Written by Achanta Ramya, CMS Hyderabad
It is strange how humans are the only mammals who drink another mammal’s milk. This stated by a person in a documentary I was watching during my college festival got me thinking. The first thing I did after getting back home was to google the term “vegan”.
I tried to understand it better after the initial bombardment of factors thrown at me by the documentary.
Wikipedia defined Veganism as a practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in one's diet, as well as following an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals. A follower of veganism is known as a vegan.
Abstaining from the use of animal products means anything from an animal like meat, milk, silk, honey, wool etc. or their derivatives.
That means no dairy products! The idea of being a vegan attracted me but will I be able to be one? I thought I’ll give it a shot for a week. That one week was torturous! It seemed like the entire universe conspired to test me. The same week my favourite paneer curry was cooked at home, friends wanted to go out to have icecream, realizing that my favourite street food wasn’t vegan and so on...
Simultaneously, I was reading up a lot about veganism. I realized that it is an eco-friendly healthy diet. Growing animals for the meat industry and clearing lands to grow the animals’ food is environmentally damaging and unsustainable. Plant-based diet is healthy for the human as well as the environment.
Above all, being a feminist, I did not like the idea of messing with the cows' reproductive system as the dairy industry tends to keep them in a constant state of pregnancy to extract maximum milk and discard them when they cease to produce milk.
After such deliberation, I turned vegan. Although I was already a vegetarian by then, the shift was drastic. Slowly, I coped with it and after three years I cannot imagine any other way.
Being vegan in India is as easy as it is tough. Indian staple food is the most vegan-friendly and at the same time Indians and milk are inseparable. Kids are punished in school if they don’t have milk during recess. My mom officially concluded that I had gone crazy when I told her my diet will be dairy-free from thereon. My grandmother wasn’t able to digest the fact that I won’t be having a glass of milk everyday in the morning nor conclude my meals with curd rice.
You’re bound to get the blank face when you say you’re vegan and then the exclamation when explained. Some peeps wondered and questioned if there is anything else that vegans could eat other than grass! Initially, all the sarcastic and some genuine queries and curiosity made me feel weird but I took it in my stride and answered every question however inconsequential with rigor and as a result became surer of my choice.
Now, I am hale and healthier like never before and introduced many people to this concept. From being conscious of my choice to confident about it, being vegan has been quite the journey.