Sunday Levity: New Delhi BBQ

They who have not eaten a nice juicy steak on a Friday evening have not lived!

Freedom at steak

Mark Straub says he came to India in search of greener pastures. It was okay as long as it was just the pasture. The difficulties began when he wanted to eat cow.

First of all, the concept of a “barbeque grill” does not exactly translate into vegetarian Hindu culture. When you say “barbeque” here, people think Tandoori. There is, however, something called an anguiti (pronounced like “on guillotine” without the “n” at the end), which is essentially a small steel box used by Muslims for cooking kabobs. Forget trying to buy a gas-powered Weber here; they don’t have them.

So tonight on a poorly paved road half way to the airport I visited a small vendor who was selling kabob anguitis and other metalworks that he had scattered alongside the street. My driver helped me negotiate down the price for two anguiti boxes from $25 to about $14 and then we went off to find charcoal.

At the same time I was fielding phone calls from my meat man, Salim, who was recommended to me by a meat-eating colleague at my office (only Muslims will sell you beef here, and you can’t just pick it up in a super market, you have to “know a guy”). Salim apparently catches static from Hindus who find out he’s dealing in beef, so you have to call him on a cell phone and arrange special pickups and deliveries, and when you are given his name and number by a reference, you are asked not to share it except with potential customers (you’d think I was trying to buy crack). And of course, he doesn’t work on Fridays (the Muslim holy day) so on Saturday he has a full day of deliveries – this means you have to work your barbeque timing into his schedule. [BankerinIndia]

The Acorn shares Mark’s anguish: they who have not eaten a nice juicy steak on a Friday evening have not lived!

62 thoughts on “Sunday Levity: New Delhi BBQ”

  1. You mean those who have not eaten a living creature thats been killed, and those who have no respect for the culture of their host country have not.. “lived” ?

  2. I think the author is a exageratting a tad or is misguided.
    There are dozens of places in Delhi and Bombay, of which I know, where one can buy/eat beef, cooked or raw. And I am not talking only of Muslim neighbourhoods.

  3. Anuj,

    I’m sure there are. It’s just that Indian cities pose severe information asymmetries to a new entrant, especially a foreigner. Bombay, as Suketu Mehta, put is an “insider’s city”.

    Sudeep,

    My comment was directed at Indians, and I don’t think they should refrain from eating beef on a Friday out of “respect for culture” or anything. And if they can eat steak whenever they wish, why deny the pleasure to foreigners?

  4. they who have not eaten a nice juicy steak on a Friday evening have not lived!

    So.. all these years when I have been living next door to Alice.. they were.. not real? I was in wonderland? gasp!

  5. More than a case of assymetrical info, it is an issue of supply and demand, in my opinion.

    p.s. Kashmir, a majority Muslim state, has a miniscule, a really miniscule Beef eating population. Indeed, it was easier for me, a kashmiri brahmin by default, to eat beef outside Kashmir, than within.

  6. “they who have not eaten a nice juicy steak on a Friday evening have not lived!”

    Really? If our government can beat up on us, why not someone laughing at us Hindus! Apparently if we don’t live like the westerners – somehow I don’t think the stake cut exists in Africa nor are we talking about eating a horse or a dog – we haven’t lived our life to the fullest! Never mind how a Hindu can enter a temple with a Nandi sitting right up front after eating a cow. Doesn’t matter, the reference point is different and what the others do, we have to, and living live to the fullest, as defined by everyone except us, is what’s important.

    I guess only thing missing is a few jokes on sacred cow or was that holy cow. May be our cricket team lost because they don’t eat cows – never mind, there were a few official cow eaters, it didn’t seem to help.

    I guess nothing is sacred anymore these days. As for the poor starving banker, go find another society.

    Anuj, we get pork – I think it’s imported from Australia (wild local ones are rare to get now a days) – from an AP government meat store in Hyderabad. There are few of these outlets in the city. Hard to find frozen anything in local stores. May be some newly minted super market which carry meat products may have it in your town.

  7. Chandra,

    You have a right to be offended by my suggestion that eating beef can be a very enjoyable experience.

    But saying “..as for the poor starving banker, go find another society” is intolerant to the extreme. I would find it distasteful (pun unintended) if Americans or Germans said something similar to a poor starving vegetarian software engineer visiting their country.

    As long as there are willing sellers and willing buyers of beef, neither the government nor culture-keepers have any business stopping it. And if we have to stop this just because of religious reasons then what’s the difference between us and those who would imprison or whip foreigners for “smuggling” alcohol?

  8. From the “poor paving” on the road to the “seller on the pavement” with his “scattered goods”, all the hallmarks of a drain inspection- upto the cloak-and-dagger meat purchase with a religious divide thrown in for free. But legitimate complaint if true. Shouldn’t force one’s food habits on others.

    Back in Kerala its not that difficult to get beef, open in the market. Wouldnt know first hand we are veg at home.

    regards,
    Jai

  9. Nitin – The difference is in the punishment given. Whipping and imprisoning sounds brutal. How about fines? And in case you are not aware, Americans regularly make fun of vegetarian Indians.

    But all of this is besides the point. Hinduism is unique in that it equates all living beings. Eating meat (i.e. taking life to eat meat) runs afoul with fundamental tenets of Sanatana Dharma.

  10. Manu

    Hinduism is unique in that it equates all living beings. Eating meat (i.e. taking life to eat meat) runs afoul with fundamental tenets of Sanatana Dharma.

    Fine. But surely, it should not prevent those who do not wish to follow the fundamental tenets to do as they please. Surely, tolerance towards those who do not believe in those tenets should be there somewhere.

    The difference is in the punishment given. Whipping and imprisoning sounds brutal. How about fines?

    Sorry. There’s no difference there. It’s either a crime or not a crime. India is not a country that treats eaters of beef as criminals.

    And in case you are not aware, Americans regularly make fun of vegetarian Indians.

    So let Indians make fun of beef eating foreigners.

  11. >> My comment was directed at Indians, and I don’t think they should refrain from eating beef on a Friday out of “respect for culture” or anything. And if they can eat steak whenever they wish, why deny the pleasure to foreigners?

    Thats like, just your opinion dude.. 🙂 The Law of the land, voted upon by millions of people is, no beef ! Not to mention the sentiments involved here.

    >> But saying “..as for the poor starving banker, go find another society” is intolerant to the extreme. I would find it distasteful (pun unintended) if Americans or Germans said something similar to a poor starving vegetarian software engineer visiting their country.

    Why ? I would say, the banker (and you) are being intolerant of the Hindu belief that the Cow is Aghanya (can-not be killed). There are plenty of places in the world where you can have your “juicy steak”, why not let the hindus practise their beliefs in peace, in their own land ?

    Last I checked, in America and Germany, eating veggies was not against local belief or law. If it was, certainly, the vegetarian software engineer would have no option but to leave.

  12. @Sudeep: That is not the law of the land.

    There are State laws (no Central law) in many States (notable exception being Kerala, plus a couple of NE States, I think) against slaughter of healthy cattle (and there are plenty of loopholes in these laws).

    AFAIK, there is no law against eating Beef. But if I am mistaken, then count me on your side on this one.

  13. Digging up references offhand..

    … The measure falls within the jurisdiction of the states, and under Article 252 of the Constitution, any two states can empower the Centre to enact such a law. Cow slaughter is already banned in 23 states, but according to Cabinet spokesperson Sushma Swaraj, there are different laws and penalties. These are seen to be “not stringent enough” and prone to be “misused”. Since the laws allowed the slaughter of old cows, healthy milch cows were slaughtered in their place, according to Mrs Swaraj.

    Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep do not have a ban on cow slaughter.

  14. It is criminal, yes, criminal to ban cow slaughter in India.
    In a nation where hundreds of millions lack nutrition, eating beef/pork/dogs/horses/cats should be encouraged, or at least legal.

  15. >> In a nation where hundreds of millions lack nutrition, eating beef/pork/dogs/horses/cats should be encouraged, or at least legal.

    on the contrary, it should be actively discouraged as producing Animal protein is much more resource intensive than plant based protein.

  16. Hmmm, if someone wants to eat beef, what is anyone’s problem?

    Those who argue in terms of Hindu sentiments are simply trying to impose their beliefs on others.

    Would it be correct to force people to eat beef? Then why force them not to eat it?

  17. >> Hmmm, if someone wants to eat beef, what is anyone’s problem?

    It is offensive to my sensibilities and my faith as a Hindu. 🙂 I also take issue with preening foreigners breaking Indian custom and law and boasting about it on the internet. I also take issue with such arrogant insults as the owner of this blog offered to thousands of years of religious tradition.

    >> Those who argue in terms of Hindu sentiments are simply trying to impose their beliefs on others.

    Not really, It is not being asked of anyone to hold the cow as blessed, only to not kill it ! Would you also argue that banning consumption of the body parts of a tiger or a black buck is imposing your belief – that a Tiger should be protected – on others who do not share that belief ? There is no right that anyone has that guarantees consumption of particular non-essential items . Such matters are decided via legislation and take into account a host of factors that include local custom, faith, belief etc.

    For e.g.
    http://www.legislation.gov.hk/blis_ind.nsf/e1bf50c09a33d3dc482564840019d2f4/44771ba5f3213c8e88256489000ba799?OpenDocument
    http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/1-10-2004-49298.asp

  18. Ha! So we see that ugly argument being trotted in…most of us would like you not to eat beef so you shall not. (Why most of us like you not to eat beef is unimportant, as long as most of us feel this way you shall not). That’s how they justify reservations.

    Most of us don’t want to pay taxes. So perhaps we should stop paying it, stop others from paying it, of course, after forcing parliament to pass a law to the effect. So let’s all ignore this little business of citizens having rights and freedoms. Continue with this line of reasoning long enough and you end up at Auschwitz, Hitler being democratically elected and all that. (Okay, that law of internet discussions has kicked in).

    In any case those that argue that it’s quite all right to kill and eat chicken, fish, pork and lamb, but not cows (for purely religious reasons) are on particularly weak moral ground.

    Those who think “thousands of years of religious tradition” ought not to be insulted rightly belong to the either the medieval Catholic church, Wahhabism and the Taliban, not India. Why do I say this? Because folks like Gautama the Buddha, Adi Sankara, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Emperor Akbar, Raja Rammohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi were as Indian as they come. We have a tradition, it turns out, of people who think “thousands of years of religious tradition” is no reason not to question it.

    I think this fundamentalist view of the Hindu religion and culture does not sit in with the very values it preaches. It might perhaps be born out of an unwarranted lack of confidence, or by the creeping competitive intolerance. If the majority do not want to slaughter and eat cows, then why do we even need a law that prevents that? Why not leave it to the people…no one is likely to produce beef if no one wants it?

  19. ”I also take issue with such arrogant insults as the owner of this blog offered to thousands of years of religious tradition.”

    Hmmm, so an individual exercising his right to eat something is arrogance? I would posit that asking someone to follow your own sensitivities is arrogance.

    You also compared Tigers to Cows. That is a perverse comparison. Tigers are an endangered animal and hence are protected. It has nothing to do with local customs or religious traditions. If the cow was in a danger of being wiped out, I would have argued in favor of banning beef.

    Till then, to each his own.

  20. @Sudeep: I’ve already admitted all that you’ve said about anti-slaughter laws. But it doesn’t support your position. Even if you were to be able to strictly enforce a law against slaughter of healthy cattle (the laws cover all cattle, not merely cows), even then eating Beef would still not be illegal. So I don’t think it is a legal issue at all (at present).

    To come to a theoretical debate then: should eating Beef be illegal?

    No. I think people should be allowed to eat whatever the heck they want to eat.

    I know as many Hindus who eat Beef as I know Muslims who eat Pork or consume alcohol. I find it sad that they are forced by the society to do these things in secrecy.

  21. @vivek, if you read the blog originally linked its kind of clear that the person from whom beef was procured was doing the killing, hence its illegal.

    @confused, Hmmm, so an individual exercising his right to eat something is arrogance?

    There is no such unconditional right on consumption is what I tried to point out to you. Its immaterial to this argument whether the Tiger is endangered or not. There are people to whom the critically endangered status of the tiger species does not matter, and by claiming that the endangered nature of tiger precludes it from being killed, you are imposing your value system – that considers conservation efforts to be of prime importance – on these people.

    I also gave you examples of such laws, the dog eating laws in HK and Taiwan etc. there are other laws, e.g. the ban on foi gras in many US states, or the international ban on whaling even when the whale populations have recovered substantially, so there is a precedence of such actions, which take place as long as there is a sufficiently large number of people who cry out against the practice.

    Its immaterial to the democratic process whether the motivations of these people are based on religion, animal rights, conservation or what have you.

    @nitin, I have made it a habit to exit debates when abuses like Taliban, medieval church etc begin to be hurled. Its only a sign that you have run out of arguments and can not conduct the debate in a civilized manner. Enjoy your steak, as long as its not in India !

  22. Is Mr. Bankerindia a jackass for being insensitive to the majority hindu community ? Probably, but nothing more.

    Mr. Banker would have found out that the beef in India is not going to compare to beef from Idaho or Argentina. These are usually poor old bulls or cows who are treated inhumanly throughout their life. Even their last journey is in packed trucks or on foot to Kerala. The much hyped “kerala beef fry” is nothing but old bulls and withered cows who have eat posters and plastic for lunch. They are past their economically useful life.

    I would prefer a working bulls license system as it is followed in many corporations in TN/KA. After retirement, they lead the remaining 2-3 years of their life in a shelter. In rural TN, both cows and bulls are integral to the culture of farmers and communities like Yadavas/Konars/Brahmins. It is important to respect tradition and not go overboard while flauting our right to eat whatever the hell we want.

    By all means, enjoy your sirloin steak, but silently in the corner.

  23. Sudeep,

    You’ve raised some very interesting points in your comment—on what could cause democracies to impose restrictions—that it is unfortunate to see you exit the debate.

    I didn’t make those analogies frivolously or out of resignation. I made them because I believe they describe this line of thought. I expected an intelligent argument why this analogy is wrong. I’m sure I won’t be the only one who will urge you to reconsider that decision to exit the debate.

    Enjoy your steak, as long as its not in India!

    I hope you are being sarcastic here. Because taken literally, this is exactly my argument about Talibanism. One of the wonderful things about being an Indian citizen is that no one, absolutely no one, has the right to tell me that.

  24. Hi Everyone. I’m the Banker who you’ve all been sticking forks into the last few days 🙂

    It seems my post which was intended to be a very light-hearted, if candid, on has stepped on some toes, so let me address a couple of the comments one by one.

    Jai writes:
    From the “poor paving” on the road to the “seller on the pavement” with his “scattered goods”, all the hallmarks of a drain inspection- upto the cloak-and-dagger meat purchase with a religious divide thrown in for free. But legitimate complaint if true. Shouldn’t force one’s food habits on others.

    Yes, those are my words, and yes they are true, i didn’t take much literary license here, didn’t have to 🙂 That’s exactly what the place looked like – although I learned later that you can in fact find larger traditional grills in some of the nice malls here (but i of course, as Nitin notes, suffer from a particular information asymmetry being a foreigner in Delhi). So when I told the driver what I wanted in my best mix of English and Hindi, that’s where he took me. Moreover, it’s not illegal to eat beef here, so I don’t know where that argument came from. But you can only get it at the five star hotels or a few independent restaurants. I wanted to be able to cook it at home, and have a few American friends over for a bbq, which is quite different from just ordering a steak at a restaurant. Sorry man, that’s my culture, and not having been back for 6 months, I needed a taste of home.

    Chandra writes…
    “I guess nothing is sacred anymore these days. As for the poor starving banker, go find another society.”

    Actually, if you read my blog regularly (I post M thru F) you’ll notice that I left my investment banking job in the U.S. to come to India and do something I really care about; investing in and building microfinance organizations to serve the poor and the un-banked. I like India. I like my job at an Indian company and I especially like my Indian co-workers. If I didn’t, I would leave and find another society. Thankfully, most Indians I interact with on a daily basis seem a bit more tolerant of my strange “ferengi” ways. I hope you receive the same tolerance if/when you come to the United States.

    Sudeep writes…
    I also take issue with preening foreigners breaking Indian custom and law and boasting about it on the internet.

    And
    Realitycheck writes…
    Is Mr. Bankerindia a jackass for being insensitive to the majority hindu community ? Probably, but nothing more.

    Thanks for the name-calling. Keep in mind that my audience here was mostly my family and friends back in the States. I wasn’t boasting to Indians in my office or in the streets, and if you found the post offensive you could have stopped reading at any point.
    I was relating a story to people back home who have never been here before and often ask me questions about how I get along in India.

    Reality Check writes…
    Mr. Banker would have found out that the beef in India is not going to compare to beef from Idaho or Argentina. These are usually poor old bulls or cows who are treated inhumanly throughout their life. Even their last journey is in packed trucks or on foot to Kerala. The much hyped “kerala beef fry” is nothing but old bulls and withered cows who have eat posters and plastic for lunch. They are past their economically useful life.

    Actually – the beef we got was really good! It had all the right qualities, I won’t describe them here for fear of insulting sensibilities but it tasted as if it had been “well-tended” to in its life, and having eaten a lot of beef in a lot of different places, I feel confident enough to make that assertion. The recommendation came from a very senior investment professional who has lived in India a long time, so I had a feeling that the supplier was good.

    I know this topic was a sensitive one, so I’m not surprised it ruffled a few feathers – but I hope that if you read my blog a little more regularly you’ll see that I’m quite a fan of India and all its multi-dimensions, even if I at times offer a critical eye.

    Take a look at some of my older posts to get a fuller picture of my perspective and experiences in India so far…

    I’m just trying to give people outside (and inside) India a more in-depth perspective on this fascinating, many-sided country which is experiencing such rapid change and grabbing so many economic headlines. And yes, after long weeks of work, sometimes I too need comfort food.

    (Edited to improve readability – Ed)

  25. Mark,

    Do you realize you are eating mother of 800 million Hindus. How can you do that, today you are eating sacred cow, tommorrow you will try to gobble up Michael Moore. This madness must stop somewhere.

  26. Correct me if I’m wrong Gaurav, but I believe you’re quoting Gopal from “The Inscrutible Americans.” Yes, Gopal and I have much in common, I’m his living flipside.

  27. >> Thanks for the name-calling. Keep in mind that my audience here was mostly my family and friends back in the States. I wasn’t boasting to Indians in my office or in the streets, and if you found the post offensive you could have stopped reading at any point. I was relating a story to people back home who have never been here before and often ask me questions about how I get along in India.

    Mark,

    I did not read your post in its entirety and trust me, I am not easily offended by whats written, but I am offended by actions. Your actions in abetting cow slaughter are against the letter of the Indian law, and from what little of India and Indians I have seen, its against public opinion and also against Indian custom. It would be a bit like me trying to obtain the meat of a dog or a cat in UK or US and saying, thank you very much, to people who find it repulsive and inconsiderate to local customs and laws. An analogy would be burning the American flag in the US, even if its not against the law, its terribly inconsiderate and rude.

    Also, dont overestimate the importance of your little escapade, its only a side note in an old old debate, a new version of which you see on this comments section.

    @@Gaurav

    lol.. 😀

  28. Gaurav,

    I’m considering requiring commenters to use a [sarcasm on] and [sarcasm off] tag 🙂 Many comments over the last couple of days (and not just on this post) have left me guessing whether the commenter is being sarcastic or literal.

    And you are right on something…levity was the very first casualty in this discussion.

  29. >>> I didn’t make those analogies frivolously or out of resignation. I made them because I believe they describe this line of thought. I expected an intelligent argument why this analogy is wrong. I’m sure I won’t be the only one who will urge you to reconsider that decision to exit the debate.

    In any reasonable and self confident society, loaded terms like Talebanis, medieval church etc would not be used to describe dissenting voices. It would be much more preferable to deal with each argument on its merit, and do away with such labels. If at all they are to be used, it is incumbent upon the person involved to at least make a reasonable case and not rely on guilt by allegation, otherwise discourse descends into McCarthyism.

    >>> I hope you are being sarcastic here. Because taken literally, this is exactly my argument about Talibanism. One of the wonderful things about being an Indian citizen is that no one, absolutely no one, has the right to tell me that.

    I meant it literally, but only a flight of fancy would interpret it as a threat or some kind of intimidation. If I added a ‘Please’ in there, would it make you feel better ?

  30. No, I think I get it – thanks.

    [tag on] Well I’m off to get drunk, burn the flag, and slaughter cows today, this of course being a holy day in India…[tag off]

    Cheers,
    -M

  31. @ Mark:
    “…Sorry man, that’s my culture, and not having been back for 6 months, I needed a taste of home…”

    No need to apologize. Its been a real eye-opener to realize there are restrictions of this nature. I guess I have to agree with Sudeep et al. that if there is operative law there that forbids cow slaughter, your supplier may have broken the law. Maybe he can claim the animal died of natural causes or something 🙂 I dont agree with the law in the first place, but if its in place, I think I am bound to follow it until we get it changed.

    On a side note, its apparently to protect the poor that the Gomata thing got started. The cow, the poor family’s only possession was protected by the holy status as it grazed on property owned by the rich/ powerful. We keep the form of “cow worship” going regardless of such considerations or actual need.

    regards,
    Jai

  32. Sudeep,

    In any reasonable and self confident society, loaded terms like Talebanis, medieval church etc would not be used to describe dissenting voices. It would be much more preferable to deal with each argument on its merit, and do away with such labels. If at all they are to be used, it is incumbent upon the person involved to at least make a reasonable case and not rely on guilt by allegation, otherwise discourse descends into McCarthyism.

    Here are the charges then:

    (a) insisting that others do or not do an arbitrary activity on the account that religion forbids it marks a repressive theocracy, not the free, secular and democratic society that is India.

    (b) the argument that “thousands of years of religious tradition” must not be “insulted” is as inconsistent with Hinduism as it is with Indian history. I gave examples of people who overturned age-old religious traditions. (Some people may argue that those are cultural, not religious traditions, but the argument still holds).

    (c) the suggestion that laws be made merely because a majority of the voters approve of it is dangerous. Citizens have rights and freedoms, some of which are inviolable, and enshrined in the constitution.

  33. “on the contrary, it should be actively discouraged as producing Animal protein is much more resource intensive than plant based protein.”

    Sudeep, Until I see plant based proteins roaming India’s cities, the poor, who desperately need protein, should be [encouraged, in my opinion] allowed to consume the cows, which crowd and pollute our streets.

  34. Nitin at #38,

    The comparison with the tiger was a bit of a stretch (but not totally off the point) and *IF* there are restrictions on procuring or consuming dog/ cat meat in present day Western democracies, Sudeep has an almost exact parallel.

    These countries are not generally accused of being Talibani / medieval (short form) or “insisting that others do or not do an arbitrary activity on the account that religion/ culture/custom forbids it… make them repressive societies” (long form). They are considered on the contrary to be the defenders of the free world.

    Sudeep fights the good fight for a viewpoint that I am totally opposed to. Something to think about while I continue to oppose it.

    The only thing I can think of is that repressive laws are not worthy of emulation and do not gain respectability just by being followed in “beacons of democracy and liberty”.

    regards,
    Jai
    * This entire comment hinges on that one big IF there. And this is levity by Acorn definitions 🙂

  35. Looks like I kicked off something that Sudeep kept up!

    Whether ice is thin or thick, I don’t think cow should be eaten in our holy land – if not for our educated elite, for whom everything including ideas on how to live is sourced from the west, then for the rest of us who think tradition matters and our home grown ideas, including religious, are not too shabby. The argument is not about laws or tigers or democracy or something else – it’s about Hindu religion as practiced by majority of countrymen today.

    I am sure if PETA thinks eating animals is cruel, people will sign up because apparently it’s secular and because it’s cool! Recently US banned killing or eating horses – local horses, after their prime racing/breeding age, were killed and exported to gulf countries or used in pet food. The ban was brought about people by concerned with the practice and overwhelmingly voted for by US Congress. Why? Because most Americans stopped eating horse meat that few generations ago was, apparently, common place – I am sure there are a few who still like it. Also, I am sure most of our secular westward looking Indians would have not problem with the ban. But if we claim a similar law, and vast majority of countrymen don’t eat cows, we are backward and intolerant – obviously, the reference point is different!

    Again, if you need to eat that juicy stake go find it in another society. Sure, we all nice people – especially to foreigners and westerners, but don’t tell us our traditions are moronic! If you want to eat something most of us consider sacred, it is offensive and, please, go somewhere else, have your fill, come back, and tell us we are nice people.

  36. Chandra – Maybe you have forgotten, India is not a Hindu nation.
    And, unlike India, America does not have millions of people suffering from malnutrition.

  37. >> (a) insisting that others do or not do an arbitrary activity on the account that religion forbids it marks a repressive theocracy, not the free, secular and democratic society that is India.

    You are way too easy with big words my friend.. one act or law does not a repressive theocracy make 🙂 Lets not loose our sense of proportion here.

    There are numerous activities that may be considered arbitrary by any standard, that are banned or punished in many democracies. E.g. polygamy in the US is punishable by law, even if the people involved are willing adults. In fact, any act, that is not essential to ones well being, the practice of ones faith, the exercise of ones political rights, may be proscribed by law if enough citizens feel strongly enough about the act. Undeniably, many of these laws are rooted in cultural or religious practices. Its immaterial whether the motivation of the citizens is religious faith to this democratic process.

    >> (b) the argument that “thousands of years of religious tradition” must not be “insulted” is as inconsistent with Hinduism as it is with Indian history. I gave examples of people who overturned age-old religious traditions. (Some people may argue that those are cultural, not religious traditions, but the argument still holds).

    Insult all you wish to, but do not grudge others the right to feel insulted or offended, and protest.

    >> (c) the suggestion that laws be made merely because a majority of the voters approve of it is dangerous. Citizens have rights and freedoms, some of which are inviolable, and enshrined in the constitution.

    What right or freedom is being violated in this case, (a ban on cow slaughter or a ban on consumption of beef) ? Last I checked, its not essential to the practice of any religion to consume beef. It is a restriction on ones personal freedom, but its not different from many other similar restrictions already in place.

  38. Chandra,

    Astonishing arguments…but at least you had the courage to present them shorn of all the varnish. All I can say it is that they don’t apply to India. India is not a Hindu country, it’s a religious one, and even Hindus have no business imposing their beliefs on their fellows, leave alone non-Hindus.

    All that business about “elites” and horse-meat in America is irrelevant. I couldn’t care less if America becomes a theocracy tomorrow. Or if it’s PETA and not religious outfits that are making these arguments.

    Why the paranoia? When did anyone say the “traditions were moronic”? The argument is about the freedom of people to opt out of those traditions and to challenge them.

    So, my response is that no, those who want to eat juicy steaks in India are free to eat them. Those who don’t want to eat them are free not to eat them, and free to be offended by those who do.

  39. Sudeep,

    You are way too easy with big words my friend.. one act or law does not a repressive theocracy make 🙂 Lets not loose our sense of proportion here.
    Ah! You are tying my hands again. 🙂
    But seriously, it’s a slippery slope. I’ve written umpteen times about competitive intolerance…once we are on that road, it inevitably ends up in a nasty place.

    There are numerous activities that may be considered arbitrary by any standard, that are banned or punished in many democracies. E.g. polygamy in the US is punishable by law, even if the people involved are willing adults.

    Usually there are good reasons, following from the “harm principle“. Polygamy is not a “victimless” crime. But yes, democracies may be arbitrary in deciding exactly which “victimless” crimes to legislate against.

    Insult all you wish to, but do not grudge others the right to feel insulted or offended, and protest.

    I’ve already mentioned (in #12) that you have every right to be offended. And yes, protest too. That was never in question. Isn’t it ironic that those who seek the freedom to take offence should deny others the freedom to do as they wish?

    What right or freedom is being violated in this case, (a ban on cow slaughter or a ban on consumption of beef) ? Last I checked, its not essential to the practice of any religion to consume beef. It is a restriction on ones personal freedom, but its not different from many other similar restrictions already in place.

    You seem to imply that freedom of religion is more important than personal freedom…that if some religion somehow decided that beef eating was necessary it would have been okay to allow it. Should ask them FSMwallahs to include this in their canon somewhere 🙂

    But seriously, it is primarily an issue of personal freedom. Only those restrictions on personal freedom follow from the “harm principle” are justified. Ban on consumption of beef is an entirely arbitrary restriction.

  40. Nitin,

    Before I say something, do you or do you not support killing of tigers, lions.Answer depends on this.

    Aside: I always thought that meat of carnivores was not very palatable, and hence humans almost ate herbivores, but papa hemingway described otherwise.

  41. Excellent discussion here on a relatively lightweight topic that one can confidently proceed with the assumption that nobody will take serious offence. On thinking along Sudeep’s lines I came to the heavier artillery occasionally mounted for more serious stuff. I think Chandra’s comments have elements of this. Presented below.

    *IF* (yes again 🙂 )
    Western concept had a similar position for cows that they do for dogs /cats, or higher

    – the expression ‘holy cow’ would probably not exist.
    – or we would use it in literal monochrome without the mocking connotation.
    – alignment with *received Western wisdom* would allow our object of reverence to be, uh, an object of reverence.

    The insidious approach of this argument, its play on our self-esteem, makes believing Hindus fairly susceptible to it. This cannot be name-called into oblivion.

    Nitin, confused, RC,

    Time spent on intelligent deconstruction of this is well worth it. Here is my humble effort.

    1. Western society today is a far cry from a few centuries ago.
    2. Current western discourse has made a habit of questioning the shibboleths, totems and tokens of its heritage, and abandoned many.
    3. This may be (probably is)a necessary step to make forward progress.

    Entirely on a separate track, other objections to the dog/cat comparison:

    1. India has always had significant numbers of people that consumed beef. Korean immigrants struggling against western prejudice with dog-meat consumption is NOT paralleled here. It is a clear violation of their rights to not be able to eat their choice of food.

    2. It is another matter that I support incoming immigrants rights to eat the food of their choice, be it cow/ dog/ snake. I dont quite have an argument for them on this track.

    regards,
    Jai
    PS: Sorry for the seemingly double-sided argments. Any collaboration welcome.

  42. Gaurav,

    do you or do you not support killing of tigers, lions

    If you mean supporting the killing of tigers and lions for food, just like the way cattle are reared for food, then yes. Won’t that be a wonderful way to ensure the conservation of the species as well as satisfy those who like tiger and lion meat?

    If it means that killing one of a few hundred left in the wild, then no, I don’t support their killing.

    There’s a tremendous difference between killing endangered species and killing cattle that have been purposely bred for the purpose.

  43. Nitin,

    This brings the question why tiger being endangered species is a eligible criteria for restricting individual freedom, and cows being sacred is not a valid criteria, unless environmentalism has become a cult in its own right, and you its adherent.

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