Thursday, April 12, 2007


We were on a walk in the area near Chor Bazaar when a very heavy handcart stopped because of the traffic. When the traffic lights turned green, the load pullers simply couldn't get the cart going again.

My guests that day for the walk were a group of expats, living in Bombay. On an impulse, one of them dashed into the middle of the street to give the cart a helping hand.

The man at the back of the cart welcomed the added muscle power, and in a couple of minutes, the cart got moving again.

My guest returned, grinning, dusting his palms. I couldn't help grinning back.

You can choose to get into the heart of a country, or you can choose to be an observer. Whatever floats your boat. The streets are there, the people are there, the experiences are there as well, waiting. What you get from them is your choice. Insider or outsider, what do you want to be?

And this is not just about foreign visitors to India. This is true for locals as well.

Take me, for instance. For me, walking in this area is always difficult, given my vegetarian Brahmin upbringing. I'm simply not used to meat. Here, everywhere, there is meat - on the hoof, being stirred, roasted, spitted, or tandoored. It has taken me a bit to get used to
it. But as I do this walk more and more often, I find myself getting comfortable with it.

I don't think I will ever eat meat. So this walk is not about changing myself. This walk is all about acceptance. What this walk does for me, is that it makes me understand in a simple practical way that everyone is not the same. There are different ways of life, and many of them are nothing like the little things that my little community or tribe or religion does. It is quite an eye-opener.


helga said...

You "might never eat meat"..since you were brought up veg.? Well, I was not but the 2 pictures you posted might make me 100% veg real Mumbai..Me and my stomach are "sensitive" in that sense.. A true hypocrite you could say..If I see that.. what is it? lamb/sheep?? I'd rather be on my way to the nearest available vet.-mission impossible of course-(for it's knees.. and it's wounds) sooner than I would have a go at any "grilled lambchops"..for lunch near by..for the time to come..and quite some after.."Eating" though is one thing "using" another..and now I am curious..Do you wear "leather shoes" at all?

Deepa said...

I don't have a religious problem with meat or animal products. Vegetarianism is a habit, and one that I would rather not break. As for leather, I have leather bags and shoes, and don't feel guilty for using them. But the truth is, in Mumbai, the abattoir at Deonar treats animals very badly, and there is a lot of suffering before they die.

helga said...

When our muslim society came here, starting about 40 yrs back, and were here to stay (from Morocco.. and Turkey mainly) they brought with them their culture and tradition ofcourse, includng the "sacrife of a sheep", during the "sugar festival".There was no such thing as "ritual slaughter" here so they got their sheep (fat, dutch one..)..brought it home..(staircase.. 3rd floor)and did their best as for "the ritual part" on the balcony..causing a real "revolt" among many Dutch neighbours in more than one so far little, nice and overly clean neighbourhood..("murder"!!! on a balcony.. blood on the steps..a mess, screaming animal- as sheep were not too keen on all of this to begin with..).
Now our professional Islamic butchers are among the cleanest and most "human"..(as for slaughter) of all.
I sit on my leather sofa and wear leather shoes but I "visualize"..I was brought up with meat being part of most meals.. and ignorant of where my mums fine "meatballs" came from no harm done, still not..but as soon as I "know" an animal "in person"'s the end of all "appetite"..Once I purchased "biogical porc chops": a concious decision for "animal welfare and protection of nature", On the package a description of the "pigs happy life" walking around freely in green grass fields..and a picture..Well!!! End of story - I tried but I simply could not: the 2 cats I had at the time..not handicapped in that sense what so ever had an unexpected great extra meal.

Anonymous said...

I just came back from an 8 day trip to Northern India, and I love how you describe being part of life on the street. I am enjoying your blog very much. I hope to get back to India soon and explore more of it. I found it frustrating and exhilerating, awe-inspiring and heart-breaking, and I can't stop thinking about it.

Anonymous said...