'If it is not possible for the Indian Railways to have separate non-vegetarian and vegetarian compartments, then what is the harm in railways serving only vegetarian food?'
Offended at non-vegetarian food served to fellow passengers in his compartment while he was traveling on the Rajdhani Express, a vegetarian, Syed Eqbal Ehsan Ayoob Ali, 67, has filed a public interest litigation in the Gujarat high court.
Ali, an advocate from Ahmedabad, recounts his "horrible" experience on board the Rajdhani Express to Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.
"I feel it is not right for vegetarian people to suffer the stench of non-veg food in trains," Ali says.
On September 10, I was travelling from Ahmedabad to New Delhi by the Rajdhani Express and the family sitting next to my seat were eating non-vegetarian food.
I am a vegetarian by choice, I don't eat non-vegetarian food at all.
I gave up eating non-vegetarian food more than 15 years ago when I saw animals being slaughtered.
I just could not eat non-vegetarian food post that incident.
After such a long period of time, I cannot even stand the smell of non-vegetarian food.
That night on September 10, when dinner was being served on the Rajdhani Express, I saw my co-passengers sitting next to me had ordered non-vegetarian food.
In that stuffed air-conditioned compartment, the smell of non-vegetarian food was too much of a problem for me.
I could not take the smell of non-vegetarian food.
After a point of time, I started vomiting because of the smell.
Though my co-passengers disposed of the plates soon after they came to know about my condition, the lingering smell of non-vegetarian food made it difficult for me to breathe.
I spent a horrible nine hours in that compartment till the Rajdhani reached New Delhi.
When I reached New Delhi, I realised that I need to do something about this issue.
I then called my friend, advocate Rajesh Goswami. We decided to file a PIL in the Gujarat high court.
My PIL is simple.
All I am asking is that the railways must compartmentalise vegetarian and non-vegetarian food lovers at the time of the booking of tickets.
If there are non-vegetarian people sitting in a different compartment, then there will be no problem for vegetarians like me.
Let the non-vegetarian foodies eat chicken and throw the bones wherever they want in their own compartment.
If it is not possible for the Indian Railways to have separate non-vegetarian and vegetarian compartments, then what is the harm in railways serving only vegetarian food?
It is a matter of only one night's journey and people can do without non-veg food. Am I right or not?
I am not doing this for some publicity stunt.
I am not getting support from anyone or running someone's agenda.
This is my Mann ki Baat.
Now it is up to the court to decide.
Nobody thought about this issue earlier.
Many people tell me that this is a unique thought that came to my mind.
Now everybody is saying that I am doing all this at someone's behest.
People ask me whether it is not forcing vegetarian food habits on non-vegetarian eaters.
But my Allah is my witness.
I am not doing this at anyone's behest or running some vegetarian agenda.
I just feel it is not right for vegetarian people to suffer the stench of non-veg food in trains.
I don't want other vegetarian food eaters to suffer like I did on that night in the Rajdhani.
Many people ask me that being a Muslim, how come I am doing all this.
I tell them that my religion has got nothing to do with vegetarian or non-vegetarian food.
I am a vegetarian by choice.
Others have also asked me that Gujarat being a state where Muslims live in a ghetto, how come I don't get the smell of food in my house.
I tell them that I have my own bungalow.
I don't get into other people's problems.
I have made my own masjid too in my bungalow complex.
I pay money to the maulana of this mosque too.
I go to the Gujarat high court and come back and do my work.
I don't get involved in other people's problems.