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My friends were right. I like chicken just a little too much. Admittedly, I’m a little embarrassed to be writing this, especially after I had written this. In my defense though, it took me a year and a half to cave.
It wasn’t so much the need for chicken, or meat in general, that made me cave. It may have had something to do with the fact that my hair was falling in record amounts everyday, owing very much to a diet severely deficient in protein. Living on my own was fine, I could tailor my diet to ensure I was getting protein sans meat (minus fish). Yet living at home with a family that finds vegetarianism, or anything remotely like it, just a little bit alien made it difficult to meet my needs when the default meal almost always included chicken. It may have also had something to do with my mother bemoaning the fact that I was somehow betraying the family by treading the path towards vegetarianism. Yet in all actuality, maybe it may have been because I just missed meat. It proved incredibly difficult to stay away from it, especially chicken, since I had been raised on it since I was born. Maybe I’m just weak.
Am I a bad person for becoming (something close to a) vegetarian? Am I even worse for lapsing?
Nairs traditionally eat meat. Maybe that’s why it seemed so unusual to most of my family that I would eschew meat. I kept fish because I thought that keeping at least that form of protein would ensure that my diet was complete, and would ensure that I maintained my intake of omega-3s and vitamins more commonly found in fish than vegetarian sources. Keeping fish–a Malayalee staple–also kept my family somewhat at ease, though not completely.
So why did I even pursue a path to vegetarianism to begin with? There are a few reasons:
1. Animal cruelty: The news is full of stories of meat processing plants mistreating their animals. Mistreating is probably the understatement of the year. PETA and vegetarianism were ubiquitous in the crunchy-granola environment of Ithaca, so it did rub off on me a little.
P.S. PETA wants to rename fish “sea kittens” in an attempt to make the public view fish differently, and perhaps stop eating fish. What do you think?
2. Religious reasons: Compassion is a cornerstone of Hinduism, which explains why so many Hindus are vegetarian.
3. I guess I just wasn’t into meat for a while.
Vegetarianism of course carries with it a long list of benefits, from better health (losing weight, lower LDLs, more fiber, etc.), to a healthier environment (less livestock being raised for meat, less methane emission). I still hold that reducing our meat intake is the only way to ensure some sort of humane treatment for animals, since much of the tactics being employed today are the result of the maddening demand for meat and the need to industrialize the process of raising and slaughtering livestock.
Vegetarianism is still the best option, but clearly I wasn’t ready for it on some level. I probably should have known when I was so reluctant to give up seafood.
I don’t think I entirely expected I’d lapse. Yet I think once I started to have very vivid dreams of eating meat again, I needed to address it. My diet was severely lacking in protein and it was affecting my health. Yes, I still ate seafood, but preparing decent seafood enough times per week was not something I was able to do. So I slipped and fell, or returned to my normal diet, however you’d like to look at it.
Do I feel a little guilty? Oh yeah. Do I think I’ll try to become a vegetarian again? Probably, though further down the road. Do I regret lapsing? Not entirely. I needed to address my health, that was the main reason I went back…though yes, some of it was caving into the general need for non-vegetarian fare. It’s not like I’m about to swing to the other end of the spectrum and go completely carnivorous and eat all kinds of meat. It’s just returning to what I would normally have before my experiment with pescatarianism. This translates to seafood, some chicken, but never beef. I’m trying to stick with organic sources, or at least theoretically organic sources (halal/kosher), though it’s so unfortunate that organic products are much more expensive than the run-of-the-mill variety.
Maybe once I’m living on my own, and have enough time to devote to preparing meals, I’ll venture back into vegetarian territory. Until then though…
It isn’t just about the Western world against everyone else. It isn’t just about whites against blacks. It isn’t just about one place and their people pitted against other people. Race isn’t even the only factor, it’s race, sexuality, religion, and so many other things. Wherever there are differences, people strive to create some sort of hierarchy.
Every ethnic group, every religious group, every group of people you could possibly consider probably sets their group apart from the rest in some way. Whether it’s considered racist, or otherwise, prejudiced depends on who’s judging.
An example that comes to mind is that, in the context of the Hindu caste system, converts away from Hinduism lose their caste, or in some cases, dropped to the bottom of the ladder. Yet in the Abrahamic faiths, Hindus are not looked upon kindly. I could probably rattle off a whole list of examples. Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants, Hutu and Tutsi, ethnic Spanish and ethnic Indians, straight people and gay people, and so on. This is not to say all people in either camp necessarily follow that outlook, since that is certainly not the case. Some people don’t see race, religion, or sexuality. Some people do. Everyone sees it differently.
I guess I started thinking about this after seeing this link. The post starts out with an excerpt from a site evidently promoting white pride, but at the end, the author reveals that he had in fact, taken it off of a Jewish pride site and had replaced “Jew” and “Israel” with “white” and “Europe.” I remember distinctly starting out reading the post thinking “oh how awful” but when I saw that it was, in fact, from a Jewish website, it didn’t feel as bad. And then I thought, why is one any better than another?
I suppose in this case, it’s not quite as clean a substitution as one might think. “White pride” generally carries a strong negative connotation to begin with, owing to its association with such groups as the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacist groups. Just substituting “white” and “Europe” results in an entirely different reading, given that context.
The Jews, meanwhile, have a strong religious connection with Israel, not just a cultural one. Their connection has not yet been watered down as strongly as the white connection to Europe, in most cases. Whites (at least Western European whites) have been in this country since its inception, for the most part. Jews have been around since the latter half of the 19th century, for the most part. In considering the various sects of Judaism that exist, and how some are shrinking rapidly (some Sephardi sects come to mind) why wouldn’t some Jews call for a return to intra-religious marriage, within their sects? Maybe it’s because I’ve been raised to marry someone who is the same caste and same religion, I don’t see it as totally radical.
Yet there were people who commented on this post that felt very strongly about it. Some condemned the word subsitution, some condemned the Jewish site, some just condemned the concepts on either side. Try substituting your words of choice…does it read differently? Why?
We shouldn’t see it differently. We shouldn’t praise one and condemn another. There shouldn’t be boundaries to begin with, but since it’s too late to dismantle some of them, let us try to respect them…so long as these boundaries and notions do not cause undue pain and suffering to another. We are all, after all, human first.
So I’m Malayalee, but more specifically, I’m a Nair. Nairs are one of the many castes in Kerala, and were traditionally warriors and rulers, so something a la “kshatriyas” for those more familiar with that term. This is meant to be an informal, yet informative piece. It’s based on my own understanding, what I’ve been told, and what I’ve read from various sources.
By the way…as a sidenote, we are not in any way associated with the hair-removal product of the same name. In fact, Nair isn’t even pronounced the same way. Nair, the caste, is pronounced “na-yer.” “Na” as it sounds in “narwhal” and “yer” as it sounds in…yer… Please get this straight, I can’t tell you how irritating it is when people mispronounce it. Of course, I’m not assuming people are born with the innate sense of how to pronounce “Nair.” Now you know.
Nairs themselves can be subdivided into a whole host of subcastes. For the life of me I don’t know the differences between all of them, but there are at least four or five I can name off-hand. Nair, Kurup, Menon, Pillai, Nambiar, Panicker, and Paliath, to name a few. Nairs have, traditionally, held a pretty prominent place in Malayalee society. Sometimes a bit too prominent, and this gets into the whole mess of caste discrimination.
The most curious aspect of Nairs, I think, are their origins. I don’t mean mythological, though from what I understand, the claim is that they were from the North and fled to the South to escape Parashurama. However, perhaps even more interesting than that, is their ethnic origins. While there is one school of thought that claims that Nairs are most likely descended from the Newars (from Nepal/Tibet)–owing mostly to the presence of pagoda-like motifs in traditional Nair homes and temples–there are others that claim alternate origins. A friend of mine sent me an article a while back, the citation is below:
Thomas R, Nair SB, Banerjee M. A crypto-Dravidian origin for the nontribal communities of South India based on human leukocyte antigen class I diversity. Tissue Antigens. 2006; 68(3): 225-234
This article analyzes a set of South Indian nontribal and tribal groups to determine their similarity to other ethnic groups. For Nairs, what was found was that according to the analysis of HLA Class I haplotypes was that, Nairs were most similar to Western Europeans. I am incredibly curious to know if any migration theories exist for this postulation. Another existing theory places Nairs under the same umbrella as other supposed Indo-Scythian descendants (Pashtuns, Jats, Rajputs, etc.). Indo-Scythians spent most of their heydey in the region from present-day southern Afghanistan to around present-day Mathura, in northern India. This ties in weakly with the mythological origin of the Nairs having Northern ancestry.
I suppose if Nairs are related to Jats, that justifies my love for bhangra…right? Maybe? Ok, I’m getting off topic.
Nairs have their own martial arts system, known as kalaripayattu (color-ee-pie-yettu). It is most notably a form of swordfighting, but it does incorporate hand-to-hand combat as well. It is an incredibly elegant system of fighting (note: the fighters may look wiry but they are fast!). There has been speculation that kalaripayattu found its way into East Asia, by way of Bodhidharma–a Buddhist monk supposedly from Kerala–and this gave rise to the modern system of kung fu. Again, just speculation…but it would be pretty cool if someone definitively proved this to be the case.
Nairs were (and to a degree still are), notably, matrilineal. This is a rarity in most of the world, let alone India, where patrilineal societies are still the norm. Indeed even among Nairs, this has taken root. Yet it used to be that the women, not the men, were the real power-wielders in the household. Women were the property owners and family heads, though men were the legal heads of household in some cases.
Nairs have also had an enduring tradition of snake worship. I actually don’t understand the nuances of this, aside from the fact that most Nair households in Kerala had a sarpa kaavu on their property for the worship of snakes. The tradition fits in alongside traditional Hindu practice, but I believe this may be something that even predates Hinduism in the area.
If anyone else happens to have some cool/interesting Nair facts, or other information related to what I’ve presented here, feel free to comment.
These were the words spoken by one of the captured terrorists implicated in the carnage that rocked Mumbai the last few days. His name is Azam Amir Kasab, a 21-year old from Pakistan. More importantly, he’s a 21-year old. What was I doing at 21? Studying, hanging out with friends, enjoying Ithaca, and planning my future, among other things. Kasab, at 21, had planned to die as he killed hundreds of people. Kasab narrated the whole story, with almost chilling nonchalance, according to an article by the Daily Mail.
“I was told to kill to my last breath,” he says, upon being asked about the details leading up to the massacre. Someone instructed him to take lives, as many lives as possible (the original goal was 5,000 in total), and take those lives until you have no life to live yourself. Someone, who presumably Kasab got to know pretty well if he and his fellow terrorists were “highly trained in marine assault,” something that requires presumably, a lot of time to do. That someone told him and the others to kill. That in itself is despicable. Yet to be told to kill to your last breath takes it to a whole new level. That someone knew these people were totally vested in the cause, and knew they would lay down their lives if need be. These people also happen to be young men, barely into their twenties, men who had barely started to live their own lives before being told to lay them down. That someone could see these men gleefully and passionately take lives as their own life left their lungs. That someone, or someones, are the real monsters here, not the ones who were cast out to kill and die. They are killers, but they are also victims.
It is so sad, how young people are being so readily recruited to kill in the name of some vague, greater good. It’s so sad how the angst and uncertainty of young adulthood is being exploited to turn them into killing machines. Blame, again, can’t be placed on Pakistan or on Muslims as a whole. For those of you who are placing the blame on their shoulders, you don’t really understand the issue. Yes, it seems that Pakistani Muslims were behind the attacks, but this is more the actions of a few, disillusioned fundamentalists, not the whole population. Unfortunately, fundamentalists get more air-time than the more moderate majority, and the media carries unbelievable influence. This is true not just for Muslims, but Hindus, and other groups.
Maybe it’s easier for me to say “lets just all be friends,” when many of my closest friends are Muslim and/or Pakistani. I have been to Eid services, and I have bowed my head as Arabic prayers were recited. They have attended pujas and bowed their heads when Sanskrit prayers were recited. We confide in each other, laugh together, cry together, dance together, sing together, and pretty much do everything together. Maybe it is easier because we are one generation removed from the conflicts of the motherland. Yet, even in spite of these attacks, have come together and become closer, united against senseless violence. We are people first, our allegiances should never make us forget that.
Rather than war against those who have hurt us, perhaps it is time to improve relations between India and Pakistan. Maybe then, kids on either side would be less likely to take up arms against their supposed enemies, especially if their supposed enemies were now their friends.
Granted I just woke up and I just checked the news briefly, thankfully I haven’t seen anything of the sort. I just worry, given the trend with the other terrorist attacks that have occurred in India. The train bombings in Gujarat, the bombing in Delhi, all the attacks that have happened in Mumbai in years prior. All were followed swiftly either by Hindu fundamentalist attacks, or attack by some other group (depending on which group was the offending group). Last I checked, all religions were founded on some premise of peace, and forgiveness. While it takes some conviction to raise the sword against your tormentor, it takes even greater conviction to forgive him for what he has done.
I’m of the opinion that the eye-for-an-eye approach never works, so why do people have to react to tragedy by bringing more tragedy? It’s an unfortunate quirk in our collective thinking. I hope it ends here.
To say India is diverse is stating the obvious. There are thousands of dialects, each falling into a several different language families. For each dialect, there is its own unique culture. The food is different, the religious practices are different, heck the styles of song and dance are different. As Indians from these groups move abroad, they bring with them their own rich, cultural heritage. Oftentimes, they spawn cultural organizations based on their individual, cultural identities. Yet at the end of the day, the Punjabis stick with the Punjabis, the Malayalees with the Malayalees, the Maharashtrians with the Maharashtrians, and so on and so forth. There is TANA, there is FOKANA, there is (insert other Indian organization acronym of choice). There is very little cross-talk, except perhaps among the younger generations. Yet heaven forbid the South Indian child learns bhangra, or the North Indian child learns kuchipudi, or (even worse) if there is dating or (dare I say it) marriage across cultural lines…
Why are the individual Indian communities closed off from each other? There are a few reasons:
1) As Indian expatriates in a cultural environment completely different from the one left behind, people try to preserve the integrity of their own, individual, cultural identities. In order to pass it on seamlessly to the next generation, some communities may feel that they need to keep to themselves to prevent the culture from being mixed with other Indian cultures.
2) There is a certain degree of ego that exists among people in general, in this case, manifested by the “my culture is better than yours” attitude.
We are still “new” in terms of our presence in American, British, Australian, and other Western societies. Inevitably there will be a greater intermixing of the individual Indian cultures, as well as with Indian culture as a whole and those of the Western societies with whom they coexist. It happened with European immigrants to the United States, and it will happen with all the newer immigrant populations over the course of the next few decades. Each passing generation becomes more alienated from their roots and clings more strongly to the society into which they are born. That is just the way things go.
Indian-Americans (and Indian-Brits, Indo-Australians, etc.) are poised to be a powerful influence with if we can get past all these self-made boundaries. The youth is already getting the ball rolling, embracing other Indians (and other people from other backgrounds) in spite of supposed cultural and language barriers. In college, I had friends across all sorts of cultural lines. We all participated in different activities with which we may have not been familiar with while growing up. I am Malayalee but I was on the bhangra team. In HSC (Hindu Student’s Council) we would sing bhajans (devotional songs) in a whole host of languages (Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Sanskrit, etc.). We are all Indians. We are all Americans (or British…or Australian…etc.). We are all people. Now if only we can get the larger organizations to initiate some sort of dialogue across cultural lines. It is only to our benefit.
There is beauty in our own individual cultural identities, but even more in learning about another’s. For now, let’s all dance bhangra and eat dosa, or perhaps dance bharatnatyam and eat dhokla? Maybe do the tango and eat pizza. Whatever works!
To anyone who made life difficult for people because they are different,
Ten years ago, I stood behind my middle school, waiting for my mother to pick me up. As I was waiting, two girls from the same middle school who were maybe two years older than I was came up to me, each with an idily burning cigarette in hand. I didn’t know them. One of them sneered at me, her teeth already tobacco-stained, and smiled a cruel smile. “Smile,” she ordered, “smile you fucking Hindu bitch.” Laughing, she and her friend walked away. Ten years ago, I continued to stand there long after they left, confused and hurt. Ten years ago, for me, racism was but a theory that quickly became a stark reality.
Today, the scene is much the same. There is a strong constituent that prides itself on fear-mongering, on the cavalier tossing around of racist slurs, on justifying reasons to hate or ridicule another group of people because they are different. There are still those that believe, intuitively, that someone who is different is somehow inferior. I’m so sorry you all still think that.
Differences have always been present in society, that’s a fact, today though they’re being embraced more strongly…perhaps to the chagrin of many. Ethnic identity is a badge of honor rather than a mark of shame. Other sexual lifestyles are being viewed less as woefully deviant and more as beautifully different. You see this as a sign of the end of days, a change for the worse. You have been fiercely vocal in certain pockets. In the light of the current political climate, with an African American poised to (potentially) clinch this election, you have been especially vocal. You cannot see change such as this as good.
It is different, therefore, it is bad. It must be suppressed, and we must stick to the status quo. Islam is bad. Hinduism is bad. Anything anti-Christian is somehow odd, and perverted. Anything culturally alien is base, is backwards, and needs to be stamped out, if not somehow changed to meet your ideals. Have you considered perhaps learning about the cultures that are slowly melding with with American culture? Have you considered learning about the people, their backgrounds, their faith (or lack thereof), perhaps their rationale for seeing the world the way they do? Have you considered any of it? There is beauty in diversity, and I’m sorry you don’t see it.
You do not reflect America as a whole, thankfully, but unfortunately America’s image is slowly being colored by your clamoring few. America, as a whole, has started to extend its arms to new change, to new differences, and to new views. Yet there are some that are still scared, fiercely so, and you turn instead to put-downs and wild allegations about the people who are possibly bringing new perspectives and new possibilities to a country that right now, is sorely in need of a different direction.
I’m sorry to say, I did listen to that girl. I smiled then, and I smile now. I smile not because I was conquered. I smile because I will never be conquered by fear. I smile because I will work through all the remarks, all the jeers, all the comments. I smile because I see your racist remarks, I see your xenophobic attitude, I see your fear and I raise you…and ultimately I win. Ultimately, we all win. White, black, Asian, Latino, homosexual, heterosexual, religious, atheist, and any and all combination of groups, we all win. Once we accept the changes our country is undergoing–the increased diversity on so many levels and its slow spread into all eschelons–we all win. Then, maybe then, we’ll all have a reason to smile.
I’m not going to even attempt to go into the meaning of Diwali, I’ll leave that to another friend and his well-layed out post on the subject.
However, I will leave you with this video. I’m not a fan of the Office, but I thought this was cute:
This is just ridiculous. She can’t imagine a “President Obama,” and has issues with his mother being nonreligious and his father being a Muslim. Seriously? Oh, and Obama’s church apparently isn’t Christian enough for her…because she clearly knows what Christianity is supposed to be. Christianity is about peace and acceptance, at its very core!
That’s like me voting for Bobby Jindal because he’s Indian and completely overlooking his policies. It’s silly.
FYI this is a slight tweaking of a note I had posted recently on Facebook.
There are not many times where I’m ashamed to be Hindu. As a college student, I was involved with the Hindu Students Council and I’ve always found pride in Hinduism as a faith of peace and acceptance. Yet I’ve been following the conflict in Orissa and other parts of India and it’s appalling to realize the degree of violence occurring in the area. It has made me geniunely ashamed to be Hindu, to be associated with the “Hindus” violently attacking Christians, forcing them to convert back to Hinduism, or face death. These are not the followers of Hinduism I know.
In the article entitled “Hindu Threat to Christians: Convert or Flee.” there is one thing that is fundamentally wrong with this statement: since when does anyone convert to Hinduism? There are no set conversion rituals in Hinduism, there’s nothing anyone has to do. If you want to be a Hindu, fine, if not, that’s fine too. The ritual alluded to in the article, involving drinking diluted cow dung is not something I have ever encountered as a Hindu, it strikes me more as a tool of humiliation than a legitimate conversion ritual. Hinduism, as it is, is still relatively misunderstood outside of India. Those who deem such horrific acts as ritual would be detrimental to Hinduism’s already shaky image in the rest of the world.
Hinduism is not a religion of proselytizing, those who became Hindu did passively, without any force driving them against their will. The Hindus in Orissa who are forcing conversions are blinded by their own misguided rage. They see the Christian missionaries as a threat to their existence, a threat to their own faith. The degree to which they have been proselytizing and gaining followers in the region makes Christianity an influence to be reckoned with. They deal with the very real possibility of Christianity supplanting Hinduism in the area. Yet is this the appropriate response? To humiliate and kill the clergy and the faithful alike? The ones committing these acts, they aren’t real Hindus. Those who parade around as Hindus and persecute their neighbors because they happen to worship a seemingly different deity, they aren’t real Hindus. Hindus above all, realize that God is the same regardless of the name that is given. Hindus strive for ahimsa or nonviolence, it is central to almost every one of the sacred texts. The ones exacting their revenge in such a violent manner, they are not Hindus. Leave people to their faith, faith is after all, a personal choice.
There is a set of verses from the Atharva Veda that appropriately sum up not only how Hindus and Christians should approach this issue of difference, but how the whole world needs to see the differences in humanity and embrace them, rather than try to make things right in their own image:
We are the birds of the same nest,
We may wear different skins,
We may speak different languages,
We may believe in different religions,
We may belong to different cultures,
Yet we share the same home, our earth.
Born on the same planet
Covered by the same skies
Gazing at the same stars
Breathing the same air
We must learn to happily progress together
Or miserably perish together,
For man can live individually,
But can survive only collectively.