Question 1: Which of the following dietary practices are the most secular?
A. Hindu eats beef
B.Muslim eats pork
C. Hindu does not eat pork
D. Muslim does not eat beef
E. Both Hindus and Muslims turn vegetarian
Seriously, this is the kind of question that youngsters are likely to face in competitive exams in the next decade, going by the exquisitely refined crap that passes for intellectual discourse and political debate among academia and in mainstream media today.
Here is a fine example of the stellar academic thinking and intellectual activism – on public display during the past few months – that will inexorably lead to the posing of serious questions like the above. In recent months, certain sections of students in the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi have organized well-publicized ‘beef and pork eating parties’ for students; the idea is that Hindus who join in the revelry can prove their ‘secular credentials’ by eating beef, and Muslims who join in the revelry can prove their ‘secular credentials’ by eating pork.
But when you think about it, all that a Hindu or a Muslim could possibly ‘prove’ by eating beef and pork respectively in the party, is that she/he is hungry. Where in the name of Allah, Krishna, Jesus and other secular deities does ‘secularism’ come into what you shovel into your stomach?
What if a Hindu eats beef (or a Muslim eats pork) at such a party, and then proceeds to puke like mad because the meat is undercooked or overcooked or simply tasteless? Does that make the hapless puker ‘communal’?
And what about a Muslim or Hindu who is invited to such a party but refuses to go? Does his or her refusal to go and hog pigs and cows cast a shadow of doubt over his/her ‘secular credentials’, whatever in @@#$%%&^% that phrase means?
Let me hasten to add, loud and clear with my mouth filled with pork and beef: I believe there’s absolutely nothing wrong in eating beef and pork. Or armadillo balls, or monkey gonads, or idlis for that matter.
What one eats is purely a matter of personal taste. I eat anything that’s served with love and affection.
I state, without either embarrassment or pride, that I love South Indian vegetarian food. And also North Indian vegetarian food. But I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed, and continue to eat, all kinds of meat: of cows, pigs, sheep, lamb, goat, deer, yak, wild boar and so forth. I also love to eat fish from lakes, rivers and seas. Oh, and also crustaceans. In addition, I’ve eaten and still eat a variety of bird: chicken and duck and pigeon, of course, and also quail, partridge, and numerous other species whose names I know not that were felled, cooked and eaten during hikes with friends in the forests of Assam and Meghalaya. Lest I forget, I’ve also eaten, with immense relish, an extraordinary variety of little creatures that are garden-grown – well, basically creatures that live on things that are garden-grown; like little caterpillars (in their cocoons) that grow on pea plants, fried bee larva and so forth.
But you know what? My all-time favourite dishes since childhood are dahi-chawal, kootu, Assamese fish curry and Kerala-style fried prawns.
And I detest paneer in all its avatars. But I don’t consider paneer-lovers communal or secular. I don’t scream: “Ban paneer!”
The point I’m making is: there’s nothing ‘secular’ or ‘communal’ about food. I consider myself a man of faith; my faith is my own business. And what I eat has sweet@@##%%^&-all to do with my faith – or yours, for that matter.
Please go ahead and eat what you wish to eat. Please do let me eat what I like to eat.
All food we eat serves but one purpose: to give us the energy to live. To mix up ‘God’ with food is not only idiotic; it is sacrilege. Because leftovers from the food you eat go down the alimentary canal, to eventually…well…let’s drop the matter.
As Conan Doyle might have put it: “Alimentary, my dear JNU beef-and-pork partiers”.
Bon appetit. And Jai Hind.