Story 27: Tell me why
Naina was never allowed to watch ‘Masterchef’. Oh, how wonderful everything was, about that kitchen. And those 3 roly-poly judges. It was Naina’s dream to, one day, be a contestant on that show. But in her heart, she knew it wasn’t possible. Born into a strict Jain household, she had never eaten eggs, meat or fish. And that was just the start of it.
“How can you live without onion, garlic AND potato!” her best friend Rhea always wondered.
Strange and wonderful smells wafted out of her tiffin box. But Rhea was always more excited about Naina’s dabba. She was crazy about mumma’s kachoris,, parathas, dhoklas…. all the stuff Naina was sick and tired of. While other girls had dreams about Ranbir Kapoor, she dreamt of one day… eating a proper samosa.
Not one stuffed with kachcha kela. Or moong dal. Or cabbage. Just potato, pure and simple humble brown, growing just beneath the ground. The Jain munis said this was to prevent the destruction of micro-organisms…but why was the whole world’s burden of ‘ahimsa’ on this tiny group of people who represented just 0.3% of India’s population?
All the youth camps she attended at the ashram did not provide satisfactory answers to these questions. But well, there was more to life than food. Naina was an excellent student, she topped her school as well as college. Finally, pappa gave her permission to pursue her Master’s abroad. And she secured admission to the London School of Economics.
“But how will you manage there, what will you eat?” was mumma’s main concern.
After extensive research on WA family and friend’s groups, mumma drew out a ‘safe list’. Of all the things Naina could possibly buy in supermarkets or restaurants. But best to look for an Indian store, haan? Also, a crash course in cooking, with Nita Jain, formulated especially for overseas Indian students.
Actually, Naina had entirely different plans. The minute I land in the UK, I am going to eat whatever the hell I want. All the stuff I haven’t eaten for the last 23 years. Nobody knows, nobody gets hurt. And that is exactly what she would have done, had it not been for her roommate Alma, who was from Germany.
The very first day, Alma had visited the supermarket and stocked up on all kinds of fruits and vegetables. She put them into a blender with some nuts and seeds and had the concoction for dinner. It wasn’t a milkshake with milk but a smoothie. Made with something called ‘almond milk’. Ab doodh mein badam to suna tha par badam se doodh banta hai?
“I am vegan,” explained Alma. “I don’t have any dairy products.”
“How can you live without butter, ghee AND cheese!” thought Naina. Over the next 2 months she learnt ki yeh sab ho sakta hai. Alma made light and tasty meals, using all kinds of herbs and interesting sauces. And she was absolutely delighted to eat the food Naina gingerly prepared, even if it was simple dal-chawal.
When they hosted a Christmas party at home, Naina served Haldiram pani puri (Indian store zindabad) while Alma made a delicious sizzling brownie (no one could tell it was vegan). The guests could not stop raving about the how amazing the food was. Naina and Alma looked at each other and smiled.
“Let’s start a petition online for a new season of Masterchef – no meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs.”
And every possible dish that can be made, with raw banana!
2 years later
A new diet is taking the world by storm. It involves simple ideas like eating before sunset and ‘intermittent fasting’, or not eating for 12-14 hours. Naina was amused…
“My grandmother is a strict Jain, she is following this diet for the last 65 years!” she said to Alma.
The wisdom of the ages is contained in the fabric of our lives. If only we can explain the science behind it and follow it, with head held high.
Don’t miss the audio file below: Inside the Author’s Mind – Why I wrote ‘Tell Me Why’
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