Über Desi

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Gupta v. “exotic” Indian restaurant

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An Indian family in NJ (where else?) is suing an “exotic” Indian restaurant for serving them samosas with meat, even though they were vegetarians. [NJ Ledger via HuffPo]

For an India Day celebration in Edison on Aug. 10, 2009, the group placed an order for vegetarian samosas. The restaurant assured them it didn’t make the pastries with meat. Indeed, there was no meat-filled samosa on the restaurant’s appetizer menu, and the court’s decision said the tray of pastries given to the group was labeled vegetarian.
But soon after eating a few samosas, some in the group grew concerned the pastries might contain meat. According to the decision, the restaurant eventually acknowledged it had confused the order with one for meat-filled samosas and gave the group the non-vegetarian pastries.

The family proceeded to sue the restaurant “alleging negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, consumer fraud, products liability and breach of express warranty”. This part also caught my eye. [link]

In their complaint, the plaintiffs outlined their injuries and damages in the following manner: “‘Hindu vegetarians believe that if they eat meat, they become involved in the sinful cycle of inflicting pain, injury and death on God’s creatures, and that it affects the karma and dharma, or purity of the soul. Hindu scriptures teach that the souls of those who eat meat can never go to God after death, which is the ultimate goal for Hindus. The Hindu religion does not excuse accidental consumption of meat products. One who commits the religious violation of eating meat, knowingly or unknowingly, is required to participate in a religious ceremony at a site located along the Ganges River in Haridwar, Uttranchal, India, to purify himself. The damages sought by plaintiffs included compensation for the emotional distress they suffered, as well as economic damages they would incur by virtue of having to participate in the required religious cleansing ceremony in India.’”

This story has me torn. Being raised in a Hindu vegetarian family myself, I’m can envision members of my family, particularly the elderly reacting in a similar manner (but we TamBrams are too pacifist to get involved in court cases). I’ve not read the doctrine for consuming meat and don’t know what the diktats for “Accidental Consumption of Meat” are. On one hand, I feel this family’s reaction (suing for money) is disproportionate to the incident.

On the other hand, longtime readers of this blog know my disdain for “exotic” Indian restaurants particularly their marketing, food and above all, service. This one fits in the last two. The restaurant certainly was wrong on the following counts:
- Serving food not on the menu
- Getting the food order wrong
- Serving food specifically the client demanded they did not want
- Not cross checking the order with the kitchen, despite repeated questions from the clients

And this kind of service is unfortunately not uncommon in “exotic” Indian restaurants. It’s disappointing to see the NJ Ledger, Huffington Post and other news outlets play up the “he he dumb Hindoos won’t eat meat” angle. Customers often ask for customized orders at restaurant, not just for religious reasons, but also for health reasons – food allergies, digestive issues. It is the duty of the restaurant to get it right, failing which they open up themselves to the consequences. Although, none of the customers were affected health-wise, I’m with them on suing, at least on principle.

What do you think?

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