IT’s been a few days since the meaty lunchbox was banished from the precincts of The Hindu. Everybody has an opinion on the matter. There are people who would take up cudgels on behalf of the meat-eating employees who, they allege, are being forced to become vegetarian and “Brahmin in their thinking”.
People who have never entered the portals of The Hindu and by virtue of their tweets, , probably never will, suggested, ” The Hindu should rename itself “The Brahmin”, and urged the proprietors to display a signboard to say “Only Brahmins need apply”, and a third suggested wrapping chicken kebabs in the newspaper would be the Gandhian way to protest.
Now, I have been a The Hindu insider, and you don’t need to be one to know that all vegetarians are not Brahmins , employed at The Hindu or not. The second suggestion is absurd. The accent at the Hindu, in fact, is on diversity. As for the final suggestion, being kebab wrapper I’d say is an upgrade from the days a few decades ago, when grandma’s wisdom suggested yesterday’s newspaper made cheapest baby wipes.
I admit I am a vegetarian and until this advisory came up, I never really considered what might be going on in the mind of the non-vegetarian employee of The Hindu. Or what the vegetarian in The Hindu canteen might be thinking. Speaking for myself, the only thing that’s important to me is what’s on my plate. My best friends are non-vegetarians. When we eat out they order what they like, and I order what I like, and of course we all sit at the same table.
I am trying to recall what my colleagues at the Hindu did at the canteen. I don’t remember anyone opening their dabba of chicken biriyani, or anything non-vegetarian. In fact most of us did not carry a lunchbox from home at all most days, because it was more convenient to eat at the canteen. Our colleagues from other newspapers frequently asked if they could come over and lunch at our canteen.
In the newsroom, lunchboxes often got opened and passed around if someone got hungry, or brought something interesting, or Ramesh Vangipuram brought his sack of Krishna Janmashtami goodies, or someone had a birthday. or ordered pizza (vegetarian, I admit)
There might have been at some point someone who brought some non-vegetarian food. No one asked, or said anything. I’m guessing they’d have ordered non-vegetarian if it was available in the canteen, and were generally happy to eat whatever is available- viz. a decadent spread of saapad with sambhar, rasam, palya, appalam, pickle and curd. On the other hand, I’ve known many of them to order vegetarian at the Press Club, even though a non-vegetarian menu is served there. There was none of the offending or offense-taking that is being implied between colleagues.
What if anything has changed, after the advisory was issued? Very little, I’d say. The HR manager is not necessarily speaking for every vegetarian in the building, and he has doubtless verified facts before saying that non-vegetarians are in the minority. This minority knows what to expect, and abstinence while on the premises is not asking for the impossible– most non-vegetarians often abstain even when they are not at work, for personal, spiritual, and health reasons.. Besides, what are the chances of someone actually bringing a non-veg meal into the building, and that some vegetarian/non-vegetarian tattletale is going to spill the chicken on a meat-chomping colleague?
This is more akin to a case of telling non-smokers to refrain from smoking!
Meanwhile conversations on FB are meandering from The Hindu canteen into Hindu spaces. “The notice of the Hindu management is nothing but insulting the Dalit-bahujans and non-Brahmin castes and their food cultures” says someone on a group that I desist from naming here.
When will the day come when Dalit journalists conduct beef festivals in media houses in this great democracy! exclaims another, while someone else compares it to the ban on sale of eggs at Rishikesh-Hardwar.
When will the day come when Dalit journalists conduct beef festivals in media houses in this great democracy!exclaims another!
I think my takeaway from here is “beefing up the media house equals Dalit empowerment”