Almost a month back, when Zomato came out with the best response to a bigot who thought he was entitled to show off his religious fanaticism and get away with it, they went up in my scale of respect for not bowing down to a jerk like him or throwing away the basic principles of integrity and ethics. The angry customer thought it would make him a hero in the eyes of similar bigots if he publicly tweeted his anger at being assigned a non-Hindu delivery executive and demand not just cancellation of his order, but a refund too. When the whole thing backfired and he was even given a warning by Jabalpur Police for his act of causing communal divide, he resorted to the favourite tool of every such person – freedom of speech. As if freedom of speech is granted so that people may spew any kind of venom publicly. And he forgot that freedom of speech is only one ideal of the Constitution; religious harmony is another. His absurd ‘explanation’ also included the reason he did so – it was Sraavan month. I have seen Muslims breaking their fast with Iftaar meals in temples. So let’s not bring in holy months here. And this guy does not even know who cooked the food he had ordered. It could very well have been a ‘Non-Hindu’ chef. If eating food prepared in all probability by someone from another religion does not matter, then how the hell does the religion of a delivery executive matter?

Sadly, he is only a representative of a huge number of such schmucks. And the proof to that is those people who were commenting under this news a senseless question – “Then why is Zomato okay with serving Halal food?” I was thinking (thankfully some others are too, as I can see from posts and comments) what the hell that has to do with this particular incident. How someone from a particular community, or even irrespective of community, likes his food to be cooked is something that can in no way be compared with the bigotry involved in setting preferences for the religion of the delivery executive. You have every right to say what kind of food you want (vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Jain, Halal). That does not automatically give you the right to say that you also want a person of your community to cook or deliver it. If you have such stringent rules, then cook at home you dolt! But I know I really need not have given this explanation because the ones who are asking this senseless question with the typical “Why only my religion, why not theirs” logic are totally aware of the fact that their question has no relevance or meaning in this scenario. It is only a desperate attempt to show Zomato as a platform that does “minority appeasement”, which is hilarious as well as pathetic. They also believe that their 1-star rating for Zomato app and for UberEats for supporting Zomato is going to make a huge difference, proving their idiocy furthermore. Remember, these are the same people who gave a lower rating for Microsoft Excel as a protest against Surf Excel for apparently hurting their sentiments with an amazing advertisement.

I remember the same kind of stupidity being shared and spread among a lot of people a while back with cancellation of cab rides because the driver did not belong to their community. And I was thinking “Maybe matrimonial sites didn’t work in getting them a partner from their community and this is their last resort to finding their perfectly arranged match”. I also saw some rather intellectually superior posts from intellectually superior beings complaining to Uber about cabs that had decal of a saffron Hanuman on them and threatening to boycott them. According to them, that was an indication of the ‘Hindutva’ mindset of the drivers and it posed grave threats to women of being raped and murdered by these drivers. The shameless bunch even brought in the name of the poor little girl from Kathua to support their paranoid claims. Every Uber or Ola cab I have gotten into till date has had some sort of religious symbol on it, decals, idols, hanging pieces from the rear-view mirror – saffron Hanuman, cross, crescent-moon-star – all of it. All of these drivers have been the same and thankfully none of them turned out to be rapists. And I am sure that not all of the cab drivers who have gotten arrested till now for such crimes had a saffron Hanuman stuck to their rear windshields. I never understood why then poor Hanuman, a Brahmachari, had to be the face of such acute allegations.

Anyway, hardly a week after Zomato declared that “Food doesn’t have a religion. It is a religion”, its delivery executives in Kolkata begged to differ. They went on an indefinite strike saying that the Hindu delivery boys didn’t want to deliver beef and the Muslim ones didn’t want to deliver pork. Zomato responded that it was impossible to segregate orders according to the religion of the delivery boys and they would try to reach a resolution soon. But last I heard, a TMC MLA from the place thought it was a reasonable demand they were putting forward and declared all support for them. I kept waiting to post this blog thinking I would be able to add an update about how Zomato finally resolved the issue. (A devilish part of me also wanted to see how different media houses that have anti-Hindu or anti-Muslim editorial policies would choose to write about this because it involves both the religions and they would be in a fix on how to lash out at one and go soft on the other.) A month later, the only update I have seen is an email sent by the Zomato founder to the employees asking them to not get distracted by such negativity which has nothing to do with food or religion. I sincerely hope that they did put their foot down like they did with the jerk of a customer and said that religion can’t come in the way of the basic job description – delivering food!

I mean, how are these protesting delivery boys in any way different from the customer we talked about? They took up the job knowing only too well that their job was to pick up food from restaurants and deliver it to customers. No one is asking them to eat it. And if the kind of food ordered by people doesn’t appeal to them based on their religious beliefs, the way out for them is to leave the job and find something else where they do not have to deal with any kind of food. Or maybe take up the job as delivery boys in a particular restaurant that prepares only the kind of food they prefer. But to start a strike against an employer whose business is dealing with a vast array of restaurants and myriads of customers whose preferences are as different as can be is just stupid. In a business where their success depends on getting customers their orders in the stipulated time, how the hell are they supposed to segregate delivery boys and orders based on religion, the kind of meat ordered and any such senseless criterion? This ‘clever tactic’ of getting into a job knowing very well what the terms are and then using religion and its supposed sentiments to coax the employer to kneel before their insane demands still goes on only because there are politicians like the said MLA who happily pounce on any opportunity to get religion-based votes and people who promote such behaviour.

Let us hope that more companies and more people stand up against anyone whose weapon is religion and eventually deliver us from this never-ending saga of intolerance in a country that could be a beautiful example of religious harmony, but won’t ever be because of these idiots.