A question has been posed, “are we deteriorating ecology and indigenousness of cultures and food by not being adaptive enough when travelling to a particular place.”
Of late the issues related to cultural identity and food habit have become prickly and tricky. One may risk getting killed if they land on places uninvited or for eating food that is proscribed by a secton in the society. Gone are the days when sayings went something like, “you wear a dress that others find pleasing, and you eat what satisfies your sould.” Those were days when a third party would not enforce what a person can or cannot eat in the confines of his home, as long as the person did not become a public nuisance after consuming his meal.
In a diverse and heterogenous country like India, food habit tends to vary from community to community as does culture and lifestyle. Some people prefere eating a vegetarian meal, there will be others who do not eat beef and a few others who will not eat pork. Some communities want the animals should be sacrificed in a certain way. There are few others who prefer to eat a live fly straight.
Whe must respect personal choice and beliefs of people as much as we can. While those eating insects and flies alive should be educated about possible dangers. Even after proper exposure to dangers of such practice, if a set of people continue with it, then society at large is left with not much choice.
Eating high calorie food like beef and pork in a tropical country like India may lead to several lifestyle related diseases. Apart from that lack of proper veterinary inspection may increase the propensity of meat products being infested with parasites. Such a parasite once they gain entry into human system may result in serious health hazard. Should we be tolerant to such practices? I think, hardly.
It is easy for a non-vegetarian to eat a vegetarian meal. But it may be next to impossible for a vegetarian to eat meat. While one should be at liberty to eat what suits his palate, tolerance should be a two way street. A vegetarian should have access to his choice of food, like a non-vegetarian. A few decades earlier, countries like US, Canada, European countries and China hardly offered any option for vegetarians. People never understood that someone can be vegetarian by choice.
When it comes to cultural sensitivity, it can be as tricky as food habit. We should be aware of dos and dont’s of a place we are visiting and respect local sensitivity. I was once asked by a student willing to visit India, “will my head be chopped of, if I look at a girl in India?” This may be an extreme case of stereotyping, we cannot ignore the following:
- Case was filed against Richard Greer for kissing Shilpa Shetty on stage in an award show.
- Students from African nations are harassed and manhandled in Delhi for playing loud music and dress in certain way that locals may find difficult to adjust to.
- Recently, a visitor to Sentinel Island, of Andaman and Nicobar, was killed by tribals.
- Tribal population in Indian provinces of Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Telengana, Orissa are kept away from having schools, hospitals, medical facilities, in the guise of protecting their unique identity.
Local sensibilities must be respected as much as possible. If for nothing else but to avoid frivolous law suits or harassment. With regards to unique identity of tribal population, one must ensure proper access to education so that tribals can make an informed decision about their choice on their own.
The current post is written in response to Indispire prompt #ResponsibleTravel. More articles in response to the prompt can be found here.