He was from an orthodox brahmin family from South India. [A politically incorrect statement at many levels to start a post with]. He was not too orthodox or religious himself but he did believe in half of the stuff that was preached by his family and elders. According to the house rules, there were many things that could attract the maximum punishment in the after-life. The most common yet important violation is eating non-vegetarian food. One may think this is a trivial issue. It is not. Nobody understood his everyday battles.
The first hurdle was to understand the difference between vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism. His knowledge about vegetarianism was like the famous campaign of Zomato. There are two kinds of people in the world – vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Life was simple then. Then one day, he had an argument with his friend. According to his friend, Egg was vegetarian and according to him, it is not. Then a third friend joined the argument and said we both were wrong. He said Fish was also vegetarian. This was a complete mess. The argument never was settled until they graduated. It took lots of hours of painful arguments, research and a couple of trips in international flight to understand that non-veg was rather simple but vegetarian had subsections like Lacto-vegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, Jain vegetarian, kosher, vegan and so on. Since he consumes milk and its by-products he settled himself for a Lacto-vegetarian. He still has arguments with some of his friends about mushroom. That story is reserved for later.
He joined a multinational company and was with his staying with his friends in Bangalore. Let me stop you before you start thinking that his friends tricked him into eating non-veg. Nothing of that sort happened. They were a good bunch. Other than snatching his share of Maggi(Ramen) from him, they were harmless. These guys went to a theme park to spend a weekend. It was a fun day and they were soaked in the water like a bloody bunch of buffaloes. Too much monkey business in the water made them hungry and they ordered lunch from the cafeteria. It took more than 20 mins to wait in the queue and order the food. And another 20 mins to get the food. He was famished and forgot all the table manners and started hogging the first dish that was placed. The steaming hot Gobi Manchurian. The moment he started chewing the Gobi he realised that something was wrong. The Gobi never has a strong stem. And it was extra mushy. It was only after his other friends joined his table did he come to know that they were incorrectly given “chicken 65” instead of Gobi Manchurian. He was horrified. A grave mistake but unintentional. His friends mocked him. He was relentless. He went to the artificial wave pool, took a holy dip chanting Holy river Ganga’s name and washed his sins. He took an extra-long bath and changed his sacred thread the next day to ensure that all sins were completely washed away.
This incident spread like wildfire at his workplace, thanks to his friends. He became a butt of the joke for a while. He had frequent dinners and lunches with his teams later and became quite conscious of what he was eating. He never let his guard down. Until another super-orthodox-TamBrahm joined his team. Now, this guy made our guy’s parents look like liberals. He started following this new guy blindly in team lunches/dinners. Whatever this guy ate would be an ISI certified pure vegetarian. You know where I am getting towards. One day, his team went out for lunch. As usual, the number of meat lovers was more than vegetarians. They went to a place which is famous for meat food but also good in vegetarian dishes. So they ordered many soups, starters and main courses as was the norm. They were busy pulling each others’ legs when the food was being served. The new guy inspected a dish and then grabbed a few pieces of it and started munching. So, he also confidently took that dish with his eyes closed. He got the same feeling as before. The food was mushy and he could not identify what it was. So asked the new guy what it was. “Okra Fry” came the reply. Now, he had tasted Okra fry in 100 restaurants. All of them had different tastes and textures. But this was nothing close to its texture or taste. So he inquired the waiter who told them it was a mutton(lamb) dish. He ran towards the washroom to spit the pieces and wash his mouth from this sin. He slightly felt better as he had only chewed it but did not swallow anything. The new guy though was devastated. Everybody could hear him throw up in the restroom and it was more disgusting than tasting the non-veg dish. Everyone in the restaurant was grossed out by now. As usual, he took a holy shower to wipe of his sins and was back to normal the next day. The new guy didn’t come to work for 3 days.
These were the two instances when he had actually tasted something non-veg. But there were many instances where he came close to. During one of his trips in the US, he and his friends got stranded in the snowstorm near Grand Canyon. The car that they had rented was towed away after they rammed into the car in front of them; inexperienced drivers on the snow. They hitchhiked to a place called Flagstaff and checked into a motel. It was late in the night and they were completely knackered. The regular food joints like McDonald’s, Burger King, Chipotle were closed. Only one Chinese restaurant was open and they decided to order the delivery. He was the only vegetarian of the three so he went through the menu list very carefully. Unable to find anything vegetarian, he ordered the only dish that was safe – Vegetable Fried Rice. They waited painfully for 90 mins for the order to be delivered. Another 30 minutes and they could have ordered breakfast. Finally, the food was delivered and when he opened the box, he was furious. He saw a shiny white egg sitting in the middle of the rice. He was enraged. He called up the restaurant, not minding the charges that he could incur from the hotel phone, and started yelling at them.
‘I ordered a Vegetable Fried rice’
‘Then may I ask why do I see a shiny white egg sitting in the middle of my food?’
‘Yes, sir! You ordered the vegetable fried rice’.
‘Exactly! Why is there an egg then?’
‘Because it is vegetable fried rice and not a vegetarian fried rice. You should say ‘no egg’ when you order it’
He had given up hopes. He never felt that stupid in his life before. His large intestine was eating his small intestine and he was getting enlightened about the difference between Vegetable Fried Rice and Vegetarian fried rice in the wee hours of the night.
‘Can I change my order?’
‘Yes please. What would you like to have?’
‘A margherita pizza with thin crust base and cheese, with tomato, capsicum and olives toppings cut using a clean knife which was not used to cut any meat; meat includes – egg, fish, livestock, poultry, seaweed, and mushroom; no oil’
‘Yes, Sir! You want a kid’s vegan pizza. Is that correct?’
‘Go to hell!’