My family does not eat meat for religious reasons. Now that I have disowned my religion, I can eat meat. But I don’t do so as to continue patronising my friends who eat meat.
Today, on a ferry, I met a Bangladeshi who was kind enough to befriend me and join me for lunch. In my broken Bengali Hindi hybrid language, I explained him that I don’t eat meat. He told waiter something and a plate with what looked like meat was placed in front of me by the waiter.
“I said I don’t eat meat, only vegetables”
“But this is not meat. This is chicken”, said my friend.
“I don’t eat chicken”, I said pushing the plate aside. The waiter went in and got me another dish. Even that had a flaky bone in it.
“Is this fish?”, I asked with all the calmness.
“Yes”, said my new friend with the “how can you not recognize fish?” look.
“I don’t eat fish.”
With a look full of confusion, my new friend said, “But you said no meat and you don’t eat chicken and fish? “.
“No! No meat, no chicken, no fish. Only vegetables”, I replied with my face beaming with pride.
My friend said something to the waiter in Bengali and the waiter placed a blue plastic mug in front of me. I peered into the mug to find a familiar liquid – dal.
Looking at me pouring the watery dal into my plate of rice when everyone else was enjoying fish and chicken curry, my new friend leaned over to me and whispered in my ears, “do you have any disease that forbids you from eating anything other than dal?”
Without realising who was patronising whom now, I said, “No” and continued eating. The already watery dal seemed even more tasteless.