One of the things I appreciate about living in India is the immense amount of vegetarian options. I was raised a carnivore, in a meat (with every meal) and potatoes household. I never really saw anything wrong with what I was eating. I grew up in the country and it was common to go buy a pig or a cow from the farmer and then have it delivered to you, ready for the freezer. It was just how life was. Once I went to university I had several friends who had either turned vegetarian recently or would try being vegetarian while we were in school over the next four years. I guess you would say that university was my first exposure to the vegetarian lifestyle. Once I met Abhi he was eating meat but struggled every time he had to eat it. Vegetarian options are hard to come by in the US, especially if you are unfamiliar with the system and on a limited budget. At this point I still had not become vegetarian, or even considered it. The turning point came when Abhi and I had our wedding in India.
Abhi and I got married in India in 2010. Following our wedding we went on a mountain road trip with my in-laws. This road trip was my first real exposure to Indian life. In one small hill town we were sitting in a dhaba waiting for our dinner. While we are sitting there across the street is a man who has chickens. Sitting there I watched him pick up the chicken by the wing and roughly shove him into a small cage. I couldn’t shake the way it made me feel. I still ate non-veg after that, largely due to laziness and desire for convenience. But somewhere deep inside, eating meat was disturbing me.
Abhi and I had been living in India for half of the year for the several years, meaning that I was eating non-veg less and less. When we were in the states we had started going to temple, where a vegetarian diet was promoted. One night after Abhi and I had meditated for several hours after worship we stopped at Subway for dinner. We got a footlong chicken sub to split as we usually did. Somehow the conversation turned to how we shouldn’t be eating non-veg, especially after we come from temple. I believe we had one more non-veg sandwich after that discussion and since January 2013 we have both been vegetarians. There have been some slips along the way where eggs are eaten, but we have been making even greater efforts to ensure that no eggs are eaten as well. I’d like to be vegan but since I am still learning the ropes of being a vegetarian and with being pregnant I have been hesitant to do so. However, as a compromise I purchase milk from a co-op here in India where the cow are treated in a more personal manner rather than the industrial hell they are in Western countries. Then when we are in the states I try to avoid regular milk, instead sticking with almond milk or coconut milk.
Even though being vegetarian is a big part of Indian culture, especially for Hindus, Indians are always surprised when they find out that I no longer eat meat and that I am now vegetarian. I’m not quite sure why it is so surprising. I guess because I no longer fit into their mold of what they believe a westerner is…. a meat-eating person who can’t commit and would rather live in their own country rather than spend time in India.
Anyone else vegetarian and get surprised responses in India? Who else has decided to become a vegetarian?