|For vegans it's a choice between French fries and French fries!|
The 10 types of meats at dinner tables don't surprise me anymore. I also know too well that the section for vegans, if at all, may have a few greens thrown in with chunks of meat (palak-gosht). The dal may also be special -- because it has been cooked in meat.
It is not that I am a compulsive vegetarian -- I do like to eat meat once in a while -- but sometimes when I am in a mood to eat veggies I just don't know where to head. The options in Islamabad are almost always limited to khatte baingan with khatti daal or khatti daal with khatte baingan at Cafe Lazeez or more recently at Lahori Chatkhara.
Today I learnt of a Pakistani blogger who is vegan. Abdul Majeed is a medical student and it was such a pleasure reading his post.
"Folks, I confess to being a minority. No, I am not a non-Muslim, gay, lesbian, atheist or fat. I am a vegetarian. I have spent most of my life answering stupid questions like 'why aren't you eating anything beta, do you have a medical problem?'" Majeed posted on his blog "Courage to Differ".
Majeed confirmed my fears that there are no exclusive vegetarian restaurants in Lahore, Islamabad or Peshawar. "The maximum I can get at fast food restaurants are French fries," he wrote.
Majeed also mentioned a Facebook group dedicated to Pakistani vegetarians (has only 30 members!!!) -- which is also where I learnt a new conspiracy theory: being vegan = weak = Indian!!
Majeed quoted Maryam Arif, another Pakistani vegetarian: “Being vegetarian in Pakistan is highly suspect, Indian-like; even though most Indians I know ask for beef kebabs first thing they come to Lahore. Yet in our minds vegetarian = Hindu = Indian = weak. The popular thinking is that meat gives us an edge over them grass-eaters across the border. Carnivores are stronger and taller; even light-complexioned than herbivores. Isn’t that so? It has to be.”
The going has obviously not been easy for Majeed. "It is a bit like blasphemy to live in Lahore and not eat meat. Lahoris are often offended when you tell them you are a vegetarian. It is an insult to their intelligence. How can anyone voluntarily give up the meat delicacies that constitute our cuisine?"
"I have decided that enough is enough. I am out of the closet now. I am sick of your siri paye, qormas, seekh kabab, gurday kapooray..." Majeed added.
My feelings exactly.