via Daily Prompt: Vegetal

When I discovered today’s Daily prompt, I was initially totally clueless on what to write. However, I decided to devote today’s post to a candid monologue on my personal thoughts on the word ‘vegetal’, and  another word that popped up with it – ‘toxicity’.

I live in a country that is arguably the home of ‘vegetarianism’ and to some of the most famous vegetarians in the world. Although I’m not a strict vegetarian, I still have way less amount of meat in my diet, and could qualify as an ‘almost-eggetarian’. I don’t usually feel like indulging in meat, but on rare occasions, I appreciate and allow myself to my mother’s tasty chicken curry or fish curry, prepared in traditional Kerala style. But otherwise, my diet mostly consists of a variety of healthy vegetarian dishes.

When I was a middle schooler, studying abroad and surrounded by hard-core non-vegetarians, I was often considered as a wonder. Every now and then, one of my classmates would come up to me and raise the familiar  question, “How on earth do you survive on grass?”. Now, I’m not exaggerating. This is exactly the FAQ. And I often found it hilarious. For one thing, I don’t feed on grass (I mean, do I look like a cow?). Please.. ‘Vegetarian’ does not equal to  ‘herbivore’. Second, doesn’t everyone have vegetables in their diet? Human beings are, after all, omnivores.

I’m not here to talk about the benefits of vegetarianism. I am not the right person to propagate the idea. It would be hypocritical. That being said,  I am here to raise a concern:

How fresh are these vegetables that reach our intestines?

I do not know if toxicity of vegetables is a serious problem elsewhere in the globe, but it is a major issue here in India. Unfortunately, the Green revolution that spurred the country to food security and agricultural growth, invariably led to the misuse and over use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Almost every kindergarten kid here knows how toxic vegetables are these days.  The plight of having to feed on toxicity is more pronounced in the vegetarian community. Of course, nothing is free from toxic chemicals today. The fish is corrupt with ammonium and lead, while the broiler chicken is a product of high levels of injected hormones. But vegetables and fruits were supposed to be the ‘immunity boosters’ that provided enough fiber for smooth digestion. Today, they are the leading ‘immunity blockers’ and recurring source of indigestion.

We often blame the farmers. But the reality is that most of them are forced to use chemicals to ‘sustain’ their crops, often getting caught in the vicious cycle of pesticide use. The real culprits are usually the large MNCs and middlemen, who conveniently exploit the system to use farmers as baits to reap profits. It is an open secret that most of the banned pesticides are being extensively used in India. Yet, all we do is sit and complain.

Or not. Awareness is widely spreading, especially among the strong middle-class community. Today, our supermarkets have shelves dedicated exclusively to ‘organic’ fruits and vegetables. And we are health conscious enough to pay for them. Not only that, many families, including my own, have their own vegetable gardens that supply a good amount of fresh, poison-free vegetables for personal use. I can assuredly say that at least 75% of the vegetals that we use at home are fresh and completely organic, coming from my vegetable garden (I must say that we have a good vegetable garden, sustained by the toils of my parents, especially my father). The satisfaction that comes from devouring the dishes prepared from them is something that money cannot buy.

Vegetarian or not, it is important that we do not force ourselves to slow poison. Health is supposed to be one of man’s greatest assets. While a good ‘vegetarian’ is the one who follows a balanced vegetarian diet, a ‘healthy’ vegetarian is the one who have vegetals that house the tiny, green worms. After all, don’t they say that worms live only in ‘healthy’ homes?