No ‘OFFENCE’ please

By Mayur Lookhar 

Social media has been very active on the issue of beef ban in Maharasthra with people, notably Muslims and Christians, terming it as a deprivation of their basic diet (if not right).

This ban further gave ammo to certain communities to attack the government, which is already facing flak on the issue of religious conversion.  Well, the government did itself no favour by objecting to the release of a documentary, India’s Daughter. So, as of today, this BJP government at the centre and Maharashtra is being labelled as anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, quite simply anti minority. A government which cares two hoots about other non-Hindus.

Now, I do not advocate Hindutva, or for that matter any religious ideology, but I strongly believe that a civil society is one that respects and accepts each community’s likes, dislikes, beliefs accordingly. Religious tolerance is vital to the growth of a civil society, and thus it must be followed timely. However, there should not be any disparity in religious tolerance.  It’s this disparity that I wish to bring.

So, yesterday I hopped into a humble Mughlai restaurant in my area, looking to gobble a delectable Tandoori Chicken Leg.

As luck would have it, (for once lady luck smiled upon me), I was offered a pita bread, hummus, and salad as complimentary with the chicken leg. Now to get all this for just Rs.90, is simply unheard of in Mumbai. So, I tucked into the leg, nibbled the bread dipped in hummus. A nice appetiser before the dal tadka awaiting me at my home.

So impressed was I with the food that I decided to pay a visit today. Sadly, every day is not a Sunday and Afra left a bitter taste in my mouth on Monday.

Now, while beef is sacred to Hindus, it is still a staple diet of Muslims and Christians around the world. So, as a ‘tolerant citizen’, I wouldn’t object to beef consumption. But is this tolerance reciprocated from the other side?

So, today before heading to Afra, I sipped few pegs (60ml) of Romanov at the local B & R. I step into Afra but see no other customer inside. I pick my table, wait for the waiter, who arrives few minutes later. I tell him to serve me the same. He’s confused, so I remind him that yesterday I had a chicken leg and complimentary pita bread. He goes and has a word with the guy at the cash counter, and then tells me, “It will be served soon”

The ‘soon’ happened soon as he got me the hummus and the salad. I tasted the salad and found it to be very, very spicy. I called the waiter and asked him to replace it but he refused saying that the salad has been made spicy today. Well, guess I can’t do anything about it.

10 minutes later, the chicken leg arrives, but at first sight, I realise that it’s just not the same. Overcooked and hardly any meat in it. Now since he refused to even replace the salad, I doubted he’ll replace the leg. So, I ate it.

While I was eating, I could see the waiter murmuring with the guy at the cash counter, both looking straight at me. It was here that I wondered, whether I’m smelling of alcohol?

Never mind though, I’m paying for this chicken and so I have every right to be seated here. As I’m about to finish it, the waiter comes and asks me whether I’ll have anything more. I say no and he quickly tells the cleaning guy to get me a finger bowl. In seconds he produces both the bill and the finger bowl. I begin to wonder, I’m the only one in the restaurant, so why is he hurrying so much?

I pay off the bill, but no tip. He’s clearly pissed off. I tell him the chicken was very bad. He trudges off. As I walk out, I find the guy at the cash counter (probably owner) missing. I wait for few seconds, but no one appears. Even the waiter who was serving me disappears. I walk out feeling, “Were these jokers offended because I was smelling of liquor?

Now, perhaps I was drunk and overreacting? I’ll give the waiter and the owner the benefit of doubt. But this episode brings to light the issue of religious tolerance.

Hasn’t this country given freedom to people to follow their faith, their customs, their choice of marital law, clothing and culinary?

While cow is sacred to Hindus, but they still have allowed beef consumption in most parts of the country. We haven’t shoved ‘Vande Mataram’ down the throats of those who get sore by it? We have banned films for fear that it might hurt few sentiments.  We don’t mention or eat pork in front of you? We don’t bring dogs near you? Man, we’re ok even if you issue fatwas against use of condoms, mobiles. (Thankfully, the sane people do not take such fatwas seriously)

Now, as a society, we’ve tolerated all of the above, and shrugged off our offences, then why can’t some communities respect the sentiments of those who get hurt by beef consumption? You surely won’t be left with nothing to eat, if beef is banned. Why should you decry those who drink alcohol? Why should you term people as sinners who eat pork or keep dogs as pets?

Now, many are likely to hit back at me, accusing me of being a right wing follower. For the record, my reservation against beef consumption is now out of any faith, but to me a cow is much more useful to mankind while it lives.

Come on fellas, if there are things that offend you, and then there are things that hurt us too! We need to show consideration towards each other. And so, we should accept the beef ban as tolerant citizens. It hurts us as much as you get offended by porks, dogs  and alcohol.

Taking offence cannot be a one-way traffic. High time we looked at the inconvenience caused in the other side too.

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