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Being a Non Vegetarian
My daughter has enjoyed non vegetarian food ever since she was two. I introduced her to chicken soup in the beginning and later to everything that we consumed in the non- vegetarian food category. I was only delighted that she has taken so well to chicken and eggs and that I need not worry about her daily dose of protein.
She turned four and made lot of friends in the building. During her evening snack time when her friends would refuse to share her boiled egg or an omelette, she would never understand why. One day she asked me, “Mom they don’t eat my food even though I SHARE it. Sharing toh acchi baat hoti hai.” I was baffled for a minute and paused to gather my response. I said, “They are vegetarians and they don’t eat egg and chicken.” She didn’t question much and I also allowed it to let it pass. Explaining the whole thing would have meant the origin of food, the dissection of categories- veg and non veg, the choices made as default and lot of other questions that I thought a young mind like hers would not grasp it.
Days passed and her fondness for tandoori chicken and chicken tikkas grew by leaps and bounds. Outdoor dining was meant for non- vegetarian food. It was only recently that I found myself in a fix again. We were travelling to our home town and enroute our ride from airport to home stopped at a dhaba to grab the lunch. Driver insisted that we have ‘meat’ at this place as it’s famous for its desi chicken. We were only happy to try that authentic chicken masala of the north. My daughter had a hearty meal post which she went around playing with chicks who were loitering in the campus. It was a fun watch as she had never seen so many chicks in Mumbai. She kept running behind them exclaiming in joy and laughter still unaware why chickens were all there.
She came to me and said we hardly get to see goats, buffaloes, cows, and chickens in Mumbai. Look how many of them are here. One conversation led to another and I was delighted to expose her to the real rural set up. Before we were to restart our journey, I insisted her to go to loo. She was reluctant as it was located somewhere behind the dhaba. Still, I managed to take her. As we made our way, she came face to face with a butcher who was mercilessly killing the chickens. Though I first covered her eyes for a second, I instantly realised I can’t hide the fact anymore from her that human beings consume the actual chicken and that’s how it’s prepared. We attended our natural call and then headed back to our car. There began her questions which I could see it coming. ‘Why was he killing the chicken’, ‘Do we eat the same chicken’, ‘But they are so cute and playful’, ‘Their parents must be so sad’.
I didn’t mince my words and said, “Yes, we do eat the same chicken. It’s completely your choice. There is nothing right or wrong about it, it’s just the way it is. Some people eat only veggies. You are five and you can decide”. Somewhere inside I was guilty for introducing her to something of which she didn’t even know the origin. Like any anxious mother I was worried what if she quit non-veg, she anyways don’t relish vegetables. But at that moment, I would have simply accepted any decision that she would have made.
She pondered and replied, “Dad and you eat it too so it must be okay to eat it. But tell that driver uncle, we get better chicken tikka in Mumbai.” We both burst into laughter.