Warning: In no way, this is a promotion of cigarettes. Smoking causes cancer. It is injurious to health.

I, Kim, and Sartaz, as usual, were waiting for our morning tea, pretending to work while sitting at our respective cabins in office. In what seemed like a never ending wait for the morning tea to Kim and Sartaz, they wanted to share a smoke. So, we went up to the terrace. It was a May morning at half past 9 and the gigantic sun was already staring at us in its full might. We took shelter in the shades, near the only end wall on the terrace, supporting three large cylindrical tanks of water.

Taking back-support on the end wall of the open terrace, a floor above our office, folding her one knee, with the sole of the feet of her folded leg pushing the wall for support, Kim lit the cigarette, took two puffs, and while looking over her phone, hauntingly asked me and Sartaz, “Do you even know what Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on the supposedly pretty common practice of eating beef in our country? Is he even aware of the fact that India is second largest exporter of beef in the world?”

“Well, if you actually consider all the facts and figures in front of you, I believe, Kiren Rijiju is absolutely right in defending the “beef eating” practice in India and of course, especially in our Northeastern culture where it is cheap and easy to acquire. Ask me, man! I eat beef all the time. Can anybody dare send me to Pakistan? No, nobody can even touch me. But these right wing self-proclaimed Hindu revivalists are a big pain in the ass of this great country. It makes me sick that someone can actually say, forget it, make a law in any part of this country to ban beef eating and cow slaughter. This is sick! Nobody can tell me what to eat and what not to eat! Not even my mother.” vehemently Kim made her point, only taking another puff of smoke after she was finished completing her sentence. This left me and Sartaz with no option but to dive into the debate on “beef ban” in different BJP ruled states and a possible central law in the entire country on no cow, buffalo, and bull slaughter.

“I think you are overreacting. Look, it is pretty simple to understand, but a little frightening in reality. Follow me!”. “BJP is keeping with sentiments of the Hindu majority class. Though, I doubt if the real Hindu majority has any negative beef sentiment associated to them. I seriously believe this “beef ban” or “ban on cow slaughter” sentiment is orchestrated and put into the minds of majority section in last few decades to counter the no-pig-eating sentiment of Muslims. Am I right, Sartaz?” I pulled my both brows up looking at Sartaz to answer my unwanted accusation and an intrusion into his religion, though the topic of discourse should never have concerned it.

This is not a promotion of cigarettes. This image is only used for graphic purposes.

This is not a promotion of cigarettes. This image is only used for graphic purposes.

He moved his head from side to side, and shrugged, while saying, “What?”, as if he didn’t even listen to what I was saying. He took another puff of his morning cigarette and seemed to enjoy the smoke and the alacrity and haziness it brought to emotions folded inside his mind. Of course, he was not giving a fuck to what we were discussing.

“Forget it! I was saying that Naqvi is holding up the supposedly Hindu majority sentiment and Kiren Rijiju on the other hand is holding up the sentiments of Northeastern majority in our country. Right?” I said in a tone expecting others to obviously understand the point I was trying to make.

Kim interrupted in between to say,”What else does Rijiju supposed to do? He is, I guess, the only leader from North East to whom media listens to, so shouldn’t he be defending his community’s right to eat beef, when all the BJP leaders are talking about is a ban on beef in the entire country? And forget the apathy in the opposition to this subject!”

“But we are a democratic nation with all the basic rights of speech, expression, and choice available to each citizen. Aren’t we? So, anybody can live anywhere in the country and enjoy their rights. Right? Then, if a North Eastern man is living in Maharashtra, he can’t eat beef, therefore his sentiments are getting hurt in order to protect the sentiments of majority community in the state. And if a Hindu man is living in North East, he will see “holy cows” getting slaughtered in front of him. Again someone’s sentiments are getting hurt. Do you get my point? We need to be tolerant. We need to tolerate each other. Hindus need to understand they aren’t the only community in this country. Northeastern people need to respect Hindu beliefs. And Muslims also need to keep their beliefs to themselves. For example: They shouldn’t create ruckus over Muhammad cartoons made by non-Muslims. Everyone needs to keep their faith to themselves. I am an atheist. I keep my non-beliefs to myself. I don’t blabber out statements like “God doesn’t exist” “You are all unaware of the real truth” or “ Humans created god”. These are my beliefs but these statements come to believers as blah and a joke. It causes vexation to them. I know it. That is why I keep my non-beliefs to myself.” I came in like a bull and occupied the center stage for more than 2 minutes. I shouted, whispered, blabbered, and rationalized. But I ponder over my points now and how the discussion went ahead, I question if they really understood the point I wanted to make here.

Kim was about to say something, out of her aggression with her misunderstood opinion about my empathy for both “Beef eating” and “Beef hating” groups, but Sartaz interrupted her with his hand as he was planning to speak; Kim spoke nevertheless. Kim’s aggression and associated sentiments with this discussion were pretty visible. She argued, “It may not matter to you but it is about my right to eat whatever I want, anyplace I want. Yesterday, Amit Shah might have said that a nation wide ban on beef is not a possibility and BJP government in center is not going ahead with it, but he definitely hinted his BJP governments in states that it is up to them, and on their discretion to ban beef in different states of India. Isn’t it absolutely and pathetically silly of him to ignore the rights of a large group of Indian citizens to protect the rights of his majority community? I am outraged. I am exhausted. I am tired of fighting for my own rights. I want freedom to do as I wish, but they don’t let me!” Kim was shouting on both of us, when she ended her argument.

Sartaz was finally able to give voice to his mouth, and he disinterestedly said “Look man! There are better topics to talk about. Why are giving so much damn to beef? I love beef, and I know I will find a way to eat beef, irrespective of where I am in India. Marijuana is available openly in excessive quantities, even chemical drugs are on sale close to our place, how the fuck can someone stop the sale of beef? I will get it when I want it.” He shrugged and took another puff of smoke into his lungs. While exhaling the smoke through his nostrils, he said, “End this futile discussion!”.

I tried to calm Kim and Sartaz down by saying, “Let’s have a beef party today! But I will have butter chicken, because I have never tasted beef. Or may be I can taste beef today for the first time in my life.” And three of us immediately agreed to it; Kim displaying a forced grin on her beautiful face. “I wonder if I could think of eating beef when I started eating chicken a couple of years ago. Time is a bitch. You have it in your hands one instant and another instant you had already lost it.” I lamented trying to change the topic and cool things off.

Kim lighted another cigarette, took three puffs and shared it with Sartaz. Soon, Biju called out, our tea was getting cold, so we went back into the office to share the great Indian Masala Chai with other employees. Of course, I had my green tea. No Masala Chai for me.


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