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Food habits have long been a subject of much discussion in Tamil Nadu. The environment and local produce have determined food habits. The food that some communities eat is used to denigrate them. Some advocate a cuisine that suits one’s body type. Some advocate vegetarianism. Organizations like the Vegetarian Congress campaign for it.

Despite all the discourse aimed at bringing about a change, food habits are tough to change. It is practically impossible to convert a meat eater into a vegetarian. While some give up eating meat for health reasons, few do it for the sake of worldviews or ideas.

Dr M A Hussain is an exception to this. He turned vegetarian inspired by the ideas of Arutprakasa Vallalar.  Dr Hussain is a trained siddha doctor. He has been doing research on medicine. Coming in a family of physicians attached to the Travancore royal family, Dr Hussain has mastered Tamil spiritual works such as Thiruvarutpa, Thirumanthiram, Thiruvacakam and Thirukkural.

Dr Hussain explains that a verse in Thiruvarutpa composed by Vallalar that his father, as Islamic moulvi, made him read transformed his life. He has conducted thousands of discourses in 68 countries on these topics. He is a follower of Tamil saint Vallalar.

Dr Hussain turned vegetarian inspired by the ideas of Arutprakasa Vallalar. Dr Hussain is a trained siddha doctor. He has been doing research on medicine

Dr Hussain has the following to say on his choice.

What did you grow up eating in your family?
Eating meat was regular in my family when I was growing up. But we wouldn’t eat all meat, some were considered haram (prohibited).

I was an exception. I used to eat all meat. I used to go for hunting when I was 13 years old. I took a license and obtained a gun. I had many friends and we would roam around together. If we couldn’t get any animal, we would hunt cats. I had a wild side with a passion for hunting animals.

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Now you are a complete vegetarian. You hold positions in the Vegetarian Congress. Please explain how this happened.
We have had a big library in our house since our father’s time. There are books related to many religions in that library. I didn’t read any books while growing up. All my time was taken up by hunting, brawls and skirmishes. My father, Mohammed Maideen was a moulvi in Islam. He was quite old but he had a certain bearing.

Once he called me and asked me to draw water from the well so he could take bath. I accepted his request. I kept drawing water and he didn’t tell me to stop. Since I had given word, I couldn’t stop either. My hands and legs started to ache. He finished his bath after quite a while.

Then he pointed at a book inside a glass almirah and asked me to take it out. I took out the book that had a white book wrap. I thought he would let me go after this. Instead he pointed at a particular page in that book, smiled and told me to read it.

I did it as a chore without much interest. He asked me to read out a verse several times. I wasn’t sure why he did that. It then occurred to me that he wanted me to understand what the song meant and so tried to understand its meaning.

It was a verse from Thiruvarutpa composed by Vallalar that spoke against killing. When I read it over and over again, I felt it was accusing me. The song told me that a person who kills on purpose is a terrible person. I asked my father about this and he said the verses were correct.

My father didn’t believe in my transformation. He watched over my activities. As if to prove a point, I became strictly vegetarian. Now I have been vegetarian for 53 years and am campaigning for vegetarianism

I told him that we ate meat at our home so will it apply to us? He said food habits are a tradition. I didn’t let go. I argued the verses would apply to our family too. While my father agreed with what I was saying, he said I had no right to ask that question.

This raised more questions in me. I completely let go of the habit of hunting animals and eating them. I became vegetarian, surrendered my gun.

My father didn’t believe in my transformation. He watched over my activities. As if to prove a point, I became strictly vegetarian. Now I have been vegetarian for 53 years and am campaigning for vegetarianism.

But didn’t the food habits in your family affect your work?
When I became vegetarian, my father, seeing me, made changes in the family’s diet. He sold off vessels used to cook meat and bought new vessels for vegetarian food. That continues to this day.


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