Have you ever told someone “I’m a vegetarian” – only to realize that they had a degree in nutrition!? Personally I have one answer to all those who ask me the question like “Don’t you feel weak and tired due to lack of proteins?” I show them a soya product and say that it has more proteins than meat :).
Whenever I tell someone I don’t eat meat what they seem to actually hear is “Ha, I am way better than you hence please be rude and defensive”. Some of the embarrassing questions I have repeatedly answered because I am a vegetarian are – “Why don’t you eat eggs & fish? It isn’t meat, it’s just egg and fish.” “What if I was kidnapped and the only way I could be released was if you ate a steak?” And then there have been
some weirdest situations like “When only salad is the only vegetarian option on the menu” or “McDonald’s gives you veggie burger without the burger”.
5 years back I was flying to Texas from New Delhi, to my surprise, I was offered a non-vegetarian meal, since my travel agent had missed to opt for vegetarian food for me while booking the ticket and the default meal you get is only with meat. On my insistence, they offered me only vegetarian food they had – bread and butter. And I spent around 12 hours of my cross country’s journey with that bread and butter. My life is full of such vegetarian mishaps. But before I start telling you about those, let’s first take a quick poll. How many of you are vegetarian in this room? Out of you guys, how many of you had to face embarrassing moments or mishaps for simply being a Vegetarian? Now multiply that number by ten and you might get to where I am today because of these mishaps.^
The problem I encountered for being a vegetarian when I was 50,000 feet up in t
he sky was probably the smallest one out of several mishaps I had to face. It was year 2011 in Orlando, Florida, my CEO wanted me to celebrate the success of the project which I was leading. Boss said “I am very pleased with your performance hence I am gonna have you party hard today”. I was excited and proud, we went to a restaurant which was really looking very flashy from outside. I was surprised to see that he paid around 100 bucks for both of us just to enter that restaurant. I was talking to myself – in what kind of restaurant do you pay first and then have food. Anyway, as soon as I entered inside, my eyes remained opened for few moments. Club was full of skimpily clad women and bouncers roaming around, my boss nudged me and told “What happened, this is the place to party hard in America, it’s called Strip Club” On hearing that, I had mixed emotions running inside me, yes one was curiosity too. And that is when one beautiful girl came, let’s not get into her attire and all, and asked me “Hey, how are you today, what would you like to have? My mind was wavering for words like paneer, salad, biryani but I realized I am in a western country, hence asked do you have anything in vegetarian. She got confused for a while but then smiled and said “Looks like that item is not on our menu, would you like try something else”? I tried explaining that I want something that doesn’t have meat”. Her eyes sparkled and said “Oh yes, we have items on our menu which don’t have meat but only fish and eggs”. My boss was laughing his heart out by looking to my situation. Anyway, I still enjoyed there with just few glasses of water and those strippers.
The times I feel that being a vegetarian is the worst punishment in the world is during joyous family occasions in my Rajput community. You are practically a social outcast if you are a vegetarian. There is always a five course spread of non-vegetarian dishes and maybe a dal or a pumpkin vegetarian dish if you are lucky in between. To add insult to injury … you need to sit with people who may not live to see the daylight tomorrow and answer questions like “Why are you not eating non vegetarian at such a young age? What is wrong with you?”
Having said all this, I really feel food is a personal choice, and people have a right to choose to eat meat or not. It might or might not be an ethical choice as well, but no one has the right to make anyone else feel bad about their choice. No side needs to be defensive of their food choices and even more importantly is to respect others choices. For instance, my wife is a non-vegetarian but we respect each other’s choices, ya, convincing your wife is a different story. No matter what side you stand on, it’s not a war it’s a choice that each individual has to make for themselves. And the choice I have made for myself is that “I will not eat anything that walks, runs, skips, hops or crawls. God knows that I’ve crawled on occasion, and I’m glad that no one ate me.” And hence this soya nuggets is going to be prized for me, between all the mishaps I have to face for being a vegetarian :).
P.S. – Delivered this speech as my P8 (CC8) project at Toastmasters. And also used the same script for Club and Area level humorous speech contest.
Here are some funny articles on being vegetarian –