The myth of the Indian vegetarian nation

An insightful article by Soutik Biswas that first appeared in the New York Times and also BBC:

What are the most common myths and stereotypes about what Indians eat? The biggest myth, of course, is that India is a largely vegetarian country.

But that’s not the case at all. Past “non-serious” estimates have suggested that more than a third of Indians ate vegetarian food.

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Image: BBC.com
If you go by three large-scale government surveys, 23%-37% of Indians are estimated to be vegetarian. By itself this is nothing remarkably revelatory.

But new research by US-based anthropologist Balmurli Natrajan and India-based economist Suraj Jacob, points to a heap of evidence that even these are inflated estimations because of “cultural and political pressures”. So people under-report eating meat – particularly beef – and over-report eating vegetarian food.

Taking all this into account, say the researchers, only about 20% of Indians are actually vegetarian – much lower than common claims and stereotypes suggest.

Hindus, who make up 80% of the Indian population, are major meat-eaters. Even only a third of the privileged, upper-caste Indians are vegetarian.

The government data shows that vegetarian households have higher income and consumption – are more affluent than meat-eating households. The lower castes, Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) and tribes-people are mainly meat eaters.

Vegetarian cities in India

  • Indore: 49%
  • Meerut: 36%
  • Delhi: 30%
  • Nagpur: 22%
  • Mumbai: 18%
  • Hyderabad: 11%
  • Chennai: 6%
  • Kolkata: 4%
    (Average incidence of vegetarianism. Source: National Family Health Survey)

On the other hand, Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob find the extent of beef eating is much higher than claims and stereotypes suggest.

At least 7% of Indians eat beef, according to government surveys.

But there is evidence to show that some of the official data is “considerably” under-reported because beef is “caught in cultural political and group identity struggles in India”.

About 20% of Indians are vegetarians, according to new research. Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist BJP promotes vegetarianism and believes that the cow should be protected, because the country’s majority Hindu population considers them holy. More than a dozen states have already banned the slaughter of cattle. And during Mr Modi’s rule, vigilante cow protection groups, operating with impunity, have killed people transporting cattle.

The truth is millions of Indians, including Dalits, Muslims and Christians, consume beef. Some 70 communities in Kerala, for example, prefer beef to the more expensive goat meat.

Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob conclude that in reality, closer to 15% of Indians – or about 180 million people – eat beef. That’s a whopping 96% more than the official estimates.

Delhi, where only a third of residents are thought to be vegetarian, may well deserve its reputation for being India’s butter chicken capital.

But, the stereotype of Chennai as the hub of India’s “south Indian vegetarian meal” is completely misplaced. Reason: only 6% of the city’s residents are vegetarian, one survey suggests.

Many continue to believe that Punjab is “chicken loving” country. But the truth is that 75% of people in the northern state are vegetarian.

So how has the myth that India is a largely vegetarian country been spread so successfully?

Some 180 million Indians consume beef, according to new research. For one, Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob told me, in a “highly diverse society with food habits and cuisines changing every few kilometres and within social groups, any generalisation about large segments of the population is a function of who speaks for the group”.

“This power to represent communities, regions, or even the entire country is what makes the stereotypes.”

Also, they say, “the food of the powerful comes to stand in for the food of the people”.

Why India is a nation of foodies

“The term non-vegetarian is a good case in point. It signals the social power of vegetarian classes, including their power to classify foods, to create a ‘food hierarchy’ wherein vegetarian food is the default and is having a higher status than meat. Thus it is akin to the term ‘non-whites’ coined by ‘whites’ to capture an incredibly diverse population who they colonised.”

Migration

Secondly, the researchers say, some of the stereotype is enabled by migration.

So when south Indians migrate to northern and central India, their food comes to stand in for all south Indian cuisine. This is similarly true for north Indians who migrate to other parts of the country.

Finally, some of the stereotypes are perpetuated by the outsider – north Indians stereotype south Indians just by meeting a few of them without thinking about the diversity of the region and vice versa.

The foreign media, say the researchers, is also complicit “as it seeks to identify societies by a few essential characteristics”.

Chicken is thought to be the most popular form of meat eaten by Indians
Also, the study shows up the differences in food habits among men and women. More women, for example, say they are vegetarian than men.

The researchers say this could be partly explained by the fact that more men eat outside their homes and with “greater moral impunity than women”, although eating out may not by itself result in eating meat.

Patriarchy – and politics – might have something to do with it.

“The burden of maintaining a tradition of vegetarianism falls disproportionately on the women,” say Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob.

Couples are meat eaters in about 65% of the surveyed households and vegetarians only in 20%. But in 12% of the cases the husband was a meat eater, while the wife was a vegetarian. Only in 3% cases was the reverse true.

Clearly, the majority of Indians consume some form of meat – chicken and mutton, mainly – regularly or occasionally, and eating vegetarian food is not practiced by the majority.

So why does vegetarianism exert a far greater influence on representations of India and Indians around the world? Does it have to do with “policing” of food choices and perpetuating food stereotypes in a vastly complex and multicultural society?

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Picture of the day: Public Toilets for Transgenders #LGBT

India is a country of contradictions and diversity. The title of a Washington Post article sums it up best: India has outlawed homosexuality. But it’s better to be transgender there than in the U.S. (link)

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Picture of Toilet for Transgenders in a Public Bus stand in Bangalore

 

Medical and Dental Tourism to India

Indians, NRIs and tourists from around the world are beginning to realize the potential of modern and traditional Indian medicine. Indian hospitals and medical establishments have also realized the potential of this niche market and have begun to tailor their services for foreign visitors. GaramChai.com has an extensive listing of Medical Tourism providers.

In this blog we feature Dental Tourism at Dr. Krinita Motwani’s Multi-speciality Dental Clinic.

DentalTourism

Dental tourism in India has become very popular over the last decade. Patients from world over are visiting the subcontinent to avail various dental treatments. The exotic locations and quality health care facilities make India an ideal choice for “Dental Tourism”. Dental clinics easily create a package for you that involve both your treatment plan and your vacation.

At Dr. Krinita Motwani’s Dental Clinic we understand all your needs and ensure that you leave the country with not just a beautiful set of teeth but also happy memories. You can communicate with us through email. We encourage Patients to share pictures and x-rays. This gives us a chance to plan the treatment in detail and give a more precise estimate of treatment time/visits as well as cost structure.

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This state of the art dental studio has a unique combination of a relaxing ambience along with use of cutting edge equipment and internationally acclaimed dental materials. The atmosphere is unlike regular expected dental clinics. We follow excellent protocol for infection control and hygiene and are associated with the best laboratories in the country. We are extremely proud of our pleasant, friendly and well trained staff going out of the way to make patients feel at home and deliver personalized dental care ranging from simple prophylaxis to a complete smile make-over!!

The dental clinic is spacious, tastefully decorated with everything passionately handpicked by Dr. Krinita. A great deal of effort has been put in combining artistic value with high end technology.

Well equipped with cutting edge armamentarium:

  • Automated dental chairs imported and assembled in Germany -for optimum comfort and efficiency
  • RVG: digital dental x ray software- less time consuming and reduced exposure to radiations
  • Autoclave for sterilization with the latest technology in an isolated area
  • Disposable products to maintain high levels of patient hygiene
  • Top of the line instruments and dental materials – only best in the world.

The wide range of services offered at the Dental Clinic include:

  • Dental Implants
  • Cosmetic Dentistry
  • Dental Veneers
  • Single sitting Root canal treatment
  • Surgical extraction
  • Tooth Coloured Restorations
  • Invisible braces
  • Smile design
  • Paediatric dentistry
  • Dental crowns
  • Tooth whitening
  • Tooth Jewellery

You can get more detailed information on their website. 

 

Independence Day: India celebrates 71st Independence Day

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech from Red Fort in Delhi

 

Interesting tweets

And Goole’s special doodle

GoogleIndIndependence

Q&A – Return to India Query

Advice for NRIs and Indians abroad on returning to India

Here is a recent online query on Returning to India.

I am a software engineer from India and I have spent my last 15 years abroad in various countries. Which place in India is best for an NRI like me to settle down on returning to India with a decent job?

Response from our editor follows

This is a great question, but there is hardy any information on your interests, personal situation, career goals or intent.

If you were unconstrained and had the resources, wouldnt you want to settle in Andamans ?

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or Himachal Pradesh?

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India is a vast, ever-changing nation so it is really important to focus on these:

  • Interests and personal situation:
    • Are you extroverted and outgoing and want an urbane social circle?
    • Do you have an extended family living in a certain region? Do you plan to socialize frequently with your family?

Your interests and personal situation will guide you on the city/region where you want to ‘settle down.’ For example, if your extended family is in Imphal, Manipur, wouldn’t you be better off settling closer in Imphal, Assam or Kolkata? Same goes for your interests. If you love the ocean, wouldn’t you want to settle in Mumbai or Goa?

  • Career goals:
    • Do you specialize in a very niche area. E.g AI or Big-data tool?
    • Do you plan to enrich your career with a move to India?

I am not going to assume whether you are an AI, Big-data or HANA consultant since most metros will have opportunities for these. If you plan to settle in a major metro, this may be a non-issue. However, if you are looking at settling in tier-2 cities, you need to reflect on your career goals and re-skilling too.

  • Intent:
    • Are you clear why you want to move back to India?
    • Are you prepared to accept the ways of life in a developing nation – traffic, pollution, regionalism etc?

Bottomline: Be clear of your intent and you will be better informed. Check out my recent post: “What were your experiences moving back to India after getting US citizenship? What are the best ways to make this move?

You may also be interested in Return 2 India Section of GaramChai.com 


Only in India: With No Money To Buy An Ox, Distraught MP Farmer Uses His Daughters To Plough Field

Much of the focus of the farmers on the west is to leverage technologies to increase yields. And back in India, it continues to be sustenance agriculture going back centuries.

Check out this video of a Farmer making his daughters plough his fields

A heartbreaking farmer story from the state of Madhya Pradesh (MP) reveals the sad reality of the ongoing crisis of debt-ridden farmers. Financial crisis reduced a farmer in Sehore’s Basantpur Pangri village to use his two daughters, instead of oxen to pull the plough in their fields.

With No Money To Buy An Ox, Distraught MP Farmer Uses His Daughters To Plough Field
Image source : Indiatimes

I do not have enough money to buy or take care of bulls for ploughing. Both my daughters quit their schooling due to financial crisis,” farmer told ANI.

Both daughters Radhika, 14 and Kunti, 11 years quit their education due to lack of money or financial support.  Soon after the video of Barela and his daughters ploughing the field went viral, the district authorities swung into action and instructed the farmer to stop the practice.

District Public Relation Officer (DPRO) Ashish Sharma said that the administration is looking forward into the matter and a proper help would be given to him under governmental schemes.

“The farmer has been instructed not to use children for such activities. Whatever help he can be given under governmental schemes, administration is looking into it,” Sharma told ANI. (source – 

Many faces of Indian Spirituality

The Week magazine published in India recently published a cover page series on the many faces of ‘Indian’ Spirituality. A brief summary of the interesting articles that covers the entire gamut of modern spirituality and interviews with some Gurus:

India would lead the world spiritually – Swami Suvirananda was chosen as general secretary of Ramakrishna Mission and Belur Math in May. An educationist, Suvirananda worked in Arunachal Pradesh for 17 years, and taught in Ramakrishna Mission schools in Kolkata. Union Minister Kirren Rijiju, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Jangipur MP Abhijit Mukherjee were his students. In an interview with THE WEEK, Suvirananda talks about the relevance of the Ramakrishna Mission today.

42-Heartfulness
The Week – Spiritual trance: Heartfulness meditation trainer and renowned DJ Pierre Ravan.

Science of yoga does not demand any kind of belief system or philosophy: Sadhguru  – In spite of all its problems and contradictions, if the world is looking to a rapidly resurgent India today and an India that is about to join the ranks of developed nations, the silent and subtle contribution of the rich spiritual process inherent in the land and its people is undeniable. Though obscured by hundreds of years of foreign occupation and distorted by the aggressors, the relative peace, contentment, and harmony of the Indian people and the society are clearly the fruits of the carefully crafted spiritual process.

Mystic catcher of souls – Recently, in a television conversation, filmmaker Karan Johar asked Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev if there should be a limit to one’s love and emotions. “Love is a certain quality, not quantity,” the Sadhguru replied. “Love is not something that will get over. The more you experience it, the more it is available to you.” This is true of the Isha Yoga Centre, the Sadhguru’s ashram, as well: the more you experience it, the more it is available to you. Located on the foothills of Velliangiri Hills, on the outskirts of Coimbatore, the Isha Yoga Centre has dedicated itself to the well-being of the individual and the world.

Easterly wind bloweth – The nature of spirituality is undergoing a radical shift in the United States, with the temples furthering social change. On March 19 this year, Shaanti Bhavan Mandir in New York became the first Hindu temple to join the National Sanctuary Movement—a coalition of places of worship for sheltering undocumented immigrants. The temple was founded in 2013, by Indo-Caribbeans hailing from Guyana and Trinidad. “A mandir is not just a place we come to pray,” said temple leader Pandit Manoj Jadubans to the devotees. “We can give them shelter, a place where they feel secure.”

Old monk, new companion – The Ramakrishna Mission hopes to take its message of universal brotherhood to the Middle East – On August 14, 1897, three months after establishing the Ramakrishna Mission at Belur near Calcutta, Swami Vivekananda was travelling in a train with freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak. The disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had first met Tilak on a Pune-bound train in 1892. The following year, he addressed the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago. After he returned from America, Vivekananda was in touch with Tilak and other freedom fighters. So when they met again, Tilak asked him when and how India would achieve freedom. “India would attain freedom 50 years from now,” said Vivekananda. “But no one would believe how it would come. It would come surprisingly and suddenly.”

Peace in poise – The Sivananda Yoga Centre is a partner of Toronto school board – The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre at 77 Harbord Street in Toronto has been teaching people to “spread peace, health and joy through yoga”. Noahora Sierra, 57, who is from Colombia and has settled in Canada, has been doing yoga asanas five days a week and meditation twice a week since 2012, and it has made a world of difference for her. Doing yoga gives her a positive feeling, said Sierra. She and her daughter are regular visitors at the centre, established in 1962.

Taking a look at our philosophies – A FEW YEARS ago, a relative of mine philosophically said, “At any point in life, there is always someone thinner than you, and someone richer.” I could not resist taking a dig: “I am surprised it took you so long to realise that.” Jokes apart, I have always felt that this ‘Who is thinner/richer/prettier?’ game is quite unproductive. Writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry sums it up in one line: “Grown-ups love figures.” I think he meant both figures—numbers and the human form. In The Little Prince, he writes: “When you tell [grown-ups] you’ve made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you ‘What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?’ Instead they demand, ‘How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?’”

Trikonasana in Trafalgar Square – Religious activities, community service and yoga go hand in hand for Hindus in the UK. Religion in the UK has become an intrinsic part of the Hindu identity, especially in the last few decades. It is perhaps a symbol of their migration pattern after World War II or during the expulsion by Idi Amin. With time, they have established temples of their faith in the UK, as well as many community organisations and umbrella bodies to represent their ideologies. But what was exclusive to the people from that particular faith before, is now available to the wider society—and Britain stands as one of the best examples of a successful multicultural country.

Ministry of Heartful Happiness – Meditation for health and well-being matters to the UAE government- On a warm May morning, as my taxi pulls up at the entrance of an elegant office building in Dubai’s Jumeirah Lake Towers business district, I know I’m at the right place. Small groups of Indians have just arrived and are greeting each other as they enter the building. Instead of rummaging through my handbag to find the address, I simply follow them into the elevator. I’m sure we are all heading to the same place. The elevator stops at the first floor and I follow them out, down a short corridor, and into a large hall. Within minutes, the cacophony of 300 people exchanging pleasantries dies down and everyone is seated with their eyes closed; the lights are switched off and the hall descends into pin-drop silence. This is how members of the Heartfulness Meditation Centre at the Sahaj Marg Spirituality Foundation begin each morning; with an hour-long meditation session.

Individuals can be transformed through love and compassion: Mata Amritanandamayi – When you talk to the Americans, what is it that they like the most about you? Do they come to know more about India through you? Are they keen on visiting India or, may be, even settling here close to their ‘Amma’? Not just Americans, but all people in general are longing to experience true love. There is an inner thirst to find someone who will lend a compassionate ear, so that they can pour out their heart. I don’t speak any language other than my mother tongue, Malayalam. But through love there is perfect communication, no matter what language we speak.


Viewers of GaramChai.com are aware of the extensive listings of Religion and spirituality in North America including