„Hurray! It’s a beef curry”

What would be your reaction if a vegetarian person, sitting next to you in a dining hall, saw you eating meat and said, “ Don’t get me wrong friend, I love to see you eating meat, I feel proud when I see meat”? I used to eat beef, pork, and mutton during my childhood days. As a girl born in small village, where most of the people rely on farm work and domestic animals for their living, I usually enjoyed every meal cooked by my mother and never asked her the reasons behind eating different types of food and meat. Though my determined and hardworking mother had a lot of household chores and farm work to do, she always took some time out of her busy schedule for us, my brothers and me. I used to watch her doing work and learned many things from her in that way becoming the  apple to her eyes. She taught me how to do dishes, clean rooms, and look after our cattle. I loved to look after cattle and play with their newborn calves. The way the newborn calves slept on green grasses under a hot sunshine, showing their tongues out and eyes half shut, made me to put a bucket of cold water over them. Since I didn’t have any girlfriends to play with me, except my mother, the cows and their calves, the dogs and their puppies, and the cats, all became my good friends.

My mother always used to cook delicious, hot, chopped beef curry especially for me whenever she sees me upset or unhappy, because it was my favorite curry. Although my two brothers usually isolated me while playing games such as football and gameboy, they had never complained about my favorite food. It’s unique smell of the mixture of chopped beef, local cheese, chopped onions, a few pieces of chilies, and butter always left us unsatisfied with our first share. We went for second share and sometimes even for third share, which caused our mother to check whether we had got any holes behind our back.

I still remember how my mother cooked beef curry in our tiny kitchen. She used to add more cheese so that it would taste more delicious. I used to stay beside her and watch her making it with her heart full of love and care towards me. Every ingredient she put in the beef curry carried with it a message, saying “Your mama loves you more than herself.” These feelings used to inspire me and give me a hope to live my life to the fullest.

Moreover, my dedicated father, who believes in god and hard work, always said “You are our family’s norbu, diamond. Hurting your feelings is like committing a big crime. You are the only daughter to us and the only sister to two of them. ” This made me to feel as if I were a princess. I used to touch his hard cracked fingers and look into his beatific brown eyes whenever he said it. Similarly, though my brothers spent less time with me, they used to bring dolls, toys, and pink candies for me when they went out buy goods. Moreover, when I fell on my sick bed, my brothers used to act as doctors and sometimes would say “You should eat your meals on time. If you eat a heavy lunch now, you would be able to play by evening,” which somehow helped my mama to feed me.

Another reason why I liked a beef curry so much was whenever there were party invitations from our neighbors, relatives and friends, I was the one to attain all the invitations either with my mom, dad, or my brothers. It was because during special occasions such as marriages, birthdays, and New Year celebrations, all the people in my village cook beef curry as one of the main items for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Almost, every household had a minimum of two to three cows and they killed one cow or ox annually to perform annual rituals. My father used to say “Without meat, it’s impossible to celebrate any kinds of festival or ceremonies.”

It was when I turned ten, my mother decided to take me with her on a pilgrimage to Bihar in India during the winter vacation. I felt as if I were on the top of the world when my mom told me about her decision. I started to pack my things – which included some new clothes and coins that I collected in my piggy box – two nights before our departure. We decided to go to India with my aunty, her family and our neighbor, Mr. Tashi, who had been on pilgrimages to India twice before. He was the one to inspire my parents to take that journey. He told my parents about a very holy place known as Buddha Gaya in Bihar, where Buddha, founder of Buddhism became enlightened. Although my parents hadn’t had any idea about the place, they had heard the name of the place through a Bhutanese proverb, which says “Before your death, you should see Lhasa in Tibet and Buddha Gaya in India once in order to get rid of all the sins you have committed in this life and purify your mind and soul.”

My mom packed her goods along with mine. She packed some dry beef and chilies. And the night before we left, she prepared red rice, a traditional Bhutanese food that has a nutty taste, and dry, red, hot chilies mixed with cheese and onions. Though the dish was fantastic, I asked for a piece of dry beef. “Why can’t you eat your food with what you have in front of you,” my elder brother yelled at me. “Sometimes, you should realize that you cannot always remain like a baby who always nags and weeps,” he continued. I couldn’t say anything, but I didn’t eat my meal until my mom passed me a piece of dry beef. Though he was only 13, he scolded me as if he were an old experienced grandpa. I wished to hit on his egg shaped head with my plate but when I saw my father looking at both of us, I just looked down on my plate and counted one to a hundred. However, when I left for bed, I murmured to myself, “It’s better for me not to take any meals than to have meals without beef.”

Next day, we said goodbye and left for the pilgrimage. We had spend almost two weeks in Buddha Gaya and within those two weeks, I learned a lot about compassion, charity, love, and peace from many great peasants like Dailai lama and Penor Rinpoche. Though I was too young to understand everything said by them, I understood that all the living animals in this world were once our own parents and we should never cause them any harm. Moreover, I met a great number of Buddhist monks who were all vegetarian. One of them even showed me a movie, which showed how ruthless butchers slaughter innocent animals in order to eradicate the thirst and greed of meat lovers. After watching the bloody scenes, the tears shed by the animals, the sharp and shiny knives of the evil eyed butchers, and the animals dying, I couldn’t even eat my dinner.

It was in the morning when I went for a walk. I saw many birds chirping, the sun peeking out from behind the clouds, incense burning in and around Buddhist temples and monks feeding grains to a flock of birds. Suddenly, I remembered how my animals back home accompanied me when I was in need of friends. However, instead of reciprocating their love, I ate their meat. I felt remorse about every time I had eaten meat. I didn’t say anything to my mother, but I decided to make a decision on my own. I went near a huge old sacred fig tree called a Bodhi tree; a tree under which Buddha got answers to all his questions about birth, aging, sickness and death, and there I promised not to eat meat any more. At that moment, I didn’t think about my temptation toward a beef curry nor did I worry about the future.

That night, I said “Mama, I have decided not to eat any kind of meat, not even beef. I learned a lot about the importance of loving all the living beings. I love my animals a lot.” My mom didn’t respond immediately, instead she looked into my eyes for some time as if she had seen a diamond rolling inside my eyes. My aunt dogmatically said, “Are you crazy, you won’t be able to eat without meat when you grow old and start to lose your strength.” I ignored her response and looked towards my mom. After a long sigh, my mom said “I am happy that I brought you here and I am happier because you learned something from this. However, you shouldn’t stop eating eggs. You are small and you need a lot of protein to become a strong woman in the future.” I wondered why she took some time to answer. Is it because she could no longer show her love towards me through a beef curry? Am I alienating myself from my mama? What would she make for me apart from a beef curry when I feel unhappy? Such questions ran through my mind throughout the night.

When we came back home, many people were surprised by the news. Most of them said, “Preaching is easy, but following what you preach is hard. Similarly, making a pomise is easy but keeping it is very difficult. Without eating meat, people will not get all the nutrition that is required for a body to grow strong and healthy.”  They even kept their eyes on me.

Very soon I am going to celebrate my 21st birthday. “Be ready to become a healthy looking 21 year old lady soon,” is what my friends have been saying nowadays. I still remember all those moments as fresh as a cucumber. I sometimes look in the mirror and ask myself how did I stop eating a beef curry without which I can’t even take a spoon of rice? Do I still miss the way my mom used to spread her love for me through that beef curry? Do I look healthy? Yes, I do miss my childhood days and my connection with my mom through the beef curry. However, I am no more a little girl. As my brother said I am no more an innocent little girl who needs proof to examine her love. I knew that my mother’s love for me is unconditional and it will be with me no matter whatever I become or wherever I am. Moreover, I sacrificed one favorite curry and in return I got three favorites, Shamu datshi, mushroom with cheese, Kewa datshi, potato with cheese, and Ema datshi, chili with cheese, which are all made with my mama’s love.

 

A great number of my good friends eat meat, but I don’t look at them in negative sense or get furious. I accepted them as themselves and learned to be happy when I see meat. Whenever, I see a beef curry, I remember my childhood days and my parents’ support, the great monks’ guidance, my desire, and the peoples’ eyes on me that have helped me to remain as a vegetarian. Getting addicted to meat and saying “It’s impossible to eat meals without meat,” is not always true. My appetite and my taste have changed after becoming a vegetarian, but the love that I get from my mama, my family, and my friends is the same, only my way of recognizing their love has matured.  I don’t want to eat the beef curry throughout my life, but I still feel pleasant when I see it.

-Dorji Om

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  AUW100069

UG1 (AUW)