A little bit of background. I hardly identify with my caste, but in this case, it is relevant. I am a CKP. It stands for Chandrasainya Kayastha Prabhu. According to Wikipedia, CKP culture is said to have traditionally adopted a diet that includes fish, meat, poultry and eggs. In other words, we are foodies to the core.
So it was quite surprising for our whole family when my dad quit non-veg a few years ago. And a bit of an inconvenience too, I imagine, for the people cooking. Family dinners, which normally were a one-dimensional hardcore non vegetarian affair, and in which vegetarian food made appearances only as side dishes, now became a little more complicated to plan. A vegetarian main course was now necessary, not an option that was only pursued if time permitted.
Its funny looking back at it now, after I myself have decided to turn vegetarian. I just may be better off than my dad though: my family is not complaining about my decision, as we have quite a few vegetarians in family dinners. They do miss my company on non veg binges mind you. But its all our dog's fault, so they should complain to him really.
Krish (our four month old German shepherd puppy) is sleeping soundly nearby as I write this. He, blissfully bereft of a conscience, consumes more than a kilo of meat a week. Most times, I'm the one feeding it to him. But he's the reason I wont be putting any in my mouth anymore. His love did that.
''Its amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.'', said John Grogan of Marley, the worlds most famous dog. And it's the same with Krish. Life without him would be like a wedding party without a dhol, goes on fine but just not as much fun. Whether it's making sure he keeps his teeth off the furniture, or going on cycle rides and runs with him, or watching him grind my favourite headphones like they are a chew stick, my cup overfloweth when it comes to being a busy but content dog owner.
And then I remembered a conversation my cousins and I once had about how they eat dog meat in China . Back then it was just a fun fact. Now, I was mortified at the thought. Now that I was so attatched to a particular dog, the thought of any dog being eaten horriefied me. I mean, these are intelligent, loyal, loving animals who have the potential to bring us so much joy in so many ways. How can we kill them for their meat?
And then I thought, what about other animals? Granted most species aren't ideal human companions like dogs are, but don't all animals have a huge potential to love? Who am I to discriminate between animals created by the Creator, by saying its not ok to kill these species for food but it is ok to kill these. How far is that from saying it's ok to marry people from this caste but not ok to marry into this caste? Or that coloured people are meant to do these jobs and white people are meant to do these jobs?
That was when I decided that I could not justify taking any animal life just for the satisfaction of my taste buds anymore.
There was something else that influenced this decision too. I'm currently re-reading "My experiments with truth'' by a certain M. K. Gandhi. Given the direction my thoughts were taking in the weeks before, it was no surprise that this line struck a chord : ''I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man''. (Pg. 208)
I reasoned that the killing of animals for food could be justified at many points in history, but not now, when our intellect has sufficiently evolved to develop alternatives that need no loss of life.
So it was that on the 2nd of October this year (by the Creator's arrangement, the anniversary of Gandhiji's birth was around the corner), I took the decision that felt right, that didn't prick the corner of my mind that I had walled off.
This is an admission. I always felt the slightest bit guilty while eating non veg, but suppressed the pinch with what I believed were credible reasons. Foremost among these was that I "needed the protein", given until recently my line of work. But now that I'm not playing competitively any more, I couldn't hide behind that excuse.
And so that's that. Score: Krish 1, Snehal 0. You win little fellow.