Mumbai vegetarians attempt to keep meat-eaters out of apartment blocks

Mumbai's vegetarians try to turn buildings into carnivore-free zones, with shops following suit

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 3:34am

Mumbai's vegetarians can be a pushy lot, commonly using their clout to prevent meat-eaters from renting or buying flats in the complexes where they live.

The aim is to turn their apartment blocks into vegetarian enclaves.

But now, grocery store owners and supermarkets in the same neighbourhoods are also toeing the line, taking not just meat and eggs off the shelves but also any sandwich, salad or dessert that might contain them.

In a supermarket in Malabar Hill - home to rich and staunchly vegetarian business families - no such products are available.

"Many shopkeepers will not keep them because it will offend some of the people who live and shop here," said Indrani Malkani, head of the Malabar Hill Residents' Association.

Many cafes have gone vegetarian and even global fast food chains such as Pizza Hut and McDonald's have taken meat items off their menus.

The vegetarian majority in many housing complexes have long tried to keep out carnivores. Ms Malkani said: "Prospective tenants or new buyers who are not vegetarian are discreetly discouraged. By law, you can't discriminate against them, so it's done discreetly."

Home builder Harish Mehta said: "If my first few buyers are vegetarians and they ask me to avoid selling the remaining flats to non-vegetarians, I respect their wishes to live with like-minded people."

It is not only a problem for the rich who wish to live among Mumbai's Hindu elite. Cameraman Abdul Zaidi said he was not rich enough to live in Malabar Hill, but passes through the area on his way home. "My wife told me to get a cake, but the shopkeeper said he didn't keep anything with eggs in it," he said.

Most Indian supermarkets would not dream of stocking pork or beef, abhorrent to Muslims and Hindus. But the burgeoning ban on eggs and all meat in some Mumbai supermarkets takes things a step further.

Many of the strictest vegetarians are from neighbouring Gujarat, where such a diet is common.

Some are Jains, vegans who do not even eat root vegetables such as onions and potatoes.

For a long stretch of Marine Drive, a high-end shopping street, there are no restaurants serving meat, fish or eggs. Not far away in Kemps Corner, another rich neighbourhood, stores have barred meat and eggs.

"How can we accept seeing these things displayed on the shelves when it goes against our beliefs?" said Rupika Jain, a Kemps Corner resident.

A new Indian school textbook provoked a storm last month for claiming vegetarians are morally superior to meat eaters.

The latter, the book said, "easily cheat, tell lies, forget promises, they are dishonest and tell bad words, steal, fight and turn to violence and commit sex crimes'.