It’s lunch time.

“Are you a non-vegetarian?” a new colleague asks me.

“Erm… I’m actually a hypocrite” I answer.

The colleague looks at me quizzically. Awkwardly, I explain how I was a carnivore in the past, but gave it up one fine day, and now have an occasional spicy fried fish (surmai only). I’m a vegetarian, for all intents and purposes – a no-egg-never-beef-dairy-only-and-just-a-bite-of-that-chicken-tikka vegetarian.

New colleague is already regretting the question. We move on with the lunch.

Consuming meat has been one of the great dilemmas of my life: it is right up there with career choices and what-to-wear. I am yet to find a rational explanation for either side (not for the lack of persuasive arguments). It all comes down to taking another life to nourish your own, as all heterotrophs must – no matter the creature.

I quit the day I saw a chicken getting slaughtered. I haven’t been able to stomach (literally and figuratively) meat well since. Although I come from a Brahmin family, the fathers have been eating non-vegetarian food for a couple of generations now, while the corresponding mothers refuse to touch it. I grew up with a choice.

As an animal-lover, the cruelty of slaughterhouses hurts me. Not the fact that animals are killed, but the way they are treated while they’re still alive, as countless documentaries will tell you. Many non-vegetarians haven’t watched these. There’s a reason that they haven’t, nor would they want their children to watch them. Probably because they don’t wish to teach their children that it’s acceptable to kill a living, breathing creature for personal gain. To have it slapped between burger buns, for happiness that lasts no longer than 30 minutes (15 if you’re starving).

Over to the other side – there are many vegetarians who wouldn’t acquaint themselves with the work of Sir J C Bose, not since it has been conclusively proven that plants not only have life, but are also emotionally responsive. So, unless we start photosynthesising, there’s really no way to survive without destroying life.

I suppose the more responsive an organism, the more sensitive people are towards ending its life. Admittedly though, with the food pyramid, the food chain and miscellaneous food structures, humans still top the list of douchebags in nature: they treat the others in a use-and-throw fashion.

I don’t know if I’ll ever eat meat or not. I only know that I wouldn’t be able to subscribe to any kind of (perceived) cruelty. We’ll hopefully synthesise artificial food soon, which will never be as good as the real deal, only guilt-free.

In the meantime, the Many Worlds Theory suggests the existence of infinite number of parallel universes. Quite likely that in one of them, animals are cutting humans open. If that helps. After all, denial is the makeup we put on the face of reality to make it look pretty.