Today marks day #30 of me practicing Veganism – making a sustainable lifestyle choice to reduce my carbon footprint on the environment – Mother earth – I proudly call my home. I know it’s too early to write or even talk about it, but my reasons that triggered the change and my journey of coping up with this very change is certainly worthy of few minutes of your kind attention.
Why do I think there is a need to share?
Unless someone, we know personally or virtually, shares their experience candidly, it doesn’t seem real- feels like it’s someone else’s problem and this lifestyle is meant for those “other” people who we neither know nor can relate to. Unless we accidentally stumble upon such experiences and stories, we never really care to look for more or enough information to become aware, because it’s downright rude and scary- everything falls apart. suddenly everything that you have been consuming seems so wrong. It poses a zillion questions. It tells us the truth about what happens behind the scenes. And it is bothering enough to mess with your head.
I have kept the tonality of this post more personal than technical so that it’s relatable. I am one amongst you. Some of you know me personally. For the rest of you, who don’t- I am a real person practicing Veganism in real. It’s not a fad. Its a way of living mindfully. It is about making the right and well-informed lifestyle choices. It is about caring enough to be responsible. And if you are reading this already, somewhere in there, you do care too.
So here I am – writing it from scratch – Where did it all begin? What made me turn vegan? How did I live the last 3 decades of my life? And how do I feel now after completing one month since I embarked on this journey?
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I am a Bong by birth, food, and at heart
We are all, mostly born fat( though our moms like to believe otherwise- Healthy. Lol), rarely fit ( unfitness runs in our genes), yet beautiful( We have eyes that are deep and intense; People do compliment about it. We never really take it to our head. Phew !). We eat a lot of fish and have great hair (though there are rare exceptions like me). We just think about food all the time( therefore, its given, that there is no time to think about other trivial matters like exercise). We are Bongs or Probashi Bangali ( aka Bengalis if born and brought up in West Bengal, India).
Irrespective of what we are called, we have way too many good traits in common- not that what I said earlier were necessarily bad. We are sharp and intelligent( Well, I did awesome in school. But that was about it. :)), we read a lot of books (It’s my dream to read every day, which hasn’t come true as yet ) and we have a super rich cultural background ( in spite of being a daughter to an insistent Father, I just couldn’t pursue music as a career, because I was smitten by the fervor of making money after passing out of one of the Top B Schools).
Beyond being superfluously boastful about these characteristics of ours( which may or may not have really worked for us), what truly defines us all, and what we truly bond over is FOOD – It makes us happy. It triggers extreme emotions in us – From being too happy to becoming too sad ( if something isn’t right – the taste, or variety or just the place)
Food is an integral part of our daily life and our very existence. We take pride in saying that we don’t eat to survive but we look forward to each day with frenetic enthusiasm to eat something delicious not necessarily different from what we ate a day prior- It has to just taste good and should be an array of dishes, not just one or two item in a meal. We are insanely serious about it – So much so that our life partners also inherently, are supposed to be a foodie and enjoy similar kind of food( But you know – Love is above all – I got married to a Maharashtrian vegetarian, who turned into a Non-Vegetarian later. And you don’t want to guess, what does he eat now ? :)).
Well, it is as true for any other state, region, and community in India and maybe elsewhere in the world as well. And the very fact that how important food is for all of us, gives us some solace – Because we like to believe – We aren’t really all about food, but much beyond – Rich culture, unbeatable intellect, books, Tagore and not to forget – Keo Karpin and Boroline 🙂 ( Pun intended).
When the West meets the East, there is food fusion
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Why am I telling you all of this?
Simply, so that you have a complete view of my journey of being born as someone- who was serious about food and savoring almost everything that came her way, to becoming a Vegan- who got serious about the impact she was creating on the environment by making wrong food and lifestyle choices. It’s a gradual process. It cant be driven on impulse. You would see when you read along.
That brings me to the most misunderstood part of Veganism- It is not just about food, but anything to do with cruelty against animals, and hence choosing to live a life which is free from consumption of any product that’s derived from animals. Vegans do not wear or use clothes, shoes or furnishings made with the skins, hair or feathers of other animals, including fur, leather, wool, feathers, and silk. They can wear and use plant fabrics such as cotton, linen or hemp, and manmade materials such as polyester, acrylic or nylon. Having said that, food does become the most important change that one needs to live through and sustain, to really become a Vegan for life. I had my own share of struggles and i am happy to put it out there for you all.
Don’t get me wrong here – I don’t expect you to empathise, but to understand and relate to my story so that if you are at a similar space where I was a couple of months ago- Really battling in my head about making a choice between eating right and mindless unhealthy self-indulgence, you would know that if I could do, you can do it too. No part of it is physical but absolutely mental and environmental. It’s not about our taste buds, but what the brain thinks is right for the body ( not just for the obvious reason – how nature wants us to be, but also after being cognizant of the kind of impact each one of us can create, both positive and negative by making lifestyle choices.
What did I eat for the last 3 decades?
I was fortunate to be treated with a wide variety of food in each meal every day till I left home when I was 15, for my higher studies. That was the last I stayed with my parents. The food quantity, quality, and the overall routine suffered immensely due to staying in hostels and stringent working hours. From being a fat and beautiful kid, I became a thin and not so beautiful kid. But I still deeply loved my food and craved for my favorites all the year round before I could go back home during vacations and eat my gut out.
Somewhere in my 20s, while I was studying in Pune, I quit eating non-veg for a brief period randomly, without any specific reason – I just dint feel like it. My first job landed me in Hyderabad- heaven for non-vegetarians and in the company of great foodies. Then what? Do you think any sane non-vegetarian would resist the delicious Biryani and other delicacies of Paradise and Bawarchi?.
When did things begin to change for good?
After I got married in 2010, all aspects of my life, most importantly diet, changed again. Having savored the chicken reshmi kebab, fish tikka and prawn biryani for 3 years, I just couldn’t find anything tasty in Pune. While we cooked vegetarian food at home, I kept trying to look for some great non-veg delicacies outside. Eventually my husband started eating Fish and Chicken for me and for protein for his muscles. And life pretty much stayed this way till I became pregnant in 2016.
When I was expecting Mayra
Every aspect of our life changed during this period. Pregnancy and motherhood are beautiful but no part of it is easy. This phase completely takes over your body and mind. Heartfelt thanks to my childhood friend – Priyanka, who suggested that I read Gita and Ramayana and listen to Sadhguru(I had no idea who he was), to keep my sanity in place.
Break from work for 8 months gave me a lot of time to think while I was also adequately sleep deprived, had midnight hunger pangs, and had turned into a hogger who could eat just about anything without really giving any importance to the taste.
Listening to Sadhguru all the time and reading his book on “Inner Engineering”, is what I loved doing during those 8 months when I also went ahead and did the “Inner Engineering” program at Mumbai Isha yoga center. And that is when for the first time, when I was quite mindful of my existence and more self-aware than I was ever before, I came to know through one of his videos how non-vegetarian food takes more than 24 hours to leave our system and it slowly rots inside our body – how humans possess grinding teeth like herbivorous animals and longer intestines than carnivorous animals to prove that the human body is better suited for vegetarianism– Its science, we all have studied it – Though it is an endless debate in today’s world (We would certainly delve deeper into this debate in my future posts).
It was quite organic that I just no more could eat chicken. Even if I tried to challenge my mind, I was left with a very weird feeling. Though I was still going very strong on eggs, fish, and prawns, as expectant and nursing mothers need a lot of protein – that’s a no-brainer. Lol. The reasons then were not environmental or religious, but pure scientific. Its been 2 years now, I haven’t had any chicken.
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When I came to Germany
I craved for home food all the time and had to make peace with what I could cook and what was available here in Konstanz or during our travels to other countries. I never could really enjoy the food anywhere, except when I met Rohini and Manu – our good friends who stay at Den Haag, Holland, who treated us with mouth-watering, Bisibelle Bhaath. I am not a burger, pizza, and a pasta person. And I always dreaded to eat them and yet ended up having them, because of lack of options.
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What triggered the real change in me
When I started to blog about our travels, quite naturally I started reading a lot too. Quickly enough I got my hands on the content of, few of India’s best travel bloggers. And I stumbled upon an article on Veganism, written by Shivya Nath on her blog – The Shooting Star. What I read was like an awakening – A wake-up call. I just can’t thank her enough for putting it all out there for readers to read it, though at their own risk and then decide what to do with that piece of information. The blog’s tonality was very neutral- just stating facts. But it certainly messed up my head and I was in a confused state for more than 120 days of my life. I continued to eat scrambled eggs, cakes, croissants, icecreams and cow’s milk for some more time before I just couldn’t anymore. it took so many months for me to come to a state where I was clear in my head about what I would do next.
As you can see, It didn’t happen overnight. I struggled for about 4 months before I let go dairy and egg completely from my diet. I did eat fish and prawns during my visit to India post that which was about 45 days back. I remember discussing this often with my husband that I was going crazy and just couldn’t take a stand. What he said, helped me so much to get my peace back and take it one day at a time. He said – “Just follow your gut. Eat what makes you feel good. Don’t worry so much about being a non-vegetarian or a vegetarian or a vegan( which was not even there in our consideration set, because as I said earlier – it always feels like it is someone else’s problem because we truly never see anything with our eyes to believe anything.)”
And I am happy to share that I have come past that stage now, and since last 1 month, I have quit eating everything that is not Vegan. It hasn’t been easy at all, trust me, but immensely satisfying – for the very fact that I know why I am doing what I am doing. And more than anything, I am thankful to all my family members for supporting me without a second thought or question, in taking this decision and living up to it. I am also happy that a lot of you, who follow me on social media have come back asking to know more. So, it is really helping the cause – though the change is super slow and invisible, at least its happening.
Veganism isn’t easy or accessible at all times, but still leaves you more committed to the cause than ever
It requires one to really stay on their toes, to be patient and persistent. But you know what, you would pleasantly surprise yourself with these traits already because your reasons will keep you strong and committed – you know that this cause is far more important than the unreasonable, unhealthy food indulgences and cravings. At times, you may be guilty of consuming something by mistake because it takes some time getting used to seeing the contents or checking the source of the item that we would consume as a whole. Within no time, you would figure out creative ways of living through the life of a Vegan in unfavorable conditions as well – when you go out for dinner with Non-Vegan, when you are traveling or maybe vegan food isn’t just available. You would also realize very soon that most of our favorite recipes could be just a step or two away from being vegan because there are alternatives to a lot of products already, and if not, you learn to live without them. You start appreciating your cause even more because you realize that by just being mindful of what you are consuming, you are not only helping to save the lives but also to stop the deterioration of the health of other living beings, who we are meant to co-exist with.
It is everything but boring
I have craved for chocolates, cakes, and ice-cream for weeks after I decided to let go of dairy and eggs completely from my diet. But I am happy to share that I haven’t let my cause down yet and have made peace with the gelato strawberry ice cream that I had, in an Australian ice cream corner, at Ghent( which I had hated when I tasted it for the first time at Konstanz, however, liked it the second time) and delicious dark Belgian chocolates.
I have found Vegan products in the local stores here in Konstanz (both food and lifestyle products) and have been gradually switching over to them after consuming whatever I already had. I am already consuming these vegan products now – Chocolates, Juices, snacks( quinoa), yogurt, aalad dressing, milk, after sun lotion, hand cream, lipstick, and body wash etc.
During our travels too, I make sure I either eat at an authentic local vegan restaurant or carry vegan cold food ( Falafel, Sandwiches etc) from supermarkets like Spar or dig my face deep into Indian food which is almost vegan( except ghee). Most of the places where we have stayed have always had may be very few, vegan options – fruits, non-egg bread, baked beans, quinoa salad, couscous salad, juices etc. There are plenty of Vegan Apps as well which can make your life way easier when it comes to eating out.
Far from being boring, actually this entire process keeps me well read, well fed and longing to know more to support this cause. I have never been so excited to read through all the ingredients in any product irrespective of the language, or very desperately looking for places where I can eat the food that I can savor. So far I haven’t got the opportunity to taste any vegan dessert during travel( Maybe I get lucky on my next trip).
Unawareness is to be credited for mindless consumption that most of us do
I ate mindlessly for the last 3 decades, is because I was absolutely unaware of what was the source of the food or the lifestyle products that I consumed or you can say I never cared so much to actually go and find out. And I credit my mindlessness to unawareness and also self-centredness. But now that I am aware, I just can’t ignore what I know and my conviction is just getting stronger by the day. In fact, the more I delve into it, the more I feel drawn to the cause. The list of what a Vegan can’t consume just gets longer with every new article I put my hands on. And let me tell you, the worst part is the food items that are most likely to be picked by a Vegan may also contain animal products – like chicken fat in barbecue chips, orange juices fortified with omega 3s and the wineries and breweries using membranes that come from the tropical fish bladder. When I read about it a few days back, it just blew my mind. You can read it to here,but at your own risk 🙂
Now that you have read till here, let me tell you, this post is not at all intended to impose my thoughts and views on you, but only to share my journey and the reasons to do so. If this puts you to rethink and reconsider about your choices, it would be definitely a step in the right direction as irrespective of what we may think and do, it is the need of the hour.
You can always connect with me or a fellow vegan to help you through this. Thanks for reading through this post of mine. Take care. Happy living a sustainable life. More on my Vegan diet and other useful information in my upcoming posts. Stay tuned.
Do you think there is an insurmountable lack of awareness with respect to what we consume? Do share your thoughts in COMMENTS ❤️