I’m vegetarian. And I love Taco Bell. And this is a conversation I’ve honestly had at the drive-thru:
Me: I’d like a BEAN burrito.
Taco Bell Guy: Anything else?
Me: A Mexican Pizza… but with BEANS instead of beef.
Taco Bell Guy: Anything else?
Me: An order of cinnamon twists.
Taco Bell Guy: You want beans on that, too?
Me: I hate you so much…
Occasionally, they screw up my order. It’s rare, but it happens. I don’t realize it until I get home. I take that first bite. It tastes weird. I take a look. It’s beef. I get mad. I call the manager. They offer me free food the next time I visit. End of story. Everyone is happy.
My mom, on the other hand, goes a little crazier. If there’s accidental beef in her food, she’ll scream and spit it out like she just found a live bug in there. She’ll find some water and start gargling. I’ll call the manager. We’ll get free food. End of story. (I should mention that my mom is a practicing Jain, and I’m not, so it’s a slightly bigger deal for her to have accidentally eaten meat.)
That’s how you handle it. It’s not the end of the world. No one was purposely trying to put meat in our food. It was a mistake. Oh well. Get over it.
Now, check out this story:
Two summers ago, Durgesh Gupta and Sharad Agrawal walked into the popular Mughal Express on Oak Tree Road, in the heart of Edison’s Indian community, and ordered samosas. They were strict vegetarians, they said in making sure there was no meat in their order of the traditional Indian snack.
Gupta said a restaurant employee assured them that it did not make meat samosas, according to court documents. A half-hour later, the two men picked up a tray labeled “VEG samosas.”
But after Gupta and his group of 16 people began eating the triangular deep-fried pastries, they grew concerned they were eating meat. When they went to return the uneaten samosas, the restaurant said it had made a mistake, court documents showed.
Ok, so my first thought is: The restaurant employee made a mistake. That employee should apologize and the restaurant might even want to offer a gesture of goodwill — maybe coupons for free meals for everyone in the group.
The Hindus should accept that apology. After all, granting (and asking for) forgiveness is a big part of following the Hindu faith.
Guess no one told them that… because they’ve filed a lawsuit against the restaurant:
What the 16 Hindus want is compensation for a trip to the Hindu holy town of Haridwar, India, where the Ganges begins its downward flow to the ocean. There, they want to take dips in the river and, by Hindu belief, cleanse their souls of sin.
And they want the restaurant to pay for it all.
A lower court decided in favor of the restaurant, but an appellate court reversed the decision… so the restaurant may very well have to pay up.
The stereotypically cheap Indian side of me is thinking, “They just want a free trip to India…”
The must-poke-holes-in-their-argument side of me is thinking, “What? All 16 of them ate the samosas at once?! No way. More like one guy ate a bite, tasted meat, and then told everyone else to stop eating for a bit while he checked it out.”
The non-Hindu side of me is thinking, “I’ve visited the Ganges River. It’s disgustingly brown and full of debris, bacteria, and the ashes of dead relatives. If you ‘take dips’ in it, you have a better chance of catching a disease than you do cleansing anything in/on/around your body.”
The atheist/pretend-lawyer side of me is thinking, “Why should the restaurant have to pay for their religious superstitions? What if their faith told them the only way to cleanse their souls was to buy a personal jet? When does it stop? What’s the price-cap?”
At least other Hindus are speaking out against the Gang of 16′s actions:
Pradip Kothari, president of the Indo-American Cultural Society in Edison, suggested the diners could easily go to a temple to cleanse their souls.
“I understand how they feel,” Kothari said. “I myself am a Hindu. But this is hypocrisy of the law.”
He did not know the diners, he said, but they should be ashamed for bringing a bad name not just to Hindus but to the Indian-American community.
Drop the lawsuit. Accept an apology. Don’t go back to that restaurant. Stop embarrassing me (as a vegetarian and Indian).
And, if you’re really desperate, there are some con artists willing to sell you “Holy” Ganges water online.
(Thanks to Clarice for the link!)