At 6:45am, I was standing in queue for my boarding pass at the airport, rubbing my eyes and yawning incessantly. Suddenly, I heard someone scream “Murderer!” and cocked my head to figure out who it was. Everyone around me also stirred, groggily but ever eager for some public drama. When he screamed “Murderer! Murderer!” again, I spotted the man – almost-sixty, dressed in a shabby suit, more-salt-than-pepper beard – and, wait, was he pointing at me? He started coming closer and screamed yet again, pointing and accusing me of homicide. The counter attendant looked at me quizzically, and I awkwardly smiled and said I didn’t know him. She suspiciously spent a few extra seconds on my details, handed over my boarding pass and let me go. I briskly walked away and then broke into a run. I could feel the whole airport gaping. Thankfully, I wasn’t stopped by the guards.

Did I know who he was? Hell yeah. A month before this, I had attended a book launch. I was happily chomping on some mutton kebabs and drinking cheap bubbly, when a writer friend of mine introduced me to Mr. I-Will-Needlessly-Scream-At-You-At-The- Airport. During our casual banter, I could see him eyeing the kebabs on my plate with a grave expression. Noticing this, I offered him some.

He scowled and said, “You like murdering living beings for fun?” I was quite taken aback. “Excuse me? What is that supposed to mean?” “Well, you killed a living being. Now you are consuming it. With happiness. How degenerate are you?” he spat. I smiled. “You’re vegetarian, I am guessing. I didn’t know. I wouldn’t have offered otherwise.” “I’m vegan. And you are a criminal.”

I sighed. “To each his own, sir,” I said. “Certain animals and birds are bred for consumption. I think most of us keep our consumption restrained to that. Yes, I understand the emotional context of killing something and I feel sorry, but animals are killed for far more unnecessary reasons in our world.” Yes, I have a spiel ready. “If I took your pet dog, chopped him up and cooked him for you, would you eat it too?” he asked, almost foaming at the mouth. Thankfully, some common friends interrupted, and a month later, Dial M for Murder was staged at the Mumbai domestic airport.

Let’s get something straight: every individual should have the basic right to decide what they can and cannot eat. If you choose to avoid certain food items, that is solely your business. Can you engage in a conversation to share insights and factually correct data? Of course. An ex-colleague of mine is vegan, and while he patiently cleared doubts, participated in discussions and even bore unnecessary jibes from a bullying senior, not once was he critical of what I ate.

Cut to a blind date, who, after dinner, shared visiting cards of three people (two of whom were therapists), who could help me get over my “meat and blood addiction”. During dinner, when I told her that I quite liked tofu, she said that my conversion had begun and I should not stray from this newfound path. I took an enormous bite of my chicken leg and chewed while she stared at me. Needless to say, there was no second date.

On another occasion, a random lady once walked up to me at a restaurant. “Young man, can I ask you something?” “Umm, yes, sure.” “Do you know that the beef steak I heard you moaning about came from a cow? An actual cow? Like, a living cow? That was killed and then gutted and sliced open?” “I would hope so. This is a very reputed restaurant. They had better be serving good meat.” “You need therapy. There is a beast within you that needs to be removed.”

I had noticed the symbol for veganism tattooed on her upper arm. While I did not bother about what she said, the very fact that she made the effort to seek me out and disrespectfully dump her opinion that I was in need of psychiatric attention was galling. For long, I have had a steady argument: rather than calling people names, attacking them and being absolute arses, why don’t vegans fight multi-national food chains that genetically modify animals and birds to ensure more meat? Why don’t they picket commercial dairies that heartlessly abuse cows, squeezing them of every last drop of milk? What is this need to be rebels without an actual cause?

It is not a crime to be carnivorous. For some reason, vegetarian and vegan extremists believe that we pounce on animals, rip their necks off with our bare hands and grill them alive. Us epicureans are given to gastronomical delights, but to assume that we are bloodthirsty psychopaths is downright rude. Find your cause and fight it logically, because calling people names and picking fights is petty and juvenile. Oh yes, and the next time someone points and screams “Murderer!” at me, they’re getting an earful in return.