I have narrated this story umpteen number of times, but had never penned it.
The predominant debate in the country these days, makes me write it.
Thirteen years back, in the July of 2002, few boys from different parts of the country converged on the 'cosmopolitan', as it was liked to be called then, Bangalore. The purpose was higher education, graduation.
Where is beef in the story?
Hold your horses...
So after the mandatory orientation, lasting a few days and several events, the college decided to take the 'new kids' out into the city so that they could buy books! or anything else, or whatever.
So a big bus landed one fine Sunday at the hostel door and packed teenagers, bubbling with enthusiasm, dressed in their best, apprehensive.
The bus dropped us at 'State Bank of Mysore'.
Those familiar with Bangalore will understand, for others, its just another place where the market is sub standard, the traffic is busy, the locality unclean.
but yeah, books, there adjoining is Avenue Road, where one gets new and second hand books. or that is what we had been told.
So, we alighted at SBM and were led to the 'sub standard' market by a guy from Asansol who wanted to buy 'Gucci' jeans.
That is an interesting story, but more on that later.
So after an hour the big group, as expected now, unexpected then, dispersed into smaller groups.
My group consisted of just two people, so we cannot exactly call it a group.
Those were the days of initial forging of friendships and the one with me, Bijay, was a foodie.
Wandering the streets for a while we felt hungry and started walking down Avenue Road in search of some good food.
Good here would indicate non-vegetarian.
A little digression before we go to the meaty part of the story.
I belong to a Brahmin family in the eastern state (yes there is an east too, India is not North and South and North-East) of Odisha and Odia Brahmins do consume non vegetarian food, and quite voraciously I might add.
Ok so back to the story.
After searching for quite some time, hunger level rising like a tide, we saw some delicious cooking happening in a small hotel on the left hand side of the road.
Happy to have found a place, Bijay and me walked in.
While walking into the sitting area, we could see some meat being fried on a big hot plate, some barbeque kind of thing happening and it all was salivating to look at.
We sat at the table and saw people around us consuming what we could clearly guess as Biriyani.
Next what happened was baffling.
The uninterested waiter arrived a minute later.
We ordered two Chicken Biriyanis.
The waiter left without writing a thing on his notebook. He did not even acknowledge the order.
Both of us were confused.
Did he not understand Hindi or what was the matter we thought for a while.
And then couple of guys in the table beside explained to us the matter.
very politely they told us 'Actually here you don't get chicken, only beef'
We could not believe our ears. None of us had been to any restaurant in Odisha, and we had to many between both of us, which served beef.
We reconfirmed with the good samaritans. No chicken, only beef it was.
In no time did we dash out of the hotel, viewing that what looked delicious few moment back in utter disdain.
So what if the waiter would have just brought the Biriyani? What if the fellow eaters would not bother to tell us?
And why the disdain?
That answer is easy. We have been conditioned to see beef as something that is holy and not to be consumed. Plus the conditioning that it is consumed by a certain section of society who are 'different' 'inferior' 'unholy' or other such attributes.
The conditioning is deep. Its quite not possible to shake it off. But then the conditioning, the acquiring, the choice is personal, absolutely personal.
There is another small story regarding beef and Bangalore.
Two Bengali guys, who happened to be our good friends and roommates during graduation, used to describe the beef delicacies they regularly had in Calcutta.
Though few of us would squirm at the statement, chide with a 'chi, chi', it was adequately clear and now when i think back, very rightly so, that food is a personal choice.
Apart than the legality, the constitutionality of it, it is just a personal choice.
That was a brief story involving beef.
PS: As a biochemist I have my scientific take on meat as protein, its desired and undesired effect, but that's for another post.