My Indian friends have assured me beyond all reasonable doubt that it is not novel to write that India’s liquor sales stop by law on Gandhi Jayanti, the national holiday celebrating the birth of Mohandas K. Gandhi. What was more interesting to me was a note that I read online on Tuesday from my friend Anoo Bhuyan:

“Today at a supermarket, I saw that the entire freezer section was covered in newspaper. A sign on it said, ‘Due to Gandhi Jayanthi,’ non veg not for sales.” (She was in southern India, which accounts for the “h” in “Jayanthi.”)

I wrote back to her: “And yes – have you seen this kind of thing before? Is it normal or widespread? That is, if I mentioned it, would every Indian reader say, ‘yes, of course?’”

She and a few other people I spoke to said that unlike liquor, stopping the sale of meat on Gandhi’s birthday is a matter of choice.

For me, it raises yet another of my questions that provoke anything from annoyance to rage among some of the people who are compelled to listen to me: why would you stop selling meat or non-vegetarian foods on this one day?  I understand that Gandhi is widely quoted (though I have not found a definitive version of this) as saying that you can get the measure of a society or a civilization based on how it treats its animals. I’m unaware of the context of the statement, though Gandhi was a vegetarian.