THIS ABOVE ALL
Meat of the matter
weeks ago I wrote about vegetarianism in this column. I
expressed my aversion against depriving a creature of its life
only because its flesh tasted nice. But I also wrote that
vegetarianism was against the order of nature because just about
every living being, besides ruminants, lived off eating another,
including its own kind. As I expected I was hauled over the
coals by shakaharis with missionary zeal common to them.
They refuse to face facts not palatable to them—that around 90
per cent of mankind is non-vegetarian; vegetarianism is largely
confined to Hindus and Jains; and even a majority of the Hindus
eat meat, eggs and fish.
In the West though
the number of vegetarians has increased, it still remains a
fringe phenomenon. Go to any city in Europe or America, you will
have a problem finding a vegetarian restaurant. Although all
serve vegetables such as salads as side dishes, their mainstay
is in meat, chicken or fish.
Around 90 per cent of mankind is non-vegetarian. Even a majority of Hindus
eat meat, eggs and fish.
I recall the week
I spent with novelist R.K. Narayan at a writers’ seminar in
Honolulu (Hawai). Every evening we went out looking for a
vegetarian restaurant. We did not find one. Poor Narayan had to
do with buying a carton of yoghurt from a dairy and finding a
restaurant which could provide plain boiled rice to make a meal.
For seven days that’s what he ate for dinner.
fervour with which vegetarians, including Maneka Gandhi,
propagate their cult makes little sense. Their belief that meat,
eggs and fish are injurious to health is utterly spurious. Any
nutritionist will tell you exactly the opposite. As for
religion, apart from Jainism and its founder Mahavir, no other
religions of the world or their founders were vegetarians—Buddha,
Zoroaster, Abraham, Jesus Christ, Mohammed and Nanak down to the
last Sikh Guru. They said nothing against meat-eating. In most
Sikh homes, to this day meat is referred to as maha-prasad
(the great offering).
Madhavan is younger than my grand-daughter. I have known her and
her parents since she was five. Her father Madhavan of the IAS
also has just retired as Secretary of the Bihar Government and
is a leading Malayali novelist. Her mother Sheela Reddy is
Telugu-speaking from Hyderabad and is now the Books Editor and
columnist with Outlook magazine. So Meenakshi (Minna)
inherited writing from both parents.
I was, therefore,
not surprised when she came out with her first novel You Are
Here (Penguin). What surprised me were its contents. It is
about the brave new world of the young of our times. They begin
to have crushes and date children of the opposite sex before
they are 10; many start drinking hard liquor by 16 and lose
their virginity in their teens. Their lives revolve around
having parties in each others’ homes. They indulge themselves
till late hours while their parents sleep in blissful ignorance.
describes in vivid details how she willingly surrendered her
virginity. It was painful, bloody, left her bruised with nail
marks and bites, but ecstatic beyond any other sensual
experience in life. She came out of it utterly exhausted but
I am vaguely
familiar with the brand of Anglo-Hindi lingo that today’s
teenagers use. Boyfriends are dudes or guys. Girls are ducks.
Instead of meeting, they hang out, they chill or cool out to
relax. And so on. Meenakshi explains some of their vocabulary. Bhav
is a word that cannot be translated into English. I have
tried before but have only come up with ‘importance’, but
importance doesn’t even begin to cover all that the word does.
It is a powerful word, bhav, like so many Indian words that have
no equivalent in any other language.
with a nasal ending, used to describe girls with whiny voices
and a way of becoming completely helpless in front of guys that
pisses the crap out of me; or even jootha, which
basically means something that’s been contaminated with your
mouth and so can’t be eaten or touched by anybody else.
Bhav is by far the
best of all these words. Not giving someone bhav could mean not
elevating someone beyond what they deserve, but it also includes
the disclaimer: maintain a certain dignity in interactions
between you and the person in question.
You Are Here
is honest, explicit, well-written and highly readable. If the
author was my grand-daughter, I would be mighty proud of her
achievements but I doubt if I would admit she was related to me.
In the late 1930s
the Unionist Government of Punjab had only six ministers headed
by Sir Sikander Hayat Khan. Among other ministers were Sir
Khizar Hayat Tiwana, Sir Sunder Singh Majithia and Sir Chhotu
Ram. Most of them were tall handsome with light wheat
complexions. Assembly Speaker Chaudhary Shahabuddin was the one
exception. He was short, ugly and dark.
There were two
popular jokes told about Chaudhary sahib. One was that his
father had employed an African servant one year before he was
born. The other was that he had a long swim in the Black Sea
while returning in a ship from Europe. Usually Chaudhary sahib
was dressed in a brown round cap, brown sherwani and
white churidars. One day he came with a black cap, black
sherwani and black tight churidars.
provided much laughter in the Assembly. Said Sir Sikandar Hayat:
Chaudhary sahib, aj Assembly wich nange hi aa gaye ho
(Today you have come completely naked in the Assembly)?
Jai Dev Bajaj, Pathankot)