In a bid to step out of my comfort zone, I tried stand-up comedy on stage, talking to an audience, which turned out to be cheaper than therapy. I thread tweeted the gist of a 5min stand up piece I had performed and it garnered many requests for the same in a blog format. So here is my (not so entirely factual) story about why I never ate meat with a H/T to Magunga for the title.
My mum is a staunch Vaishnavi Hindu woman with strong principles, upstanding morals, and is very much attached to traditional values. For fucks sake, she will not eat in a restaurant that serves eggs, let alone meat. In her spare time, she is the official family travel agent for guilt trips.
My dad on the other hand is a laid back coasterian whose views are drastically liberal to mum. As they say opposites attract and he is exactly that of mum. He drinks alcohol and his view on food is simple; the only things with four legs he will not eat are table and chairs.
My dad was also in the catering business where we all obviously had to ‘help-out’ exposing me to all kinds of food from a young age. However, on my mums insistence, I was never, ever allowed to eat meat.
Kids are innately curious and as a five or six year old, I am sure I must have been disgruntled as to why I wasn’t allowed to eat the same things as dad. It was further worsened when I would see my friends eating things different from me; like plump juicy sausages with their chips, mutton samosas with a divine aroma and freshly squeezed lemons, crispy red chicken tikka every Friday from Dilawer’s Barbecue at Mombasa Sports Club, and so on. It became too much and with my curiosity at an all time high, I could no longer bear it, I confronted mum.
Using dad as ‘precedence,’ I asked her, ”Ma, can I eat meat like how papa eats?”
You assumed – just like I did – that she would be accepting with dad being a full on carnivore and all. Well, to be honest, she was accepting. Well, sort of. She (very surprisingly) gleefully responded, “Of course beta (son), you can eat meat. You can eat as much meat as you want…”
“…BUT,” she interjected firmly, took my hand and led me to her prayer room. As you may know, the Hindu pantheon comprises millions of gods, and this woman probably had a picture or a statue of each and every one of them including Kali, brandishing her bloody sword, necklace of severed heads, tongue out, standing over her slain enemies.
She pulled out the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu religious book, and I promise you just opened a random fucking page and went to me, “Here, read this scripture, beta…”
At my age, I could barely fucking make sense of English words and she fucking wanted me to read Sanskrit!
After the whole rigmarole of admitting the obvious that I can’t read what it says and all, she proceeds (or pretends, if I may state) to read four lines which just sound like gibberish to me. When I enquire what this has got to do with me eating meat, she looked me square in the eye, grabbed my hand and explained, “If you want to eat meat, you must have the courage to kill the animal yourself!”
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?
I was 5 or 6 fucking years old and this is not even the tip of the trauma she has induced. I start bawling and look at her with incredulity, tears streaming down my ashen face, trembling.
“No, ma. What? How?” I whimpered softly.
With casual finesse, she made this theatrical throat slitting action with sound effects and all, insinuating that l will have to cut the animals throat myself.
AGAIN, I WAS FIVE FUCKING YEARS OLD.
Of course I went to my bedroom, vowing never to eat meat.
You would think that was enough for a kid and she would end it there but it gets worse.
From that day on, whenever she was around me and we saw an animal, she would point it out and ask me if I want to eat it, then proceed to do that horrible throat slitting theatrical action and that annoying sound. Whether the animal was on TV or in real life, whether it was a cartoon or on the news, as long as there was an animal, she would make that throat slitting action and sound.
For thirty-two years that trauma remain forgotten, suppressed under the guise of morality, while I carried on with my life a vegetarian. Finally through regression therapy and lengthy counselling, my therapist helped me to let it out and put things into perspective. And at the age of 37, I finally took a fucking stand. I called up my dads restaurant manager and told him, “Obiero, I want a chicken”
Ever helpful, Obiero asked how I wanted it cooked, what type of gravy with it, whether I wanted it, spicy or not, if it should be grilled or fried. I said, “No, Obiero. I want a live chicken…”
It took me some time to explain and him to finally understand, I wanted to slaughter a chicken that fateful Monday afternoon.
Monday fternoon found Obiero, a chicken, a very large cleaver, Muthama (dad’s favourite chef) and myself at the back of dad’s restaurant. I already expected this to be a little out of my comfort zone, so I had done what most people would do when faced with something anxiety inducing; I had smoked a fat motherfucking joint before I walked to the back of the kitchen.
I was swaying back and forth from fear, staring at this chicken. In my head the song ‘One love’ by Bob Marley, with its call to love and compassion lyrics was playing, making my task at hand even more difficult. A few moment later the clarity I think I was awaiting came like a white horse running at me on a black Icelandic beach.
That moment was all I needed. I grabbed the chicken by the head from Muthama and the fucking thing went “SQUAAAAAAK” in terror as I slammed it on the table, the rest of its rotund body following. I grabbed the cleaver and chopped it fucking head off like King Henry the VII’s prized executioner.
After a millisecond of silence, a loud scream, “SQUAAAAAAK!” This time it was me, because no one had fucking warned me the headless chicken thing was not an urban legend. This fucking headless chicken was running around, blood everywhere and me running around, well like a headless chicken, albeit screaming in horror. Muthama instinctively slammed an empty bucket on the amok chicken and all became well with the world.
ALL EXCEPT THE DEAD CHICKEN’S HEAD IN MY FUCKING HAND…
Monday is always family dinner night where we all get together for a meal and catch up on each other lives. That Monday dinner was at my sisters house and it was a huge spread; Vegetarian food for my mum, my sister and me, and non-vegetarian food for my brother-in-law, wife then and dad.
Dinner time came and we all settled to eat and I waited with my empty plate until everyone had finished serving themselves. I reached out and the only item of food I put on my plate was chicken curry.
As you may have guessed, my mum stared at me with her questioning guilt inducing, eyes. Without missing a heartbeat, she piped up angry and admonishing, “Beta, what are you doing? THAT IS CHICKEN!!!”
This time, it was my turn to look her dead in the eye, grabbed her hand pointed at the chicken in my plate and went…
And from that day, the only thing with four legs I don’t eat are tables and chairs.