Don’t tell me what to eat!

This rather angst-ridden post comes at a time when the country I reside in (India) is going through something along the lines of what can only be described as a shit-storm. There is a reason to why I choose to call it the country I reside in and not my country, and that reason has a lot to do with my disregard for the glorified nationalism that is patriotism; but that is something I will (hopefully, if I remember and have the energy) address in a later post. Today, however, I wish to talk about the most recent malady gripping this nation: a food ban.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this particular atrocity, here is a brief, heavily biased summary: The ruling political party in the country, the BJP, has launched a thinly veiled communal movement against religious minorities in the country in an attempt to make the country a “Hindu” nation. The controversial prime minister recently made the appointment of an even more controversial individual, and a Hindu religious leader no less, as the chief minister of the most populous state in the country (UP); a state with a larger Muslim population than Saudi Arabia. Understandably, a host of events has taken place since then, furthering the already mammoth divide between the left and right-wing individuals. I will not go into the host of issues I have with the government, but just highlight the one that is currently on my mind: the new UP government has started a crackdown against “illegal” slaughterhouses, under the guise of which hundreds of thousands of

Understandably, a host of events has taken place since then, furthering the already mammoth divide between the left and right-wing individuals. I will not go into the host of issues I have with the government, but just highlight the one that is currently on my mind: the new UP government has started a crackdown against “illegal” slaughterhouses, under the guise of which hundreds of thousands of meat vendors, the majority of them being Muslims, have been put out of business. Repercussions of this have been seen in states across the country, where vigilantes have taken to violence against even the legally operating meat vendors.

It does not take a great leap of understanding to see that this crusade against meat and meat vendors fits snugly into the communal image of the BJP. Hinduism has been mistakenly associated with vegetarianism for hundreds of years now (I say mistakenly because the archaeological and historical experts have agreed, time and again, that the oldest practitioners of Hinduism weren’t bothered about who ate what, and, what’s more, even sacrificed animals as part of prayers), and the BJP covertly seeks to make India a Hindu land, and thus a vegetarian one. The recent introduction of Hindi, a language which people, again, mistakenly, associate with India and Hinduism, into non-Hindi speaking states is a further example of how the Centre wishes to rebrand “India as is Bharath” as Hindustan.

For the purposes of this post, I’ll drop my “leftist” agenda which condemns the central government. I’ll even let slide the obvious linguistic chauvinism which is currently threatening the diversity of one of the most beautifully diverse nations of the world. What I cannot let up, however, is people telling me what to and what not to eat. We are a secular nation, which entails the freedom to be who we are, do what we want (as long as it is within the legal limits) and eat what we bloody want. Not going into the whole shenanigans about how necessary animal protein is for people, it’s a simple thing to understand: people have a right to food.

People who choose to follow religious limitations (yet again, a topic which I feel strongly towards and hope to speak about soon) to the extent of depriving themselves of certain things are more than free to do so, but who gives anyone the authority to restrict people not only from eating whatever it is that they wish, but also take away a major source of livelihood? What right does a democratically elected leader have to say that the practice of a religion should be done stringently, and to subsequently encroach upon the basic human rights of his people?

Tomorrow, if a leader is elected who bans the “illegal” sale of leafy greens, are we supposed to silently sit back and withstand the deprivation of an essential component of our diet? Fuck that, if the government decides to ban the “illegal” sale of chocolates, would we stand for it?

If yes, then, honestly, very little can be said here. People who are willing to submit so utterly to authority (authority which is barely educated, has a skewed world view, and takes religious communalism to a whole new level), then what are free-thinkers to do? How can anyone win in a fight where the other side has already decided that there is no competition.

If no, then why stop me from eating my tenderloin steak if I don’t stop you from eating whatever dismal cabbage creation you’ve concocted? Is it because my food offends you more than yours offends me? How can food be offensive to a person, unless you’re taking that offense as part of something larger, say a religion. If my food offends your religion, don’t eat my food. Why should I stop eating my food because it offends your religion? You religion is the primary religion of the country, you say?

Check again.

We live in a “secular” country where trying to get things like beef, which is now a traditional part of many Muslim households, is like trying to score drugs. I have a simple question, aimed at the prime minister and the chief minister of UP (whom I affectionately call Dhonginath; we have an understanding): if I don’t force you to eat meat as part of my religion (that of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), why do you stop me from eating it?

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The more the merrier

 

This post was cleverly scheduled to come out on Valentine’s day; but as those who are familiar with this little corner of the Internet will know, I am not the most punctual of people. Indeed, when asked why I do no take up writing as a profession (assuming I could write professionally), the foremost reason I cite is my inability to meet deadlines. What is life, I daresay, without a little bit of procrastination, and the gnawing regret that comes after the time to affect change has passed?

Ah, but there I go again; prattling on about something that has nothing to do with the theme of this post. Today, sitting by a steaming mug of filter coffee, I wish to talk about the nature of romantic relationships; rather, the nature of relationships in general. More specifically, I wish to present my case in favour of something we’ve come to learn more and more of in recent years: polyamory.

I have long been of the opinion that for any relationship to be truly sustainable, it needs to have a certain degree of “openness”. Relationships which are rigid in their definitions and closed off in their approach to society often find that a claustrophobic environment is non-conducive to their growth. The reason for this, to me, seems quite simple: we are complex beings with complex needs, and so we need to derive our sustenance from a host of people, and not just one person at a time.

Don’t you think it’s a little impractical, really, to assume that one person is able to satisfy all your emotional, physical, and intellectual needs? Conversely, isn’t it a little unfair that you are required to fulfil the very same needs, single-handedly, for someone else? I can, of course, see the charm in this: that one person is all you need for everything, ever, is undoubtedly a charming concept, but how much practical value does it really hold?

Humour me for a while, and picture this: you have your significant other with whom you have a blossoming relationship. Yes, there are fights, but you are able to “kiss and make up”, and you perceive things through rose-tinted glasses. Now it just so happens that you are plagued with an issue which your partner is not adept at handling, or which requires a view which your partner is unable to provide. You seek solace in another individual to whom you attach some value, and your qualms are put to rest.

Polyamory, most people fail to understand, is not just about having multiple sex partners, though that is very much a component of it; neither is polyamory a way to justify promiscuity. Polyamory is about understanding that more than one people should be allowed to influence your thoughts on love, career, sex, and all the other facets that make up life. Polyamory is about embracing the change that is brought by opening up to more and more people, instead of being confined to a box, with only one other mind for company.

Yet another aspect I’ve seen people have trouble with is that of relationships being a spectrum, and not a binary switch between polyamory and monoamory. It IS possible to sustain an emotionally polyamorous relationship without also making it physical. In fact, that has largely been the nature of my relationships for a long while now, and it has caused me little to no discomfort. On the other hand, it is also possible to have a physically polyamorous relationship without having an emotional one. There are hundreds of other combinations which abound when one truly considers the diversity of people, their needs, and the rationale behind relationships in the first place.

As is often the case with my personal posts, I shift the blame for things onto society. Society has conditioned us to make two things an integral part of our lives: labels and definitions. We spend our early years growing up in a society which has an obsessive need to label and define everything, relationships included. A couple who does not wish to label or define their relationship is still called a couple, because how else are we to attach stereotypes and conventional tropes to them. Even the most progressive of us get caught in the rigmarole that is the need to define, if not label.

There is a person, of remarkable intellect and a face which the gods must have forgotten to fault, with whom I sustain a relationship. What kind of relationship, you’d be tempted to ask, and therein lies the problem. Is it not enough that there is a relationship of some sort? That there is something physical (barely, to my displeasure), something intellectual, and something emotional in this relationship is enough of a definition. Our need to define things by assigning labels to them limits our expansion and growth as human beings; this is a belief that has only strengthened with time.

It is not as though I have taken a pledge against labelling, however; I understand the need for certain labels, such as defining certain things as harmful versus safe, or correct versus incorrect. Where relationships are considered, though, I cannot understand the obsession with monoamory, which seeks to lay possessive claim on another person. Relationships are deeply personal things; in fact, they are deeply interpersonal things, and with over seven billion people in the world, to limit the interpersonal interaction of a person to just “the one” other person seems to me inherently selfish.

Bonds are fickle things; they break and form in the blink of an eye. Bonds strengthen when they are allowed to mingle with other bonds, and form a network. Polyamory provides for that chance; the chance to strengthen not just one, but many bonds, by exposing the individual to the treasures of the human mind. Yes, there is a chance that in a polyamorous relationship your paramour would give someone else more importance than they would give you, but that is a risk you both are taking. And, in my very honest opinion, the risk and the (possible) jealousy are worth it, because at the end of the day, you are developing a more honest, a stronger relationship.

 

One step at a time

Dear 2017,

I hope this letter finds you in the best of health, perhaps just settling into your cushioned armchair for yet another day in office. I am, I realise well, by no means the first person to send you this letter, and I certainly won’t be the last. We know for a certainty that twelve months from now, you’ll have a barrage of letters either thanking you for all you’ve done during your term or chiding you for the things you got wrong.

By today, I hope, you are done with your celebrations. It seems like you got ahead of yourself a little there during your victory gala, what with Istanbul and Bangalore, but that was before you were officially sworn in, so I guess we can let that slide. Maybe you even made some rather hasty decisions in your first two days here, but, again, we can get past that. After today, though, I hope you have gotten serious. You have had plenty of time to learn the ropes, and I hope you have gotten the hang of it.

On your desk sits a red folder labelled “Catastrophe”, which chronicles the events which occurred during the reign of your predecessor, 2016. The folder also contains a list of deaths which came too soon, or too suddenly, or just at a wrong time. You will notice that towards the end of 2016’s term, things got violently out of hand. Perhaps due to the constant berating that it had gotten throughout the year, or because it was eager to leave office with a bang, or maybe it just wasn’t ready to leave yet, 2016 lost control of what was happening. I hope, and trust, that the same will not be the case with you.

We all learn from our mistakes. Some things, of course, are beyond your control. Anyone who has ever held an office of any sort will realise that tough decisions need to be made. We will try to not begrudge you your hard, and seemingly cruel, decisions, but we are creatures of hope after all. The good thing is that your predecessor set a very low standard of how a year should progress, so there is a lot of room for you to shine. My only advice to you, and I realise that I may be overstepping my welcome here, is that you take it one step at a time.

Your office, at this moment, is probably cluttered with documents detailing the events that took place in 2016, both good and bad, large and small. All I ask of you is to not be alarmed. Glance periodically at the “Catastrophe” folder and remember that most of those events haven’t gone down in history as the best of times. Do not feel the need to catch up to 2016. Remember, fires that burn bright usually burn for a short time. Be the steadily flame that we need; give us light when we need it, and warmth when we want it. You do not need to follow in the footsteps of 2016. You are your own entity, and it is up to you to create a name for yourself.

Though, this may just be the same advice that 2016 was given when it took office. Maybe everything that 2016 has done has been its way of making a name for itself. If that is the case, then you have to be careful. It is better to go down in history as careful than fiery. Making a name for yourself doesn’t mean that you outrage against the people, for we are the reason you exist. We have defined you and brought you into existence and have chosen you to carry us through the next trip around the sun. Do not ever forget that. Do not bite the hand that feeds you.

A hundred years ago, your predecessors decided that they would like to make a name for themselves, too. 1914-1918 were bad examples of how this office should be run. Learn from them, as 1918 eventually did, but do not get inspired by them, as 1939 probably did. Do not worry about oblivion, though. Just because you haven’t been exploding all over the place doesn’t mean we won’t remember you. Yours will be the term when hundreds of people are born, close ones die, great things are invented, and many discoveries made. And even if it were not so, you become a part of a chronology when you swear yourself in, and chronologies don’t exclude one of their own. You will not fade out, I promise you.

Knowing how much you have seen, you would already know this, but I feel it is my duty to remind you nonetheless: there is no such thing as universal popularity. There has not been a single year which has been liked by everyone, and, conversely, no one year has been completely hated. The best example of that is 2016. Amongst the hate mail which was sent towards 2016, a large part of it was my own, I saw a lot of fan letters. I was astounded at how many people held 2016 in a positive regard. One of 2016’s earliest judgements was the death of Alan Rickman, so my affection for it had never picked up to start with, but for millions, it was a year of self-discovery.

So you see? You can do everything right, and still be hated for it, and you can mess up on colossal scales and still have people who love you. Remember, though, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Do not let the affection of the few deter you from the path of what is right and, what is infinitely more important, what is sensible. There is no rush to prove yourself. You have been given a fixed time and no one can take this time away from you. Use it well. It just so happens that you have taken office when we have to give you one less day than we did 2016. Please don’t take that personally; it’s just the way things are done around here.

We have faith in you, 2017, please do not let us down. One step at a time, my dear, and you should be just fine. The world is caught in a maddening race, and you need to be the one who provides us with the stillness of surety. Do not get roped into the race yourself. Do not try to outrun your people, because we will keep going on even if we lose, but this is your only shot at it, and you cannot waste it running races.

One step at a time, my love, and you should be just fine.

Yours,

Anirudh