I grew up a vegetarian in Lucknow. Okay, I will repeat if it doesn’t register. Yes, I did grow up a vegetarian in a city that is celebrated all over the world for its kebabs and biriyani. And until 24 years of age, I hadn’t even seen what the kebabs or biriyani here looked like.
You see it wasn’t the age of social media or food blogging where food from all over the world is served at your fingertips — even if you do not eat it, you still see it. I grew up at a time when the only food pictures available were in newspaper supplements or women’s magazines.
This, of course, doesn’t mean I did not have friends or family who ate meat. There werr many. (It was also the time when what you ate meant nothing to your friends).
All through my life I also had at least one or two Muslim friends. Every city and town I went to, every town I lived in. At that time it did not matter of course, their faith that is. Like the elders, the children celebrated everything too — crackers were lit together on diwali, faces were coloured together on holi, and feasts were partaken together on Eid.
What feasts for a vegetarian on Eid you ask, what not, I say. Chole, dahi badey, puri, pulav, raita, chutneys — the vegetarian section in any Eid feast was as wonderful as the one with kebabs and Kormas, sheermals and biriyanis. The highlight however was the Seviyan. Sweet and crispy, loaded with nuts and ghee it was nothing like what mother made at home, and yet was something we’d look forward to most. Apart from eidi that is.
And then we grew up. Lucknow became a stranger, friends got lost in the labyrinth of life. And I turned a meat eater.
In Lucknow on Eid after a long time, I had planned to step out and indulge in some kebabs and biriyani, kormas and sheermal, but couldn’t. With eid anyway most places will be shut for the next few days. I was a bit sad this evening: what was an eid in at home without the food.
And then, Kesar, my mum’s help came home smiling. Knowing parents are vegetarians, she hadn’t carried any kebabs but hadn’t forgotten to get us a big bowl of sewai. Crispy, sweet, laden with ghee and nuts, one spoon of that sewai took me back to the many eids of my childhood.
Eid Mubarak, everyone!