Food matters

Telling by the time and efforts my colleagues spend on our daily lunch order, food is a very important topic for Indians. Alongside with breathing and sex, eating is the only activity which makes one exchange substances with the surrounding. No wonder that religions, claiming to frame our behaviour within the world, insist on specific purity provisions for these intimate contacts.
Those codes infiltrated the deeper layers of the psyche to an extent impervious to rational discourse: I remember when in a Hindu temple back in Jaipur, I observed people greeting a long-haired old man, a guru, by touching his feet. By my pure sight he abruptly shied away, not to be touched by the supposedly meat-eating foreigner.
When coming back from a concert at Purana Quila (“old fortress”) last week, we saw many rickshaws transporting tied-up goats: during the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha (“Sacrifice Feast”), worldwide 100 million goats are slaughtered each year in memento of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. This year, just in time, a public petition had enforced the interdiction to spill the blood into the river Yamuna passing Delhi where the idols of god Ganesha have been immersed a few days before (Ganesha Chaturthi).
I noticed that as a light side note on the otherwise tolerant and peaceful coexistence of religions. But fronts get harsh when it comes to beef: in Delhi, as in most states of India, the consumption of beef is banned by law. In his readable book on the Indian mindset, “The Indians”, Kakar writes: “The eating of beef and thus the killing of cows by Muslims has historically been the most important source of Hindu bitterness. … The Muslim eating of beef and the Hindu abomination creates perhaps the most effective barrier … between the two communities.”
Last night, in Uttar Pradesh, 45km from Delhi, a mob gathered in front of a Muslim’s home who was suspected to have slaughtered a cow: the 50 year old man got killed, his son severely injured.
As my boss Nitin puts it: “Politicians talk about missions to Mars and their vision for the country, but elections are decided on cows.”