“Look into my eyes, you will see/ what you mean to me.”- When Bryan Adams sang these lines, I’m 90% sure he was talking about a loved one. Now, take these lines out of context and put them in a first rate restaurant, where your dinner doesn’t just come alive- it is alive. Little ones, big ones, crabs walking a glass box- ready to be picked and guillotined (well, boiled, but that sounded more poetic).
Port Blair, Andaman, one of the many sea-food restaurants: It’s not a show for the squeamish. I’m a hardcore non-vegetarian, but still squeamish enough to flinch at the thought. As I stood looking, with people at the ready to hack and chop at command, my prospective dinner looked me straight in the eye- piercing through my hardened heart. Damn, those big brown eyes looking pitifully at me- a part of my brain called me “hypocrite” as I softened at the red-orange crab that gave me the puppy dog eyes. Yes, I was being a hypocrite- it’s not like I thought crabs and meat came from refrigerated section of the food mart. And yet, can you blame me? I’d never really thought about pouncing on a live, walking creature and gobbling it for food. Give me a break, I’m hardly Robinson Crusoe.
And yet, here I was, no ship-wreck, no food-shortage, and I was expected to slaughter this shell-y little thing already growing on me. Yet, “this is our speciality” the folks there insisted. And foodie I am. So I picked. Not the one that had looked at me, but another one, sitting sombrely a distance. He’s a loner, won’t be missed- I thought. However, before being yanked away to the kitchen, it gave me a sidelong scathing look. As the other crabs turned around to look at me in silent mutiny, I felt terrible. Like I had accidently knocked over an old lady in the line. Twenty minutes later however, the crab had become food- and an amazingly delicious one at that. Still, gulping down those bites was difficult, to say the least. Dinner finished, I paid and left as fast as I could possibly- flee from the scene of the crime- that’s always been my motto. On my way back I took a detour to the sea- angry pairs of eyes followed me everywhere I walked on the beach- distant relatives and chums of the poor fellow I had devoured. In the hotel, the sole crab in the central aquarium no longer looked at me- I had been completely cut off from the Crustacean world.
Next morning came with hope. I was feeling less miserable and the hotel menu had crab for lunch. One I wouldn’t have to kill. And as I ate my meal in silence, I hoped that one day I could look into the eyes of the other crabs without feeling guilty about their brethren that I’d probably continue to gulp down because they tasted too good for me to swear off of them. It’d take some time, and some amount of getting over an inherent hypocrisy but it’s a food chain that I can’t let go- sea food continues to taste as good as it ever did, albeit mixed with a twang of guilt.
Contributed by Ateendriya