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I’m A Non-Veg Brahmin And Here’s Why I Never Dared To Bring Meat In My Gujarat Home

By Rupsa Chakraborty

I landed in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state, Gujarat, in 2014 in the middle of the scorching heat of March. I was beaming with excitement as the city had transformed into the epicentre around which the Indian political scenario was revolving. And being a budding journalist, it was a great career opportunity to witness the madness in the newsroom around the time of the Lok Sabha election that ‘changed India’. But hardly had I known that my non-vegetarian taste buds would soon lead to a nightmare and cast shadows on my happiness.

tandoori chicken non vegetarian food
Image source: thebittenworld/flickr

March 12, 2014, my first day in Ahmedabad was spent hunting for a rented room at a nominal price. Finally, a broker showed me a flat within my budget near a Muslim-dominated area, Vejalpur. As it was just 10 minutes away from my new office, I readily agreed. Next day when I returned to sign the agreement, my landlord in a stern voice threw a list of back-to-back questions at me, enquiring about my marital status, drinking habits, job, education and friends. And finally, for the first time, I saw him smiling when I answered his last question.

“What is your religion?” he asked. “I am a Hindu and a Brahmin by caste,” I replied. He grinned showing a sign of relief and signed the agreement without any other question.

In Gujarat, Brahmins are generally vegetarians but it is just the opposite in Bengal. Fish is our staple food. We can live without water but not without non-vegetarian food. My landlord was unaware of this. And to my bad luck, I asked him if there was any fish market nearby.

This question turned his face pale, holding the agreement in his hand, he angrily asked me, “Why do you want to go to a fish market if you are a Brahmin?” I understood my mistake but it was too late for any explanation and the agreement was cancelled.

Thankfully, that very day, my broker managed to provide me with another flat in the same locality. But it came with a statuary warning: ‘No non-veg’.

I avoided thinking about it, presuming it was just a one-time incident. But the discomfort was back again just after six months when I shifted to a new house in another locality with an office colleague. And yes, again the landlord asked me the same questions and I replied with similar answers:
“I am a Hindu.”
“I am a Brahmin.”
“I am vegetarian.”
“I don’t even eat egg.”

For the first time in my life, I thanked my parents for being Brahmins.

After shifting to our new apartment, I used to go to a local tea stall every morning to drink tea which would often be followed by chit-chat. One day, I took the risk of asking him if there was any meat market nearby. He ignored the question which really annoyed me, so I asked him again.

“Wait, I will tell you… let the person go,” he whispered.
To my surprise, I searched for the ‘person’ and I saw a man between the age of 40 and 50 years was staring at me when he overheard my question. Later, I got to know that he was the pandit of a nearby temple and strictly, avoided even the shadow of people who ate meat in the morning. “But I am a Brahmin too,” I replied hastily.

In my 22-month stay in Gujarat, I have gained total control on my non-vegetarian desires. Due to the fear of the locality, we didn’t dare bring raw meat in the flat for cooking or order something from outside. But thankfully, my roommate was also a hardcore non-vegetarian so we would often hop on my scooty to visit Bhatiyar Gali, a minority area and the hub of non-vegetarian food in Ahmedabad. Later, I found other colleagues in office who also shared the same love, and they never gave me looks for having a soft corner for non-veg food despite being a Brahmin.

I left Kolkata in 2012 for Bangalore, to pursue my higher studies, and stayed there for almost three years. But I never felt the need to flash my ‘Brahmin identity card’ and/or lie about being a non-vegetarian. I don’t mean that such incidents don’t occur in Kolkata, Bangalore or in other cities but thankfully, I hadn’t experienced them earlier. In every new city, I see new classifications of Indians. In Kolkata, it was political and apolitical Indians; in Bangalore it was mainly North and South Indians. And in Gujarat, I got to know about another bifurcation – vegetarian and non-vegetarian Indians.

I never thought about sharing this experience until the Dadri incident where in the name of religion, a 50-year-old man was killed for allegedly eating beef.

Does eating non-vegetarian food make anyone non-religious? Yes, I am a Brahmin and I like to eat mutton keema, chilli chicken, fish fry and beef leg, so what? These classifications have been so deeply imbibed in us that we don’t even mind rejecting a flat to a homeless girl in a new city, or even killing a man. India is already divided into so many castes and religions, do we need to add another diversification?

You must be to comment.
  1. Sarvana

    Good thought, I am lucky to be in a place were there is no restrictions in eating.

  2. Avinesh Saini

    Well, no Bengali who has any self respect should ever stay in Gujarat.

  3. Shreyas Pathak

    Though I am not denying that such an incidence may have occured but I strongly condemn painting Gujrat and BJP as one’s who do not allow Non – veg food. I leaved in Ahmedabad for about 4 years and never ever I had faced any problem eating non-veg , and yes I am a Brahmin. True that most Gujratis won’t eat non-veg but that does not mean people will scorn at you if you eat non-veg. We had two restaurants in our vicinity , one run by a Punjabi and other by Gujrati hindu. And many gujratis too love non veg food
    And btw I am not a Gujrati but a Maharashtrian.

  4. rajesh p

    Lol… When i was in gujrat, i bought eggs and even chicken n cooked from the house. I was staying for rent in d top floor f a home. I did not disturbed them nor did they. Actually they didnt know that i bought non veg. Its right of each and every human being to eat what he likes. Also,they dint gave me any conditions before they handed over the keys. So i bought and ate the food. They were very orthodox type people and i didnt find any problem in their family or anywhere else coz f me eating non veg. They yearly looks and do poojas and all and still every thing was fine. I believe in science. Food chain…:)
    Thats all… All pur ancestors ate non veg even without cooking. I mean the very old age… Stone age or something like that. Nothing to fear.

  5. Aakash Sharma

    Stay safe as now India being digitalized and gau rakshaks are on every social networking site. They may start a special search operation for you because they can only kill people who have love towards non-veg but not the ones who kill their jawans over border. I still feel why they don’t join forces.

  6. Rajnish Dhiman

    My home, my place, my rules. I will choose, whom to talk to. If someone wants to live with me, then it is a rule that he should not annoy me.
    In Rome, do as the Romans do.

  7. Parth G

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Here is the issue: I believe you have misunderstood what it means to be Brahmin.
    Let me explain.
    Above all: No-one is a Brahmin by birth. This is written across all the Hindu texts. A Brahmin is a state of being after receiving many years of education and training from the gurus. So when you said “I am a Hindu and a Brahmin by caste,” and then “never felt the need to flash my ‘Brahmin identity card’” you have mistakenly chosen to adopt an identity based on your birth surname (like many people do) rather than your habits.

    Can a Brahmin eat meat? The answer, also across the texts, is that a Brahmin by definition aspires to avoid violence when possible.
    So when you say “In Gujarat, Brahmins are generally vegetarians but it is just the opposite in Bengal.” what you should understand is that in the Bengali context, being a coastal city, fish was traditionally taken to be food and was foundational to stability of society. But in Gujarat that is certainly not the case. Thus the Brahmin in Gujarat, I emphasise by practice not surname, should avoid meat. So you cannot be
    “having a soft corner for non-veg food” if you have become Brahmin in Gujarat and many other provinces. Tagore was one who admired vegetarianism (see https://ivu.org/history/east/tagore.html). A Brahmin should also be focussed. No wonder then you found a pandit who “avoided even the shadow of people who ate meat in the morning. ”

    Again when you say “yes, I am a Brahmin and I like to eat mutton keema, chilli chicken, fish fry and beef leg, so what?” and “we would often hop on my scooty to visit Bhatiyar Gali, a minority area and the hub of non-vegetarian food in Ahmedabad” you are not BEING a Brahmin, you are simply adopting a Brahmin surname. But as Shakespeare’s Juliet said: what’s in a name? I am a Punjabi but I admire Gujarat for its broad vegetarian outlook regardless of caste.

    In conclusion, the answer to your (rhetorical) question “Does eating non-vegetarian food make anyone non-religious?” is simply “yes” in the circumstances you described. However it is not a permanent state, we all have the power to change our habits (as a society) towards non-violence. And certainly those who kill in the name of vegetarianism are not following their religion.

  8. Parth G

    Thank u for sharing your experience. Here is the issue: I believe you have misunderstood what it means to be Brahmin.
    Let me explain.
    Above all: No-one is a Brahmin by birth. This is written across all the Hindu texts. A Brahmin is a state of being after receiving many years of education and training from the gurus. So when you said “I am a Hindu and a Brahmin by caste,” and then “never felt the need to flash my ‘Brahmin identity card’” you have mistakenly chosen to adopt an identity based on your birth surname (like many people do) rather than your habits.

    Can a Brahmin eat meat? The answer, also across the texts, is that a Brahmin by definition aspires to avoid violence when possible.
    So when you say “In Gujarat, Brahmins are generally vegetarians but it is just the opposite in Bengal.” what you should understand is that in the Bengali context, being a coastal city, fish was traditionally taken to be food and was foundational to stability of society. But in Gujarat that is certainly not the case. Thus the Brahmin in Gujarat, I emphasise by practice not surname, should avoid meat. So you cannot be
    “having a soft corner for non-veg food” if you have become Brahmin in Gujarat and many other provinces. Tagore was one who admired vegetarianism (see https://ivu.org/history/east/tagore.html). A Brahmin should also be focussed. No wonder then you found a pandit who “avoided even the shadow of people who ate meat in the morning. “

    Again when you say “yes, I am a Brahmin and I like to eat mutton keema, chilli chicken, fish fry and beef leg, so what?” and “we would often hop on my scooty to visit Bhatiyar Gali, a minority area and the hub of non-vegetarian food in Ahmedabad” you are not being a Brahmin, you are simply adopting a Brahmin surname. But as Shakespeare’s Juliet said: what’s in a name? I am a Punjabi but I admire Gujarat for its broad vegetarian outlook regardless of caste.

    In conclusion, the answer to your (rhetorical) question “Does eating non-vegetarian food make anyone non-religious?” is simply “yes” in the circumstances you described. However it is not a permanent state, we all have the power to change our habits (as a society) towards non-violence. And certainly those who kill in the name of vegetarianism are not following their religion.

  9. satyanarayana narina

    you should follow for your health benefit, non-veg takes away peace from you. Even animal by nature is non-vegetarian eats only flesh of another animal but not cooked meat.Cooked meat is one of the main causes for cancer. people follow a custom only if it is a rule.

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