Friday, February 15, 2008

Vegetarian bias worries meat eaters in Mumbai

Vegetarian bias worries meat eaters in Mumbai


By Ramola Talwar Badam
Associated Press

MUMBAI, India - It's not a question of pets, smokers or loud music at 2 a.m. House hunters in Mumbai increasingly are being asked: ``Do you eat meat?''

If yes, the deal is off.

As this city of 16 million becomes the cosmopolitan main nerve of a booming Indian economy, real estate is increasingly intersecting with cuisine. More middle-class Indians are moving in, more of them are vegetarian, and the law is on their side.

``Some people are very strict. They won't sell to a non-vegetarian even if he offers a higher price than a vegetarian,'' said real estate broker Norbert Pinto.

Vegetarianism is a centuries-old custom among Hindus, Jains and others in India. The government reckons India has about 220 million vegetarians, more than anywhere else in the world.

``Veg or non-veg?'' is heard constantly in restaurants, at dinner parties and on airlines. And the question has long been an unwritten part of the interrogation house hunters must submit to.

But it's becoming more open, and the effects more noticeable, all the more so in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, which attracts immigrants from Gujarat and Rajasthan, strongly vegetarian states, as well as followers of the Jain religion.

In constitutionally secular India, there's no bar to forming a housing society and making an apartment block exclusively Catholic or Muslim, Hindu or Zoroastrian.

Vegetarians say they, too, need segregation.

``I live in a cosmopolitan society,'' said Jayantilal Jain, trustee of a charity group. ``But vegetarians should be given the right to admit who they want.''

Rejected home-seekers have mounted a slew of court challenges to the power of housing societies to discriminate, but last year India's highest tribunal ruled the practice legal.

``It's just not fair. It's a monopoly by vegetarians,'' said Kiran Talwar, 49, a prosthetics engineer who has seen vegetarianism take over restaurants and grocery stores all over his childhood neighborhood on posh Nepeansea Road.

``If you step out to eat, there's nothing for miles because everything around is veggie,'' he said.

Suburban supermarkets have been known to dump their non-veg foods overnight because of complaints from shoppers.

``We cleared our shelves of tuna tins and frozen chicken. We don't keep any non-vegetarian items now,'' said Neelam Ahuja, owner of the K-value supermarket. ``Many customers don't like non-veg, so we stopped stocking it.''

While Indians are accustomed to housing societies demarcated by religion, separation by diet has meat-eaters worried. Mumbai likes to think of itself as a city wide open to the world, and some worry the vegetarian tide goes against that trend.

Vikramaditya Ugra, a young Mumbai banker in search of an apartment, said vegetarian colonies were fine in neighboring Gujarat, a state dominated by vegetarians. ``That's in tune with local sensitivity,'' he said.

``But to impose this restriction is not right in a cosmopolitan city like Bombay.''

Look within, thou art the Buddha.
-Gautama, Buddha.


Gift Horse said...

WOW! COOL! I want to move to Mumbai!!!

C'BS ALife Allah said...

I'm right there with you...can you imagine!!!!

kimba said...

As an Indian woman now living overseas, I am happy to see India still has the vegetarian belief. Living in a western country as vegetarian is hard, but it is even harder when your own Indian brother or sister is eating chicken!

The worst is when they say, "oh we are Hindu, we don't eat cows"! Regardless of what animal it is it feels pain, it feels cruelty.

Because I am a vegetarian, I am much healthier then the other Americans and Indians in my office!

Sandhya Wilhelm said...

Mumbaiites should be pleased to a be secular enough to allow a group to practice its values with freedom, especially when they do not hinder or hamper anothers values. Vegetarianism is better for many reasons, perhaps Mumbai should become a champion and lead others!

jina said...

People of abrahamic faiths and non vegetarian Hindus do not understand that when they cook their meat it stinks like hell (I wonder how they can put that stinking shit in their mouth) and is unbearable to the vegetarians. Therefore vegetarians live in societies dominated by vegetarians in mumbai. The nonvegetarians should move to nonvegetarian parts of the society to avoid conflict with the vegetarians over petty issues like smell.