Murali walked with the spirit of a man who knew that waiting for him for dinner was Butter Chicken with Garlic Naan followed by Kesar Pista Kulfi. Every step that he took on the pavement was filled with the anticipation of biting into juicy, succulence that was the well cooked meat in a rich sweet sweet gravy, that the restaurant near him would furnish. The last few weeks had been difficult, he had been on his compulsory vacation to home. He didn’t mind staying at home, his mother would cook lovely stuff for him. She’d pester him to get married and place his profile on one of these webthingys but then he’d pretend to flare up and bargain a halwa or dhokla in exchange for spoiling his mood. His father wasn’t bad either, an occasional remark about how Murali should probably switch jobs or look for managerial positions but generally the conversation was minimal. Well then why was our friend troubled by the end of the vacation? Cause his parents were very strict vegetarians and he clearly was not.
Brought up in a brahmin family the whiff of an omelette much less the touch of a chicken breast, had been absent from his otherwise wholesome childhood. In India, veg food can also be very very tasty but there is still an allure of the non vegetarian. That almost pornographic display of lobsters and fish in restaurants in Goa, the marinated overnight, deep orange fowls with skewers from head through bottom hanging at the local punjabi restaurant, the forbidden section of any decent hotel buffet, all were constant reminders to Murali of what he was missing out. He was an intelligent man, capable of discerning that if there were so many in this world lusting over meat, it surely must posses something special. So when he finally flew the nest to college and when shared a room with a hardcore kebab loving Sardarji he found himself heading towards omnivore lane.
At first it was difficult, there was the much inculcated guilt of eating a dead animal and so on. He was never a religious boy, went with his mum to the temple till his reluctance did not manifest itself in obviously noticeable facial reactions. Then she stopped taking him altogether. Still the rules that bind a middle class household stood. When beer flows freely in a college dorm and young men take refuge in the loving wings of a bird well cooked ; there is little looking back. Initially he had those usual funny notions of not eating anything which could be classified as an animal on Fridays and Tuesdays. These are the days considered holy to the Devi (Goddess) and Hanuman(The God of Strength and possibly bachelors). His friends would draw frowns whenever they planned outings on these days and he shot them down. That was of course till a fine Friday just before their graduation when one of his drinking buddies got drunk and was craving for some decent biryani and of course Murali did what he always did.
“Why the fuck not?! Here you are on the cusp of going out into the world and earning your first salary, stand on your feet and code complex algorithms for financial transactions ranging in millions and you stand and tell me you wont eat meat on a bloody Friday because of some misconceived notion of piety?” [ The reader should take note that the language has been refined to make better if not truer reading]
“I don’t eat meat on a Friday yaar, you know that.”
” Murali! You are not a religious man, you are going to hell, if such a place exists. If there is a God and he is preoccupied with the human concept of time I wouldn’t put much stock into what he may or may not do to you. His omnipotence is itself in question my dear jackass, for even I with my limited existence and education can fathom, that today is a Friday, for some enlightened soul a 1000 or so years ago decided that it would be. That man was most certainly as much flesh and bone as the chicken that is beckoning us from the dhaba!”
“Then why make some days vegetarian?”
“Probably to regulate diet, ensure we don’t eat too much meat in a hot country like ours and so on. That’s why we have fasts on Mondays, now you wouldn’t be party to them? Very selective is your spirituality. Every religion forbids at least one animal sometime of the year, I mean if you can digest it, eat it!”
“Ok Ok , Biryani it is, you are an ass, you know that don’t you?”
” That, is my religion….”
Murali smiled as he recalled that conversation, if this were not an example of his maturing, eating meat on all days, what else could be? No wonder whenever they went out they always ate non veg. Souls deprived from their childhood of meat feel a moral duty to make every trip to a restaurant a plundering tour into the realm of lamb and fowl or possibly sea food. Teasing those who ate paneer and finding the idea of a dal repulsive had become almost a daily thing with his group of swash buckling bone suckers. My son will get all the meat he wants, decided Murali as he walked into Shammi Palace, his local enabler of carnivorous addiction. A skinny waiter smiled at this regular customer and as a special gesture brought him a glass of water in which he did not dip his thumbs.
“Butter chicken – naan saab?“
So when would he tell his parents that he had found that there was more to life than dal – roti? Probably before marriage, his friends had told him that the infromation that you eat meat and drink could be great blow softners before introducing your live – in girlfriend as a potential wife to your parents.