Let Them Eat Meat

Azam Campus

“We will go someplace very special for dinner,” our friend Vandana told us. “It will be a big surprise. You eat non-veg, don’t you?”

In fact, we eat pretty much anything that is not nailed to the plate; but thus far on our Indian journey, we had not tasted any meat or fish. This is fairly standard for us. We tend to eat veg while in India, although it is by no means a stricture or constraint we place on ourselves. As a general rule, vegetables are a healthier bet in a country with somewhat lousy refrigeration and a less rigid view of hygiene than that to which we are accustomed.

Indian vegetarians tend to eat as they do for religious or cultural reasons; and most are fully accepting of the fact that others believe and eat differently than they do. It’s simply no big deal to them that others eat meat. Thus, Vandana, a Hindu, eats no meat; but her husband, Joseph, a Christian, does; and she is more than happy to introduce us to a non-veg “surprise.”

In the States, our vegetarian friends do so mostly from the conviction that they do not wish to be implicated in any way in the harming – indeed, the killing – of animals. They are (rightfully) disgusted by commercial animal husbandry practices, and are genuinely saddened by the thought that food animals would live unnaturally bad lives, only to be slaughtered.

Indian vegetarianism tends toward the pragmatic, while American vegetarianism tends toward the principled. (Indians will no doubt protest this characterization. But anyone who knows me will understand that I am not impressed by ritualistic religious observance, nor do I accept the uncritical acceptance of the belief structure into which one was born to be a matter of principle, even if it is inherently about ideas.) Our own dietary habits reflect this difference. In the States, we would never think of eating meat in the presence of most of our vegetarian friends. It matters to us that it matters to them. I cannot recall the last time I cooked a dinner party that was not vegetarian. Indeed, we are well-practiced at accommodating our vegan friends as well.

Among our friends, we also count a number of vegetarian voyeurs: those who, while strict vegetarians themselves, love to see people eat well, even if it means eating meat. There is an awesome Pakistani place on University Avenue in Berkeley called Kabana. The first time we ate there with our dear friend Sonesh, who is a practicing vegetarian if slightly lapsed Jain, he insisted that we order the kebabs. It’s OK, we said, we don’t mind eating veg. But he would not relent. The very reason he brought us there was that the kebabs were supposed to be amazing. How did he know this? His friends had told him.

So we were not at all surprised by the nature of Vandana’s surprise – that non-veg food was to be foisted upon us by someone who wouldn’t touch the stuff if her life depended on it. It was indeed something quite special: we were going to eat on the grounds of Azam Campus, Pune’s beautiful home to Islamic colleges of medicine, engineering, and architecture, and the site of an impressive Masjid. Each night of Ramazan, Azam Campus is transformed into a food festival, where thousands of Muslims go to break the day’s fast – and hundreds of foodies, like Joseph, go to find the most succulent morsels of animal flesh this side of Old Delhi.

Azam Campus Azam Campus

The campus is completely vibrant with holiday feeling. The Masjid and every palm tree lining the expansive pathway where the food stalls are set up are ablaze in “christmas lights.” Azam Campus is probably the cleanest place in Pune, any day or night; and on these nights it is also one of the happiest – and the most delicious. Stall-after-stall of wondrously marinated, impeccably prepared foods: tandoori chickens, charcoal grilled kebabs, fried fish, mutton stews, keema rolls, and on-and-on. It is a compassionate eater’s nightmare, a carnivore’s wet dream.

Azam Campus Azam Campus


1 Response to “Let Them Eat Meat”

  1. 1 prajakta chintal 21 September 2012 at 1:40 am

    Azam campus is the best place in the whole world studies r very good surrounding is also good with all good facilities

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