Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The flesh and meat and the gory details

Sometimes the most innocuous day to day incidents can bring the most monumental changes in ones life. Mine started with reading an article on the internet. It began with the story of a child who got sick after eating an undercooked burger at a fast food joint and ultimately died from HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome) caused by a pathogenic strain of a bacteria called E. coli. The article went on to describe the horrors of how the meat industry works and the various schemes to cover up the most gruesome practices in the civilized world. As I read the article I could not believe the atrocities that were described and by the time I was through, the mere thought of eating meat made me nauseous.

Obviously I had to do some checking. I googled a bit and came up with the term "factory farming". Now as I said before I had no idea what this was leading me into. I read some more and with every article that I came up with, it only served to make me sick with the facts and shocked at the cruelty that was being practiced each minute as I sat there learning about it. Now for those of you who are in the same state as I was prior to this eye opening incident and have very little idea about what I am referring to, you may want to check out this and may be this. But be forewarned that what you are going to see, read and learn is gruesome to say the least. In fact some of the pictures and videos were so graphic that I could not bear to watch them. But what I did see was enough to convince me into giving up on meat.

I come from a country where a vast majority of the population is vegetarian and probably would not have any qualms understanding where I am coming from. I on the other hand have grown up knowing that we need animal protein in our diet (vitamin B12 folks) and that every meal should include either meat or fish to provide me with the appropriate nutrition. The staple food in any home in Bengal would comprise fish and rice. And after coming to the US our diet was largely governed by all the different kinds of meat that were so readily available and oh so inexpensive and yes so easily ready to eat. We lived on hot dogs and burgers.Pizzas always had to be smothered in sausage and lunch would be sandwich with any kind of lunch meat. So for a person like me to be faced with facts of this proportion was a staggering blow to my intellect, my humanity and my entire existence.

Overnight I gave up eating meat. The mere thought of eating meat was now repulsive to me. I had no trouble converting my husband either. B is one of the most compassionate human being I have ever met and he has taught me many a valuable lesson in humanity. When he read some of the things that I had unearthed he had a similar reaction. Folks back home in India who of course have not come face to face with these gory details were shocked and a little outraged at our sudden dietary restrictions. But nothing they said could make me change my mind. And we've survived this meatless existence quite well for the last 9 months. Changing the way my parents feel will take some time, but then, you can make the difference by moving one stone at a time.

The whole point of my writing this post is not because I am any kind of activist or that I am trying to convert any of my non-vegetarian readers into making a lifestyle change, but because I believe a lot of people just are not aware of things like this. There are organizations and there are people who spend their life fighting to prevent such cruelty. And even if I am not an active part of any such movement, I strongly believe that my support can go a very long way in making a difference. With every burger that I refuse to eat for the rest of my life I am probably going to save the life of one cow in my lifetime. With my husband we can make that two cows. And to that add all the goats and lambs and pigs....well, it does make a difference in the long run.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Got tag?

Okay.... I got tagged by Rohan into the short story under 55 words here's my two cents:

They were the perfect couple until that day in November when he went out to get some sweets and never came home.
She waited for him to come back. He never did.
He lived on in her memories. And in a place far away, as someone else’s husband and a father of two.

Now it is my turn to pay back and tag five more souls. I'm tagging Sines, Rimi, Grafxgurl, Biplab, Ratna.
The ball is in your court now....


Thursday, September 15, 2005

At last

"My heart wants to sing every song it hears
My heart wants to beat like the wings of the birds
That rise from the lake to the trees
My heart wants to sigh like the chimes
That flies from a church on a breeze
To laugh like a brook when it trips
And falls over stone on its way
To sing through the night
Like a lark who is learning to pray"

After weeks of nervous apprehension and trepidation I am happy (atleast I think I am). I wish I could share my feelings. Let's just say I believe I may have got a really shining star when I reached for the sky. Makes me happy. For now. Thank you!


Monday, September 12, 2005

In the Land of Abundance

Someone once asked me what the biggest difference was between living in India and living in the US. I did not know what to say to him because there seemed to be too many and I had no idea which one was the most significant. But what never fails to amaze me is the overabundance and overindulgence that I see in the US. You know what I mean, right? You walk into a fast food joint and there's this guy who orders a supersize burger, an extra large fries and a large drink, then takes one bite out of the burger, gulps down a few fries and washes it all with a few sips of the drink and then chucks the rest of the meal into the trash. And the strange thing is nobody finds that strange! Well, I do. I come from a country where there are people who go without food because they cannot afford one square meal a day. And no matter what kind of upbringing we had, we were always taught that "waste not, want not" and it bothers me to see the way things are wasted around me in the US.

I work in a place where abundance is the name of the game. We order things we need, we order thiings we may need and we order things we will never need. I have my own boxes of extra small latex-free powder-free gloves special ordered and I go through approximately fifteen pairs of gloves a day. I change gloves everytime I do something different. And yes, everytime I chuck a pair down in the trash I wince. Because there was a time when I was in Calcutta doing my internship in a Government hospital, where having a pair of gloves was considered a luxury. We went through Surgery rotations learning that we had to do dressings on patients with our bare hands. Gloves were available only in the O.T. and many a less informed green horn student who had asked for gloves in the ward would have his or her head chopped off by the nurse on duty for having posed such an inappropriate request. Nobody cared if you had blood or pus on your hands while you dressed a wound. Nobody cared if the patient got an infection from your hands while you were suppposed to be dressing his wound. Nobody cared. Gloves were recycled, washed and autoclaved, used over and over again. We even thought of buying our own gloves to use in the wards but that was looked down upon as snobbery and showing off. Well coming from those conditions you will excuse my feelings when it comes to the way we use gloves over here in the US.

And that is only the begining. I used to think we had a pretty big house in Calcutta. We had a joint family and everyone had their own rooms. But now I live in a house where we can house my entire clan and still be left with rooms to spare. When I was a kid I remember about 10 people squeezing into my grandfather's old Hindustan 14 to get anywhere, and now we have two cars for two people here and most of the time we don't need it. We have more things than we will ever require and we still go shopping for more. Isn't it kind of crazy how we have fallen into this American lifestyle of more and bigger and more still?

I guess we need to say, this is it. This is where I stop and begin downsizing things. We ask ourselves before we "want" for more whether we need it or whether it will go to "waste". One day at a time. One person at a time. Spend a little less, share a little more. Live a little better.

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Friday, September 02, 2005

Life in general

I often wonder what makes our lives so very different from that of others around us. Why can't we be like most others where life falls into a set pattern, no big surprises, no major disappointments, no pitfalls? Why do we have to be the over-achievers, the trend setters, the risk takers? Is there any point in living on the edge, every single day of your life? Can we have a tamed down version of life where one can stop worrying about things and can come home in the evening to have dinner and watch TV? Isn't that what most others get to do? Listen to music, read a book, catch a movie, watch some TV, hang out with friends. In other words, relax and have a good time.

I know what you are saying. You are telling me that the seeds one sows today will bear fruit tomorrow and that this is the time to be building a career, shaping the future. I believe you. And trust me, I keep trying. I just hope that while we keep trying to keep up with life, we don't miss the bus and lose the most vital years of our life. After all, we only live once.