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How I Survived Meat-Free In A State Obsessed With Fish-Curry

by | March 1, 2019

How I survived meat-free in a state obsessed with fish-curry“- a personal account by Debayan Paul on listening to the inner voice and ditching meat for life in spite of strong opposition by family.

“I Loved the Taste of Meat- not the Feelings: A coalition of right motive and proper mindset was enough to accomplish something that is difficult in my state, my family. Surviving meat-free was a challenge, which, after seven years was equivalent to breathing; I was seamlessly okay with a meat-free diet. I was thriving”.

How I Survived Meat-Free In A State Obsessed With Fish-Curry continues below…

How I Survived Meat-Free In A State Obsessed With Fish-Curry
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How I Survived Meat-Free In A State Obsessed With Fish-Curry

Honestly, I started with my meat-free existence seven years back, and the sole purpose was to soothe a cacophony in my mind that didn’t let me eat meat with ease. It shouted in its way, that I later realized was my soul’s voice. I remember how much guilt I felt whenever I cuddled a sheep or a goat (I am a voracious animal lover). Like most other children, I enjoyed passing the time with chickens (if I got to), goat kids, calves and their parents as well. A strange feeling lingered my mind, whenever I cuddled the animals and that forced me to think, that the same animal which I love cuddling can be on my plate someday. It will die. I couldn’t look into their eyes because I ate them. I felt terrible.

But yet again, maybe that very night, I would have eaten meat, because I loved the taste of it and I have been eating since infancy. Bengali children must eat fish, and so did I.

West Bengal and Fish- The Toothpaste-Toothbrush Chemistry

Image provided by Debayan

West Bengal, the Indian state that holds credit of speaking the world’s sweetest language has a not-so-sweet (to me) habit of being devouring meat lovers. Fish among chicken and mutton (conventionally) holds the paramount priority in Bengali cuisines. From a humble shack to a magnificent mansion, dwellers irrespective of their position in society, sincerely believe in deriving their vital force from fish or meat. Macher Jhol (Macher– Fish; Jhol– Gravy) is the regional term of a fish preparation in light gravy that is savored across the state. It is like brushing teeth in the morning, Bengali’s feel for this dish. It is a must. My family isn’t any different. Furthermore, my family is a foodie and most non-vegetarian dishes top their list of favorites. Deciding to quit on meat at all wasn’t smooth and encouraging. It was an upstream journey.

Image provided by Debayan
How I Survived Meat-Free In A State Obsessed With Fish-Curry

A Choice Odd One Out

Our neighbor is a dealer of mutton. Since childhood, I grew up seeing herds of goats tied painfully together, being dragged in and out of their house. Their house is the herding facility before slaughtering. I used to cuddle them sometimes. I was so naive that I failed to realize that my cuddles were probably their last. The dilapidated cry of goats on being manhandled drummed my ears. Particularly few goat-kids that bleated absolutely like a little human baby. I wished to never hear that again, because I knew maybe that very day, I would be devouring on our cultural Kosha Mangsho (Bengali for Rich Mutton Gravy), because I loved the taste of it, and my family would be infuriated if I gave up on that (Bengali’s strictly believe meat as a source of their intelligence and health). I always wanted a scope to stop meat, without having any idea how to accomplish the same. I continued eating, until one day.

Image provided by Debayan

Reasoning v/s Feeling- Heart was the Winner

I had to face immense vehemence, criticism and had to participate in self-proclaimed- scientific debates (regarding meat-eating and not) of people who only knew to win the debate somehow. I did not belong to the classical Bengali (or any other) sentiment of savoring fish and meat voluminously. There are hundred different views claiming the prestige of non-veg and how vitiating meat-free diet is. I did not stop meat-eating thinking any bit of my health. All I wanted was to stop somehow the strange and indescribable feeling of guilt that haunted me every time I cuddled any animal. Maybe that was why any logic arguing health-issues couldn’t bother me. Post living meat-free, I felt so light, so good, as if I’ve achieved something great.

The Transition

It took me two months to leave meat. Initially, I was afraid to declare my decision of not continuing with meat (the cultural clichés gave elders a reason to condemn me). My entire family was against. My family members (I live in a joint family) were worried of my health, considering my food choices (I was picky with veggies) and the sparse availability of vegan and vegetarian alternatives in the state. But I had to continue, and I figured out a lot of nutritional sources for which I earlier relied on meat. Various types of grams and beans were in-charge for my protein needs, and it did the same minus the killing.

For the first few months, I had immense difficulties. I missed the taste of meat (mind you, there is a stark difference between the taste of meat and feelings associated with its consumption). Fortunately, to me, feelings surpassed taste, and I continued with my meat-free diet. Being from a middle-class Bengali family, preparations of Macher Jhol and use of fish in regular dishes is not uncommon to me. Seven years back, the sudden barring of meat meant preparation of substitute dishes for me.

At that time I had to live on very simple vegetables and Aalo Bhaja (shallow fried potatoes). My mother was still learning how to cook vegan dishes. Elders condemned the practice, and constant vehemence bothered me. There were some pathetic verbal fights in my house debating my decision. They severely criticized my choice. For my family, my health would deteriorate if I discontinued meat. But I never felt like looking back. I knew only one thing- I am doing what I genuinely wanted since childhood. Health was least bothering to me.

Living Meat-Free. Successfully.

Our body is magnanimously powerful a machine. Its dynamics are universe-class. It has its mechanism to sustain with whatever you give; however, you give. Unless you are defying the fundamentals, and indulging in meaningless ethos, your body won’t break. I knew I didn’t take any supplement whatsoever, post leaving meat. All I did was to discard my finicky while eating veggies. And here I am, sprouting with health and energy. The protein of Fish Curry that once gave me strength and guilt is now replaced with a sumptuous vegetable pot-boiler that gives me exuberance and a purpose. There is so much to eat by not eating meat. Now, my food comforts my soul in the truest sense.

Got a similar experience you would like to share with us? Comment below.

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Debayan Paul

Debayan Paul is an artist striving to articulate. A student of English Literature, he loves to encounter, think and write. A nocturnal-poet by passion and a copywriter by profession, Debayan started writing for writing's sake. He seeks to write for the greater cause.


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