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Saturday, May 7, 2011

An Interview with Mohan Santhanam, Vegan Vocalist

This interview with Mohan Santhanam, a Carnatic music vocalist, was originally published in the Indian Vegan Society’s ( Apr-June 2011 newsletter, ‘VeganVegetarian’. Mohan Santhanam is an award-winning musician who also performs on stage. Mohan Santhanam is a happy and healthy vegan, and in conversation with Shankar Narayan, President of the Indian Vegan Society, describes his rewarding journey as a practicing vegan.

This interview has been reproduced here with permission from the Indian Vegan Society.

Mohan Santhanam (, a Chennai-based Carnatic vocalist, answering the questions posed by Mr. Shankar Narayan, editor of, ‘VeganVegetarian’

Q 1: Since when are you vegan? Before becoming vegan, how was your lifestyle? What is the experience after being vegan? Any benefits? Any difficulties? 

Mohan: I became a vegan in April 2008. So that makes it three years! Before that I was a lacto-vegetarian (I didn’t know the term before) and as with most Indians, I quite thought that I was a “pure” vegetarian and it was all right to have milk and dairy products.

Since I am a practicing Carnatic vocalist, it was ingrained into me by my surroundings that milk was/is absolutely essential. Hence I used to take the routine glass of milk every night and things like that. For me, it wasn’t very difficult to turn vegan. Of course, when I told my wife not to pack the customary curd rice for office lunch, my wife just clicked in exasperation thinking that it was “one of my fads”. However somewhat even to my surprise I realized I really was serious and hence the ordeal of giving up dairy wasn’t all that difficult.

The first thing I realized that I lost weight within the first three months itself. I used to routinely be afflicted with colds which have also stopped. Overall, I can emphatically say that the health benefits have been immense.

Q 2: What does it mean to be vegan to you? Is it just not eating animal products or anything more than that? If it is more, how? 

Mohan: Initially for me, it was “just giving up dairy products”. However, with time, the whole concept of not using animal products grew on me. And one by one, I started giving up leather items, silk and honey. I somehow personally feel that becoming vegan will ultimately make me more tranquil, less impatient and less fuming-and-fretting and learn to take disappointments in stride. I am confident that I will achieve that with the passage of time!

Q 3: You are a Carnatic vocal singer. What is the effect of stopping consuming animal products on your voice, career and life? 

Mohan: I can’t say that stopping the consuming of animal products has directly had an effect on my voice per se. Perhaps this could be a subject for research! I think my *endurance* levels have definitely increased. Career wise, well, it hasn’t had a direct impact though I have been very comfortable and happy with my choice of becoming vegan!

Mohan Santhanam performing at a concert at Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai

Q 4: I heard that both your wife and son have followed your suit. How did you convince them about the virtues of vegan lifestyle and how did you cope with the issues of veganism both at home and office when your family was not vegan? 

Mohan: My son used to simply HATE milk. It used to be such an ordeal to give him that supposedly necessary glass of milk/Bournvita/Horlicks/Boost every morning and evening and I could see that he eventually just resigned himself to being pumped with animal fluids. It didn’t occur to us that he had a sort-of lacto-intolerance that was somehow naturally built into his constitution. My wife and I were just doing what most other parents do – pump children with lacto fluids.

However I always used to point out to my wife that maybe our son was a natural vegan! It took her sometime to accept that and we have now COMPLETELY stopped milk and milk products for him and he certainly hasn’t complained. I also feel certain that my son is definitely better health-wise.

My wife has also followed suit by turning vegan though she for her part says that she hasn’t experienced any positive. In all fairness, for a tea-lover like her, she’s been badly hit by turning vegan because she just detests tea made with soya-milk. I have tried making her ginger tea with soya milk but all she could declare on sipping that was intention to throw up if I continued to insist that she drink it! She now drinks green tea but it’s been a massive compromise for her.

My parents, especially my mother still thinks that I’m being very stupid by giving up milk. We argue about it consistently even now and I’m quite unable to make her see my point of view, I’m afraid. My office people think I’m some kind of a weirdo and some of them tease me about my being vegan (shows the lack of awareness unfortunately) but that doesn’t bother me at all!

Q 5: If the whole world listens to you, what would you say one thing most important to you? 

Mohan: Go vegan – it’s the only solution to end all suffering, global warming and the evils that society seems to be alarmingly afflicted with today.

“The future is Vegan!”

For more interviews featured in this blog, you can click this link.