Even before we could take our seats in the restaurant, Namit started the salvo, “Guys, this restaurant has the longest list of starters I have ever seen.” I thanked God that we got a corner table today. Surprisingly Shikha didn’t respond. But Namit was on a mission, “And even the list of main course is endless.” She still didn’t react and kept flipping through the pages of the menu. He persisted, “and I am told that the Paneer Tikka Masala here is the best thing you guys would have ever eaten in your whole life.” That proved to be the snapping point for Shikha, “That might not be true for us but YOU would definitely not have had anything better than PANEER in your whole life.” Namit leapt with a reply, “At least I don’t kill my food before eating it.” Shikha was not far behind, “At least we admit that we are ethically flawed by being non-vegetarians but how long will you preach us from your moral high ground and not accept the fact that you are equally guilty. Even your Paneer is made of milk, which is actually meant for the cow’s offspring. Who gave humans the moral right to wean a calf of the milk? Isn’t that cruel?” I suggested that we should at least order the starters. Shikha said that because Namit knows this restaurant well and that it’s anyways going to be veg, so he can order for us as well. Namit quickly picked something from the menu and got back to business, “Don’t you feel bad that the things you eat were living and walking around just moments ago”. There was nothing new with this pitch but Shikha was quick with hers, “So you mean anything which has legs is living and anything that has roots is not?” Namit reacted as if he didn’t hear that one but said, “Well, it’s not about the number of legs, but the chicken or any other animal has so many features similar to us. They walk, feel pain, and have blood like we do.” Shikha replied, “So anything which doesn’t look like us, can’t move or feel pain is non-living and we are supposed to eat them. Look at plants, trees and fruits. Do you think because they look different, can’t scream out in pain means that they don’t feel it? Even they ooze sap when you cut them. That’s their blood.”
I didn’t know when we finished the starters. Whatever that was, it was good. I was enjoying both the conversation and the food. They were having none of it. I suggested we choose the main course. But I didn’t get a response from them. I went ahead and ordered. When I got back to the conversation I heard Namit say, “But wheat, rice and fruits are biologically dead when we buy them. The cereals are extracted when the plant dries off and fruits are picked up when they are ripe.” Shikha didn’t even let him finish that one and interrupted, “Cereals and fruits are not meant to be eaten. They are intended for re-production. They are meant to start new lives. So if you are not letting the seeds to grow you are actually killing them. They are like the eggs of the plant, similar to a chicken’s.” She was not done yet, “The same way a chicken is fed, brought up and then slaughtered, the food crops are sowed, watered, reared and then harvested. It’s no different.” Namit retorted, “Vegetables are good for the body as compared to meat. It takes much longer to digest meat as compared to vegetables and all the nutrition that you get from non-veg food has alternatives in vegetables; the Omega3 fatty acid you get from fish is available in walnuts, iron is in plenty in spinach and soybeans can give you as much proteins as you get from chicken. Moreover meat and meat products can lead to a lot of diseases.” Shikha continued, “Well I am not sure if you would enjoy having walnuts, spinach and soybeans everyday but I would love to get my irons and proteins from meat and fish, everyday. And all the diseases from meat can be controlled if you follow a fitness regime.”
There was nothing special about the main-course to write back home, though I had it all in a jiffy. It’s usually this time that the conversation ebbs because both our debaters, knowing that I have finished, start concentrating on finishing their meal. But Namit gave it one last shot, “Though you have been eating meat it doesn’t mean that you have to keep doing it. It’s not like an addiction. You guys have the choice to change.” But it looked like Shikha had become addicted to this conversation. She quickly responded, “If I have the ‘choice to change’ then I would also like to have the choice to choose the ‘choice to change’ and I chose not to choose the ‘choice to change’. And you should appreciate this choice in the same way as you would if I chose to become a vegan.” Phew! With so many ‘choices’ I felt lost and so was Namit. He was actually left with no choice. Then I ‘chose my choice’ to pay the bill as these guys would, usually after a heated debate, forget all generosities. As we got ready to leave the place they both looked at me and I instantly knew what was coming; all through the debate they would not let me utter a word and in the end they would want me to pick a side. I hate when they do that to me. “Well, if I’ll have to end up paying the bill every time we eat out, it better be vegetarian. At least it’s cheaper,” I said.
It was a silent ride back to office.