From the time the Biblical God planted the forbidden apple in the garden of Eden, food has been used as a political tool for bossing over people. If God really did not want Adam and Eve to eat that particular apple, what was the need for planting it in the garden? Politics is the answer. God was playing politics. “I have the power to make rules and you have the duty to obey my rules.” That’s what God was telling them indirectly. “You are my subordinates. The apple tree is a symbol of my power over you.”
We now live in a time when some people who export beef to other countries kill those people within the country who eat beef. The holy cow is also a symbol just like the Biblical apple tree: a symbol of the power wielded by some over others.
I spent fifteen years of my life in a place where carcasses greeted people every morning. Beef, pork and mutton travelled in open trailers through the winding roads and streets of Shillong to the various food markets in the town. Live chickens were carried in cages. Dead fish with open eyes also came in liberally especially for the sizeable Bengali population of the city. Vegetarians were assumed to be contemptible misers or uninteresting misfits.
The next decade and half found me in a place where non-vegetarians were viewed as murderers. Well, almost. Delhi is not hypocritical apparently. You have substantial freedom to eat what you want though you will have to choose the area of your residence according to your preferences. In Delhi you will meet people who value vegetarianism above almost everything else. I came across people who preached eloquently about the merits of vegetarianism. Once in a while I found the same people enjoying themselves in a KFC or McDonalds outlet.
Shillong did not have the hypocrisy of Delhi. Nor did it use food as a political weapon. I don’t know whether the town has changed in the last decade and a half. Delhi’s hypocrisy was entertaining, however. It was not confined to food alone. In the last month of my stay there, a lady who habitually preached a lot of morality to her staff stood before the same staff and thundered, “Mein talwar uddawoongi. [I’ll wield the sword.]” She was trying to teach discipline to her staff and the sword was a metaphor for stern disciplinary action. Ironically, she ended up driving a bulldozer. She was part of a gang that razed an entire educational institution to dust. They just wanted to shut down the institution and use the land for their business. And they achieved the goal easily by wielding metaphorical talwars. Food was one of the talwars.
Food, sword and bulldozer. As I walk on the narrow village roads in Kerala now breathing in fresh air suffused with the smell of verdant foliage, metaphors of all sorts flash through my mind. I have the leisure to contemplate on them now. I have the leisure to learn the lessons that I already know.
Note: Prompted by Indispire Edition 111: #foodfads – Explore your relationship with food.