26 September 2015

Lesson in acceptance.

Jamnagar in the 1960's up to the 1980's when I left was mainly a vegetarian town.  It is a dry state, that we all know, thanks to Gandhiji.   Non-vegetarian food is not openly available.  Bread shops do not sport rows of eggs for sale.  Chicken is not available at any corner shop with a freezer.

Tandoori murgas on spits, hung out to marinade, is such a common sight in Delhi.  They amazed me when I looked at them when I started living in Delhi.

An acquaintance, a fellow Punjabi, ran a poultry farm.  Once in a while, on a Sunday, he would kill a tender goat and the meat would be distributed amongst the Punjabis in Jamnagar.  There was one restaurant, run by a Sikh, that served mutton on its menu.

I liked the mutton prepared by my aunt.  It was perfectly flavored and not too heavy with spices.  Where we lived, the aroma of cooking mutton spread and announced itself to our vegetarian neighbors.

I played with a couple of girls in our neighborhood that were close to my age.  We would get together every evening and play something, hide and seek, Stapu, play with a ball just run around.

I remember the day one of my playing companions asked me, distaste writ large over her face, "You eat meat, don't you?"  I quailed as I nodded.  The girl made noises of disgust.  At that moment, my other friend,  Malvika, said to her, "Don't do that.  It is food for her. Don't disrespect food."

That, right then, was the biggest example I got in acceptance.  I know what it is to be sidelined.  I grew up in a Hindu-majority State.  

In Jamnagar, Sikhs were mostly admired.  But there were some who felt weirded out by the turbans and long hair men sported.
There were people who hissed at me because I looked like a foreigner with my light skin and brown hair.
I know how important it is to be accepted for what you are.  I thank you Malvika for standing up to me then.  It was a lesson I have treasured all my life.

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