headhunting past. If we recall, in the 1940s there was a photograph of a British soldier with a pile of decapitated heads of Malaysian communist guerrillas. Accusations that Indian and Pakistani troops periodically indulge in whipping.
According to Harikishan Sharma’s report in the Express, while the country is increasingly convulsed in the tussle between vegetarians and meat eaters, the real picture remains studiously distant from the debate.
“More people are eating non-vegetarian foods than ever before, and the proportion of Indian men doing so has risen sharply in the six years between 2015-16 and 2019-21,” the Express quotes the National Family Health Survey as revealing. Female meat-eaters have also increased, albeit glacially.
Subdivision inside meat eater and vegetarianism
Within the groups of meat-eaters and vegetarians there are other subdivisions that can be equally unnecessarily misleading. Giora Becker and Gershon Kedar were Israeli diplomats I met in India. Becker was a free-spirited Jew and did not hesitate to put foods on his plate that were forbidden in his culture. Kedar was an orthodox Jew who turned out to be the opposite of Becker in terms of eating habits. He was not prepared, for example, to eat anywhere other than Dasaprakasa, a popular vegetarian restaurant in Delhi. There was no possibility of kosher requirements being violated at the restaurant, where no meat of any kind was cooked.