My Autobiography: Why Am I a Vegetarian?

Potato-Curry

‘Why are you a vegetarian?’ is one common question that I get asked, both when I was young, and even now. When I was young, I just used to smile and I guess people understood that I didn’t know what to answer.

Perhaps, since my family & community was vegetarian, I was also vegetarian. I guess it was a habit from birth and hence I never thought about other possibilities. Lack of exposre and availability of a huge variety of tasty vegetarian foods also helped, I guess.

In India and especially in Chennai (where I was born and brought up), it’s very normal to see a lot of vegetarian families/communities. There are many vegetarian hotels and even hotels that serve non-vegetarian dishes have separate menu for vegetarians.

Secondly, non-vegetarians are predominantly vegetarians here. They do eat meat occasionally (as far as my observations with my friends families go), but their diet consists of predominantly vegetarian ingredients. In fact, even my non-vegetarian friends are shocked to know what people eat at places like Korea/Japan. One of them was appalled to find that in a plate of dishes served to him, many items were moving!!

Anyway, coming back to the main question of why am I a vegetarian, I never questioned this practice during childhood. I have even eaten some omlettes in road-side mobile shops (who make them quiet well). But I stopped eating egg from the time I vomited after eating something called as ‘half-boil’.

That’s the first reason – When you are not exposed to non-vegetarian foods from a young age, the smell/taste is definitely not inviting. I was never drawn into it, even though my friends kept praising how excellent their meat-based foods were. When I was young, I should also have been afraid that my parents might scold me if they knew I was eating meat. That was another reason.

During my teens, like all teenagers I questioned everything happening around me. Why should I do this, why shouldn’t I do that, etc. I never found a good enough reason for being a vegetarian, but I never found a good enough reason for switching over, either.

My non-vegetarian friends used to tell me – ‘Eat chicken once in your life, you’ll know what tasty food is. If you want, I’ll give you right now – Taste it’. During those situations, I was never really tempted because I didn’t find the smell of meat, very pleasant. Besides, I always had access to a variety of tasty vegetarian foods and hence I did not feel like I was missing out on taste.

Once I politely refuse, they get offended (sometimes). Then they say things like, ‘This is a religious practice, you should come out of it’. I wonder how. In my religion, there are both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. They try to convince me that there is no strength in vegetables/fruits and I found that reason, very silly. People have been living on vegetarian diet for centuries and they have been quite healthy & have been able to live a long-life.

Once they see that I am quite certain about my decision, their internal dilemma gets amplified (you can see it in their eyes). They then try to justify their habit. I stop them and say that I am not offended in anyway with a person’s food habits & I don’t judge people that way, either. But they are not convinced.

After some time, they say ‘This is the last time I am asking you. Why don’t you try eating some meat now?’ I ask them quite firmly, ‘Can you become a vegetarian from tomorrow?’ Of course, they can’t. ‘How can you expect me to become a non-vegetarian instantly, then?’ A convincing argument.

All the while, I used to get irritated during such talks. Only had I known that they were actually looking for inspiration, I would have reacted differently.

Destination Infinity

26 thoughts on “My Autobiography: Why Am I a Vegetarian?

  1. Hi,

    I am a pure vegetarian too because i do not consider non-veg things as food, and i find meat obnoxious too…nice post..I wish the whole world turns vegetarian

    1. Meat is very much a food. All our ancestors (before the advent of agriculture, grains, etc.) should have been meat eaters.

      I too wish more people become vegetarians, but not because eating meat is horrible or anything. But because they find more merit with this food-habit, comparatively. If they, that is.

      Destination Infinity

      1. If you say that non-vegetarian foods have some limitations, like health concerns or killing animals, then I can accept. But on the basis of those limitations, you can’t call something horrible.

        The health concerns can be alleviated by proper processing/storage of foods. And killing animals (for food) is not restricted to humans. Many predators need to kill animals for food. That’s the way our creator has created this world.

        Right and wrong are something we impose on ourselves. With humans, majority opinion is mostly right and it changes with every generation! So, having a narrow outlook on any issue will only create mental tensions for us.

        Destination Infinity

        1. Animals kill only for food and defense but we have choice of a larger variety of veggies and fruits. Also, we have intellect then why justify killings for food with petty excuses. Also, health benefits are a farce as millions of vegetarians are as healthy.

        2. Creation and destruction are natural processes. We humans have attached emotions towards them, in order to safeguard our tribe (primarily).

          Don’t vegetarians kill rats? kill cockroaches? kill mosquitoes? kill ants? Don’t they wear shoes/belts/handbags made of leather? Don’t they have decorative ivory products?

          All of us kill creatures directly or indirectly. Why pass the blame to non-vegetarians who kill one or two creatures more than us?

          Destination Infinity

          1. Even those vegetarians that kill rats, ants and cockroaches and wear handbags of leather, and so on are, by solely human terms, considered “immoral”. Civilization has caused moral extremes, and these extremes are hardened and must not be broken, else the gradual end of civilization. It may be a desirable thing, yet destruction of civilization cannot dissolve the moral fabric of society.

        3. Humans are gifted with high intellectual capability, and we create extremes such as “good” and “evil”. We attempt to live up to such ethical concepts, in which murder is considered “evil”, et cetera. As we are limited to ethical concepts, one is equality, between all species. While various non-humans such as dolphins and chimpanzees have near-human intelligence, and are known to occasionally rescue humans, and even predators such as leopards are known to rescue other animals, they are not bounded to ethical limits and merely follow the limitations of DNA, physics, the ecosystem and inter-species relationships. As humans define taking a life of another human as being unethical, and as, scientifically speaking, every species has necessary impact on the environment and the biosphere, then humans should consider taking a life unethical. Even though consumption of meat does not cause direct death, it does take a life indirectly, a life taken for the cause of meat. Therefore, if eating meat is ethical, then cannibalism should be considered ethical. Morality is a subtle thing, but often requires stress on concepts and proper definitions.

  2. Leaving something in middle of a practice is tough, but since u hadn’t had non-vegetarian from childhood it won’t feel like missing something special. For me I think one is not less than another, there are many tasty food both in vegetarian and non-veg, even I like non-veg more , I accept vegetarian is healthy than non-veg. Fish is my first preference, except chicken and mutton I don’t like tasting anything in non-veg as I haven’t tasted any other from childhood.

    No one has the right to force someone to eat something, unless they like it. I hate half boil.

    1. Yes, one is not less than the other. Especially, when it comes to food habits. I do agree that leaving something that we like very much is difficult. Would I leave rice and switch-over to wheat? Difficult. But not impossible.

      LOL @ Half-boil. I guess I should have eaten it the right way, at least that’s what my friends told me, later on.

      Destination Infinity

  3. I’m a non vegetarian and I completely agree with what you say, about it not being a good option for people who can’t stand the smell, that is because we get used to it since we were used to eating it right from our childhood.

    I remember this incident when I read this. While travelling with a group, about 6 of them closed their noses saying, Oh what a bad smell. Me and my friend looked at each other and said, Ah, what a smell. It was the smell of dry fish :-)

    1. Fish, in particular, has a strong smell. People who are not used to it might find it difficult. But exposure reduces intolerance. For example, I used to visit a lot of non-vegetarian hotels with my colleagues when I started working, and hence I can stand the smell now.

      Destination Infinity

  4. I am a vegetarian by birth but even otherwise I would have converted myself to veggie. I dont like to imagine how that animal was killed in order to be present on my plate. Gives me creeps! So I usually say I am veggie by birth and also choice :)

    1. Good to read this. One of my friend’s family were non-vegetarian by birth, but they decided to go vegan when he was 6th standard or something. I respect their family, not only because they chose to become vegan, but also because all the members wholeheartedly accepted the decision.

      Destination Infinity

  5. Hmm…. half boil made me laugh! I am an eggetarian :P I love my veggies and just never felt the need to switch. Started being a vegetarian owing to a vegetarian family and later stuck to by choice :) As long as one enjoys their food, to each his own ! :)

    1. That is one thing that people from outside India fail to understand – Vegetarian cuisine has a lot of variety and it can be very tasty too!

      Destination Infinity

  6. Interesting post! I don’t like non-veg to a great extent, ie , if I have both types of food in front of me, I’ll go in for vegetarian food. But the thing is that husband and child are hard core non-vegetarians, so, it is cooked (by the husband… he’s a master chef by passion) very frequently at our home, so, I do taste it, but I can certainly do without it too!

  7. I could relate to everything written by you. I do feel bad to see a goat/ pig/ or for that matter any animal brought up lovingly, fed lovingly, only to be killed mercilessly for food. I am equally aware that many of our forefathers lived on it, and even the people who lovingly indulge in such eating habits are basically good people only. However, I have not found an easy, comfortable answer for justifying it. And at the same time I also feel, i cannot judge such practice, for being vegetarian, I also kill the plants lovingly grown by us, pluck flowers to decorate our houses, drink milk from the cow and so on , in fact we are also guilty of killing.
    I don’t believe one can get more/ better protein by eating non veg, and i can’t understand the reservation people have in having the meat of certain animals, live or dead, and crticising certain people for doing so. Meat is meat, what does it matter where the meat comes from.
    I think we should research more into this non veg and veg difference of opinion, and get the proper answer for our doubts.
    One thing is for sure , if everybody turned to vegetarianism, then they will be a huge shortage vegetables in the market, with prices reaching beyond the sky.

    1. Plucking flowers (that are anyway going to fall) or even plucking whole plants (in case of greens) can’t be compared to killing animals. Plants do not feel pain or emotions – they have no central nervous system. Drinking milk from the cow is something we might want to re-think.

      Non-vegetarian foods can cause obesity (faster) and if they are not processed/stored properly or if they are extracted from sick animals, they can cause a serious threat to our body. A proper/planned vegetarian diet is any time more healthy than a non-vegetarian diet (I feel).

      If there is a shortage of vegetables, we can always grow a few of them in our house. Terrace gardens are becoming more popular by the day.

      Destination Infinity

  8. I was born in a Jain family.. however I was a sort of a rebel who loved doing what was not allowed… and so I did venture… and today I love non veg as much as I love my veg food…

    I believe each to their own… I guess I too am at times guilty of teasing my veggie friends. After reading your post I guess it must be irritating for them too… However too many veggies also despise at the non veg loving folks and I always get back at them asking how is Milk a Vegetarian product or how is curd a vegetarian product… ! In effect all us humans stick by what suits us most… and I firmly believe that everyone must set his own rules and rituals and have the freedom to practice it.

    1. Irrespective of what I say, humans will set their own rules and practice it. At least in these days. It is true that too many vegetarians can tease non-veg folks, but the groups I had to be in, was mostly the reverse.

      Though we all love unlimited freedom, there are certain realities that we must heed to. I love my sweets but I can’t keep eating them in huge quantities. As long as people are able to control their habits, any habit is fine. Logic should have an equal say in our decisions, as fondness.

      Destination Infinity

  9. first of all I dont like this term “pure veg” ..does that mean non veg is impure? what is purity of food? or is it related to purity of a person who follows some food belief? Crap!
    I have had friends who puke at the very mention of non veg and react violently looking at scrambled egg even! What I believe is food is a personal choice and whatever one believes and follows is fine but two things should be kept in mind
    1) Etiquette, – I dont go “chiii” or puke at your veg food (even sabzis like lauki/karela/methi makes me do that) so dont be grossed out at mine. if you are, learn to behave in public.
    2) Dont try to force your beliefs and no teasing i.e. have mutual respect and this goes for both veg and non veg people.

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