Deccan Chronicle

Sudha Murthy: My kind of food, my way...

Deccan Chronicle.| Apsara Reddy

Published on: July 26, 2023 | Updated on: July 26, 2023

A casual comment triggers widespread discussion on food choices

While some Netizens praised Sudha Murthy for sticking to her traditions, others chastised her for being too conservative.

While some Netizens praised Sudha Murthy for sticking to her traditions, others chastised her for being too conservative.

Sudha Murty, author, motivational speaker, and Chairperson of Infosys Foundation, has sparked a social media firestorm with her revelations about her eating habits while travelling. While some Netizens praised her for sticking to her traditions, others chastised her for being too conservative.

She stated in an interview with a YouTube channel that, as a strict vegetarian, she was concerned that the same utensils used to cook non-vegetarian food were also used to cook vegetarian food when both types of food were prepared in the same kitchen. She explained that her workaround is to bring cooked and ready-to-cook vegetarian food with her when she travels.

"It weighs on my mind a lot! Hence when we go out, I only search for veg restaurants. Or, I carry one bag full of eatables. I make 25-30 chapattis. I fry sooji or rava and make it ready to eat. I only have to add warm water to the mix. I take poha. I take a cooking bag with a small cooker," she told the interviewer.

Reacting to her comments, many social media users began sharing a photo with her son-in-law and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak holding plates of meat at a barbecue.  

What is an essentially simple personal food choice, has lead to a widespread political and cultural discussion. It’s only normal for vegetarians to prefer to keep away from meat even if travel requires them to be in different geographies. It’s not as if they are looking down on meat-eaters; but rather a personal choice being made based on their own comfort.

"There is a lot of political polarisation today in our country and even innocent comments on someone’s personal diet preferences assume very different meanings," says Uma Vangal, an Indian film studies professor in the US.

She adds, "there have been tweets saying this is Brahmin supremacy and people are saying Sudha Murty is looking down on non-vegetarians — this is very unfair."

Sudha Murty was also reported to have had meals on banana leaves when she visited 10 Downing Street, London, the official residence of the UK Prime Minister, which won her kudos.

"To Sudha Murty’s credit she did have a banana leaf lunch with her family in Downing Street. They didn’t use cutlery used by Churchill, Chamberlin…Just proud of her that she implemented a part of my culture in core imperial place," read a tweet from a religious guru.  

While many feel she has made a larger point, this is a natural choice many of us make on a daily basis. As travellers we may experience different cultures but we may not necessarily consume a certain meat or hop into a bar. And not because we see it through a prism of prejudice but simply because it’s something we personally aren’t habituated to.

On the other hand, Sanjukta Basu, a TED fellow and lawyer, tweeted, "Why travel at all? Why not live in the pure and glorious mud house in an Indian Village entire life and never set foot in the beef eating Christian West for dollar bills."

While netizens freely express their views on the subject on social media, it would be well to remember that dietary preferences such as vegetarianism, veganism and also non-vegetarianism, are matters of personal choice and every individual is free to make that choice.

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