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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Tribute to Bapu: “Why Being the Lone Vegan Makes You a Power Player” by Ruby Roth

Today is International Day of Non-Violence, a day marked to respect possibly the greatest crusaders of non-violence in the modern world: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, fondly known as Bapu. Bapu continues to inspire the world; in fact, interest in the Gandhian way of life continues to grow more than 60 years after his assassination. While prayer meetings are being held in memory of Bapu in various parts of the country today, British MPs have pledged to go vegan for the day as a tribute to this great thought leader. Let us remind ourselves of Bapu’s famous words, “The greatness of a society and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals.”

We couldn’t find a more fitting tribute to make to Bapu than to assure him we are at it. This stimulating article by Ruby Roth [] re-posted on this blog with her kind consent makes a mark by calling out where we, all the vegans at this point in time on Earth, stand – we are the Early Adopters of an idea that will change the world. We may be the lone ones but we are the unsurpassable voices of sanity and are creating the unmistakable ripples.

Yay! We are the Early Adopters and we are influencing the course of history! We are infallible, we are intuitive, we have the power to drive change, we have the power to make veganism mainstream – Yes We Can!

And, on this day we would also like to share this video in the voice of Steve Jobs that resonates with our idea of change. Incidentally it went on to become one of the greatest commercials of all times: “Here’s to the crazy ones…. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Why Being the Lone Vegan Makes You a Power Player
By Ruby Roth

Being vegan got you feeling alone? Ostracized? Left out at social meals?

Are you fatigued by the “People for Eating Tasty Animals” joke?

Ever feel like you’re the only one who cares about animals?

Well, hold up! I will not have you feeling this way! Let’s bring those feelings to an asphalt-burning halt, case closed, right this minute!

Let me lay a virtual hand on your shoulder and tell you exactly why the work you’re doing—even if you’re doing it alone—makes you a power player in the vegan movement.

In 1962, Everett Rogers published a book called Diffusion of Innovations. In it was a bell curve graph that illustrated how new ideas spread. “Innovators” were on the left, a miniscule 2.5% of the population. Then came the “Early Adopters” at 13.5%. The “Early Majority” and “Late Majority” followed at 34% each, making up the ascent, crown, and descent of the bell. Finally on the right side, were the “Laggards” at 16%.

Innovators are infatuated with new ideas and core-driven to bring about advances. Small in numbers, they are brave and daring, the adventurous few who challenge others to see, think, and behave in a new ways.

Early Adopters immediately see the value and potential of innovative ideas and advances. Empowered and intuitive, they participate—their commitment undeterred by obstacles of inconvenience or expense that new ideas and technologies arise with.

The Early and Late Majorities are respectively less and less comfortable with new ideas, influenced by practicality and habit over innovation. Change requires ease, inexpense, and wide social proof. These groups need others to go before them in order to change their ways.

Laggards refuse to adopt new ideas and technologies until there is no longer a choice.

See where I’m going?

Today, veganism is just being introduced to the mainstream. In fact, at this moment, we are amazingly aligned with Rogers' numbers, vegans making up about 2%+ of the U.S. population!*

Depending on how long you’ve been vegan, you are either an innovator or an early adopter—and that means the vegan movement doesn’t become mainstream without you.

You have more influence than you know. Whether you think it or not, you are normalizing veganism in your community—its definition, existence, its feasibility, and its “face”. Your purchases influence the market and make vegan products more accessible and available.

You are a POWER PLAYER IN THE GAME, ya hear?!

It may be a quiet and sometimes lonesome battle you’re waging, but you are inherently cutting away, subverting, and undermining the meat and dairy industry every step of the way. Don’t you go backing down now!

What others do or say doesn’t matter. It only matters what kind of person you want to be.

The rights we’ve attained throughout history have come from the bottom up, not the top down. So if you’re toeing the line alone, just keep showing up. Wear that vegan T-shirt, keep bringing your favorite dish to the party, carry that green juice in a glass jar when you drop your kid off at school—and smile and wave it around the community like it’s the best thing that has ever happened to you—and them!—because your choices are a flag and you are a leader.


Editorial note:
*In the absence of a census, India-specific figures are not available yet; however as early adopters we all are aware of the sweet winds of change. We know our choices have influenced the market as we have seen an unprecedented number of vegan parallels emerge in the market this year.

Here’s another famous quote from Bapu, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Thursday, August 22, 2013

In Conversation with Ruby Roth: “Kids learn what we’re brave enough to teach them!”

Recently we asked one of our young readers what he would like to see on the blog. The 16 year old replied instantly, “Publish more interviews.” Around the same time, a big noise was brewing in the world media about the demise of an infant born to vegan parents in France, in 2011. Why it was being made such a big deal about after two years could be anybody's guess. Expectedly, opinions were hugely polarized on the matter. It became some sort of a virtual battle between the vegans and the non-vegans.

However, one positive outcome that came off the debate was a consolidation of the numerous studies and case studies demonstrating that vegan pregnancies are absolutely healthy, vegan infants thrive on plant-powered diets, and vegan children can transcend into wonderful young adults. Then, as if by a miracle, we received a newsletter from Ruby Roth and a floodgate was opened to explore the topic, veganism and children with the accomplished writer, artiste, and designer. One thing led to the other and today we are here with an interview of Ruby Roth, the author of three outstanding books on the vegan ethic for children that she has herself illustrated:

1.    That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals: A Book About Vegans, Vegetarians, and All Living Things
2.    Vegan is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action
3.    V is for VEGAN: The ABCs of Being Kind

Ruby’s books are a first in children’s literature to address the emotional lives of animals, factory farming, environment, world hunger, and endangered species in the context of the foods we eat. Ruby grew up in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Kauai and attended UC Santa Cruz where she earned two BA degrees in American Studies and Art. She has also researched animal agriculture, health, nutrition, and the benefits of a plant-based diet for nearly a decade. She currently lives in Los Angeles and travels all over as a vegan consultant and speaker. Today we talk to Ruby to find out more about herself, her activism, her vegan journey, her books, her vision, and the way forward. The blog is very grateful to her for this interview.

In Conversation with Ruby Roth
“There is NO universally accepted concept of childhood. Kids can handle the truth, they learn what we're brave enough to teach them.” ~Ruby Roth~
Photo courtesy: FOX News archives

Vegan India!: Thank you Ruby for consenting to the interview with the Vegan India! blog. We are excited to speak to you, the author of several children’s books on vegan ethics. Please tell us your story, how did you turn vegan and when?

Ruby Roth: In 2003, a friend pointed out that my eating habits did not match my morals and values. I had always interested in health, social justice, and politics, counter-cultural movements and activism, I was raised by a vegetarian mom and had lived on an organic tree farm. At that moment, I had to question what kind of person I really was! I ended up trying veganism for a summer as a health experiment and I stopped getting tonsillitis, lost weight, and had so much energy, it felt like taking off a heavy jacket and starting to run. I started researching the underbelly of the animal agriculture industry and never went back. 

Vegan India!: How has the response to your books been so far – both from the viewpoints of children as well as their parents?

Ruby Roth: I’ve never once seen a child overwhelmed by the facts in my book – in fact, just the opposite. Kids respond to the ways we hurt animals and the environment with a great sense of diplomacy – they think, reflect, ask questions, and want to know how to help. Veganism is inherently a solution and because of that, kids feel empowered by participating. I hear from parents all over the world whose children feel inspired, motivated, and confident in their way of life because they have my books as friends! There has been some outrage in the mainstream media over my books – but this is only because society gives children very little credit for their capabilities to process the truth and participate in the public realm.

Vegan India!: You have a degree in Art and American Studies; did your educational qualification help your activism? What is the most important tool you have used to connect with children and their parents?

Ruby Roth: My interest in justice, anti-racism, and politics during high school and college informed my eventual embrace of veganism. That education prepared me to think critically and always seek what lies beneath the veil. That outlook on life helped me formulate my mission and motto for my work: love deeply, think critically, act responsibly! It is the overall message I use to reach parents and children in each of my books.

First book by Ruby Roth

Vegan India!: What is the age group of children you write for? Please tell us the areas you have covered in your books and how you introduce key topics.

Ruby Roth: My newest book, V Is for Vegan is officially for kids ages 3 and up. My other two books are officially for children ages 7 and up. However, I believe you can start much earlier. You can look at pictures and have important and educational discussions with your kids as soon as they begin becoming aware of the world around them.

Vegan India!: Various studies have confirmed that children are born compassionate and societal conditioning plays a big role in shaping their behavior. Do you believe in this postulate, please share your thoughts.

Ruby Roth: No matter how we begin, I believe we are all affected by bad social shaping that becomes completely normalized as we grow. Meat and dairy production make no logical sense in this day and age – not for health, not for animals, not for the environment or sustainability, nor for energy, water, or world hunger. Most people continue to eat meat and dairy solely because of conditioning, not because they’ve ever made a conscientious choice about what they will or will not put into their bodies. Children are more empathetic to animals and nature because they’ve not yet been so conditioned.

Vegan India!: If you had to make key suggestions to parents of children who seem to naturally ask fundamental questions about their relationship with animals and express their discomfort at eating animal parts and secretions, what would they be? What should parents make of it? How should they respond to their children and what should they absolutely avoid saying?

Ruby Roth: I don’t think there is anything we should avoid discussing. We always need to tell the truth, even if it’s painful or difficult to say. Just stick to the facts without getting very emotional. That way, kids will hear the information without feeling fear. When kids ask me why people eat animals if it’s so hurtful and bad for the environment, I tell them, “Some people don’t know as much as you know… and some people don’t care! That’s why it’s ever so important for you to keep caring and put your love into action.”

Vegan India!: If you had to extend some tips to vegan parents, what would they be? How could vegan parents get their children involved in making moral choices like themselves?

Ruby Roth: It is easier than you think! Just involve your kids as you, yourself, are learning about food, animal agriculture, the environment, and all sectors affected by our food choices. When you see an ad for meat, talk about who’s behind it. When you are shopping for food, have your kids help make choices and involve them in the kitchen with tasks that are a challenge! Even if you think the topics are too complicated, talk anyway – you are planting seeds of knowledge and critical thinking skills.

Second book by Ruby Roth

Vegan India!: From time to time, noise is made against vegans raising their children vegan. Health of the child has been cited as the primary concern. What is your stand on this matter? Could you please guide our readers to your favorite resources on how to care for the nutrition of vegan infants, babies, and children?

Ruby Roth: Throughout time, cultures around the world have thrived on plant-based diets. People must learn that we have our own plant-food “pyramid” with everything we need and more—including recommendations for many nutrients that the average American, for example, is lacking—B12, D, antioxidants, etc.  There are several books out about vegan pregnancy and Dr. Gabriel Cousens has also written about infant and childhood nutrition in his book, The Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine.

Vegan India!: Who are your favorite vegan authors? If you were to recommend some books and materials that shaped your own ideas, what would those be?

Ruby Roth: Most significantly, Dr. Gabriel Cousens and David Wolfe and all their books, videos, and articles. I think these two men are always on the forefront of the knowledge that exists and that is available today.

Vegan India!: You have just released your third book. Could you please walk us through it, what is it about?

Ruby Roth: Yes! It is called V Is for Vegan: The ABCs of Being Kind. It is veganism for the youngest audience ever! In just 26 rhyming sentences, kids will learn the main food groups, some “non”-food groups, and other concepts about being kind to animals and the environment. It is bright, funny, and I promise your kids will light up with laughter and learning! And I recommend that adults get it, too – keep it on your coffee tables, in your offices, or waiting rooms to share with others who might pick up the book out of sheer curiosity. It’s the easiest read yet, for kids ages 0 to 100!

Recent release by Ruby Roth

Please note: All three books by Ruby Roth are available at many of the online bookstores in India. You can use the India Book Store link to check them out.

  • To receive regular updates from Ruby Roth, please join her on Facebook by clicking this link.
  • To watch and read about toddler, Luiz Antonio who shot to fame as the world watched the little one experience the moment of truth with regard to eating animals, please click this link on Huffington Post.
  • To check out a bibliography on the topic of Vegan Pregnancy, Infants, and Children, please click this link on Gary Yourofsky’s website, ADAPTT.

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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Introducing Krya Sustainable Goodie No. 2: The Dish Wash Powder that Glitters and is Good

Click this link for Goodie No. 1.

~ Part I: Everything that glitters is not good ~

Have you ever wondered what goes into the making of a commercial dish wash? If you read the tiny notes on the labels of say the top Indian dish wash brands, you will be surprised to find they have been rather noncommittal about their ingredients. So how do we know what these dish washes contain? Curiosity got the better of us and we did some research and found that most dish washes contain an array of shockingly damaging chemicals. Although these ingredients might differ from brand to brand, the crux remains the same.

The ingredients of a typical dish wash liquid/soap can be broadly classified into two categories: active ingredients and inactive ingredients. Active ingredients are intended to destroy bacteria while inactive ingredients are primarily used for foam and colour.

Some key active ingredients in commercial dish washes are:
•    Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (cleaner, foaming agent)
•    Nonyphenol (surfactant)
•    Tricoslan (anti-bacterial, anti-fungal)

And some key inactive ingredients in commercial dish washes are:
•    SD Alcohol 3-A (controls thickness and clarity)
•    Methyl Paraben (preservative)
•    Cocamide DEA (foam booster)
•    Sodium Chloride, Dyes, Colorants, Aroma

According to Wikipedia, Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate has been known to cause eye or skin irritation in experiments done on animals and humans. The very knowledge that the multinational companies test the chemical on animals should be a deterrent.

Nonyphenols not only disrupt the functioning of the endocrine system but have also been detected in waste water streams across the globe, which is a concern since it is toxic for many aquatic organisms.

Triclosan is perhaps the most controversial of all chemicals. There is a massive debate on the safety and effectiveness of Triclosan. So much so that Wikipedia has an entire section on the health concerns of Triclosan.

Same is the case with SD Alcohol 3-AMethyl Paraben, and Cocamide DEA.

It is clear that almost every chemical that constitutes a commercial dish wash has some sort of health warning attached to it, which you can read by clicking the hyper linked words above. Most are tested on animals as well. They are therefore neither good for human health nor good for the health of the rest of the Planet. The MNCs behind them have invested millions of dollars in research only to produce harmful concoctions detrimental to the interests of a healthy Planet. The question we really need to ask ourselves today is – do we want to be part of this destruction?

~ Part II: The goodie that glitters and is good ~

Look around, you needn’t be. You can choose not to be.

Photograph courtesy: Krya

Here is a chance for total freedom from chemical dish washes: The Natural Dish Wash Powder by Krya, the name for the truly ethical brand of household cleaning products.

The Krya Natural Dish Wash Powder is music to the vegan ear: for neither is the product tested on animals nor does it contain any animal-derived ingredient or any other ingredient that might have been tested on animals. The truth is that all goodies by Krya are firm on vegan ethics because the body, soul, and spirit of the Company reflected in the vision of its founders, Preethi and Srinivas, is decidedly vegan.

So what does this natural dish wash powder contain? Well, it contains a well-researched mixture of organic soapberries, neem, zedoary, and lemongrass essential oil – all from nature’s factory. Soapberry is the primary cleaner and foaming agent while neem is the anti-bacterial agent, zedoary lends the aroma, and finally lemongrass is both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal in action.

It naturally follows that plant ingredients can never harm the human skin and is gentle on the skin instead. No harm even if you accidentally ingest it. Many of us have the tendency of rinsing our utensils a couple  of times to ensure the grease is completely removed and they are not left with any trace of foam or chemicals; however, with the Krya powder, we can leave such fears aside. In fact, it is so safe that you could feed the residual water to plants. And when it seeps under the earth, it dissolves completely, leaving no trace like the harmful chemicals in commercial dish washes do. What’s more, try smelling your fingers post a wash; the fruity smell is so pleasant that you’d be mistaken for having undergone an aroma therapy!

One Vegan India! member who used the dish wash powder described the experience thus:
“I was a little curious whether it will cut through tough grease and burnt stubborn sticky food stains. I am happy to report that it worked well to my satisfaction. The most stubborn food stains were removed by keeping the utensil moist for five minutes. I did not have to scrape harder either. I always had this fear with commercial dish washes that if I don’t rinse 2-3 times, the chemicals might stick with residual food particles and find their way to my stomach. So indirectly, I am saving water by using only a fraction of it as compared to earlier.”
There is another thing we noticed while testing Krya and it is about the myth around dish washes. Most of us are led to believe that more foam means better cleaning. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Our week long experiment of testing a commercial dish wash alongside Krya suggests that foam has nothing to do with cleaning. Indeed, the Natural Dish Wash Powder by Krya pilots a new, kind, sustainable way of thinking and acting.

Are we ready to appreciate the efforts and change our habits for the sake of our Earth?

How to purchase Natural Dish Wash Powder by Krya: Please click this link on the Krya website to bring home this good, good goodie anywhere in India. And, to stay in touch with Krya on Facebook, please click this link.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

“Saving Life or the Environment... What Do We Need?” by Ankita Mukhopadhyay

Saving Life or the Environment... What Do We Need?, an article by Ankita Mukhopadhyay

Ankita Mukhopadhyay is a former Delhi University (DU) student who has recently completed her Under Graduation in History (Honours) from Lady Shri Ram College. While at college, Ankita has been a correspondent for DU Beat, an independent Delhi University student newspaper, where she has written articles highlighting the need for animal activism. She has also helped organize a session with renowned animal rights activist, Smt. Maneka Gandhi, in her college. 

Ankita has been brought up mostly in Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, with a gap of two years when she lived in Toronto, Canada. According to Ankita, these two years were the turning point of her life when she became part of a petition campaign for PETA to protest the loss of habitat of the Giant Whale. This campaign made her realize the need for humans to be compassionate towards animals and work to secure their rights. Ankita has been a regular supporter of animal rights activities in her locality in Mumbai, especially in protecting the habitat of stray dogs. This young warrior believes in reaching out to people and educating them about issues they are not aware of.

Ankita wishes to help create a world in the future where equality will not be restricted to humans, but will also extend to nature and its original residents – the animals!

The blog heartily welcomes the new young champion for animals, Ankita Mukhopadhyay to voice her opinions on this space.

Image credit: (

With the growing awareness of animal rights issues in today’s world, thanks to significant organizations, there has begun a spate of protests, online and offline, in regard to animal cruelty, over the exploitation of animals for meat, fur, etc. We all want to do ‘something’ for animals and other living creatures, something productive for the society. But a lot of us do not realize that with the way things work today, incessant protests, agitations, and petitions are useless unless things on the natural front are worked out. All our actions center round the growing question of ecological awareness, which has not gained much of a hold in our country despite historians, sociologists, and other scholars trying to prove otherwise.

A case study

Despite all sorts of awareness campaigns, I feel that there has been little done to integrate the environment with animal rights causes. While protecting animals, we do not realize that without protecting their habitat, there is little or no use of our compassion towards them. I will give you a small example. I am a self professed lover of dogs, going to the extent of loving every stray on the road, as if it were my own child. I live in Kharghar, a small area in Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, and beside my house there was a CIDCO (community development corporation of my area) plot, which was a mini jungle with only trees and different kinds of bushes. It looked weird that in the middle of an urbanized area, there was a plot of land, on which no one, but only the government, laid any claim! Recently, the land was given away to the Metro Rail Corporation, which began constructing a metro station on that plot that entailed ‘clearing’ the jungle plot. Now, you may ask me, what is the relation of that plot with the stray dogs? I really didn’t care much when bulldozers came and ripped apart the soil, loggers chopped off the trees. But my lack of awareness impacted the dogs of my area in a major way.

The CIDCO plot was the home of all the strays in my area. At night, they had their daily congregations there; the jungle was a respite for them from the roads that threatened their very existence. When it rained, clean water accumulated in the burrows between the trees, where the dogs got fresh water. Now, all they have are puddles on the roads, from where they drink water and a nearby tandoor store. The strays have no place where they can bring up their families in peace and I have seen desperate females crying in anguish when one of their little ones dies under the wheels of a car or a truck. The plot that I earlier considered just another part of my life now became a cause of concern for me.

It is fascinating to see how people become compassionate towards a cause because something of their interest gets involved in it. I, like any other materialistic human being, decided to not protest against the destruction of the forest plot next to my house. But when I began to see how it affected the dogs in my area, I began to treat this issue as my own. But on further thought, I realized how much that plot meant to other creatures too. Every monsoon, I used to see a particular breed of bird migrate to that small plot of land. Now, I don’t even spot pigeons on my window sill. My neighbors say, “Thank God, finally the metro is here”. But what the government has sanctioned is an underground metro in Kharghar. Then why is the entire plot being ‘cleaned’? Is it because that after the underground construction, some big-shot wealthy real estate owner will build a multi-storey building on that plot, and sell the flats for crores of rupees, just because it is right beside the metro station?

Integrating animal activism with environmental ethics

I am a self-professed animal rights supporter. But in my animal activism, I forgot that what animals need protection the most from are human beings themselves. I save a monkey from a man using it for entertainment purposes, but where will I send it after I save it? Where will it go? It will maybe roam around on the streets and one fine day get trampled by a car. Or maybe some laboratory will take pity on it and make more ‘productive’ use of the poor soul. I am not trying to present an exaggerated view point, I am just highlighting the need to integrate animal activism with environmental ethics. There is a kind of chauvinism in every kind of viewpoint presented to us and animal activism has become more of an elite, high society kind of a hobby. But this ‘elite activism’ will lead us nowhere unless we can create a society worth living for other creatures.

How much should a person consume?

It is completely wrong to assume, however, that environmentalism was never present in Indian society. Ramachandra Guha, in his work, How much should a person consume? highlights how in the Puranas and Vedas, there is an emphasis on protecting forests. But we seem to have simply forgotten what we have done in the past, forgotten about the Chipko movements, and other ‘andolans’ that people at the grass roots level fought to save the environment. We have become so blinded by the need to rush towards a ‘developed’ nation status that we have forgotten some things in India can’t be dealt with in the ‘western’ way. Radhakamal Mukherjee, one of India’s pioneers in ecological sociology, too postulated the theory that the natural environment sets certain limits to human action, boundary conditions that humans must learn to respect. Thus, the “ecological process is constantly thwarted and modified by the [human] cultural process, but again and again reasserts itself”. After all, we all know that the Dodo died because of two factors: hunting and environment destruction. There is a need to learn from the past to understand and analyze the present circumstances.

Animal rights activism, like feminism, is a movement that spread towards India from the west and people in India took towards it like a moth towards a flame. In a country where only 31% of the population is of vegetarian individuals(1), the fact that animal activism is on the rise is a matter of achievement. But we need to understand that environmental education should not be restricted only in the school syllabus. I studied Environmental Education in the CISCE board till my class 12, and the topic of environmental management, protection of animals from exploitation, lab testing, poaching, etc., did create a theoretical awareness in me and my classmates; however none of us really understood the gravity of the situation, as we weren’t exposed to the real-world problems.

Success through a multi-pronged approach

What we also need to realize is that multiple perspectives and theories need to be taken into account in the way we view issues. One particular way of thinking cannot survive on its own. I used to think that simply feeding the stray dogs in my area and stopping speeding cars on the street to protect them was enough to protect them, but there are numerous things we need to do to achieve success in animal activism.

There is a need to petition to the government highlighting the different ways in which urbanization can be achieved without affecting the environment and destroying the scenic beauty around us. I agree there are people who are continually doing this, but we need to do it more. Again and again. We need to rise and realize to save the environment that sustains the animals we love so much. I do hope that we all act at the right time to see some positive change. And I am sure that one day we will see some change. In some way or the other, we will see change.

(1) The Hindu, Food habits of a nation, Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar, 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

“Our Relationship with Food is Dysfunctional” by Manasa Rajan

Our Relationship with Food is Dysfunctional, an article by Manasa Rajan

Manasa Rajan is the Co-founder and Vegan Nutrition Coach at “Cure Yourself With Food”. Cure Yourself With Food promotes healthy food choices to help enhance energy levels, feel and look fresh, and prevent diseases and effects of ageing.

Manasa has been an ethical vegetarian for most of her life as an expression of her love for animals; she embraced the vegan lifestyle two years ago. Her daughter's health condition helped the family make the decision and now, both mother and daughter, who is seven years old, are healthy, happy vegans. As a vegan nutritionist, Manasa’s philosophy is to encourage people to look at their lifestyle and food choices with the goal of ensuring a healthier, younger body, and preventing disease. Manasa is based out of Bangalore and provides consultation/coaching to anyone who is interested. 

The blog is grateful to Manasa Rajan for this valuable guest post. Manasa’s contact details are mentioned below her article.

Image credit:
It is ironical that the cornerstone of modern medicine as well as ancient wisdom and Ayurveda has been food – “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”; yet we, for many reasons and many vested interests, have come so far away from it that we have forgotten food is for nourishment, and physical, emotional, and spiritual health and happiness. Culturally, we were taught to respect food and thank God for having received it, we pray to it to nourish and heal us, and calmly eat the freshly prepared food, feel satisfied and satiated. But, where is the reverence and relevance for food in our lives, when we watch television or check our mail while chomping down food, as a chore to get done with? The food itself is full of artificial stimulants, chemicals, preservatives, not really “food” at all. No wonder then that lifestyle diseases are the norm at 40 years, our children reach puberty sooner, are obese, every family we know has someone fighting cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's.

So, what do we do? How do we change our food, how do we mend our relationship with it? What do we eat?

Food should be intrinsically nutritive

Food should be full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and of course carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, and water. Food should provide energy, protect our organs from degeneration, protect us from disease, help fight stress, and help fight effects of ageing! Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds or “plant-based foods”, do just that. Incorporating a lot of raw fruits and vegetables, nuts, and sprouted grains and seeds is the best way to ensure we get all the healthful nutrients from our diet, in turn improving our health, reversing disease, signs of ageing, and obesity. It also makes us more energetic, and improves the skin and mental clarity. In cooking, the nutrients get lost due to the heat in the cooking process.

I considered myself a healthy eater even when I was a vegetarian eating dairy. I was fit, lifted weights thrice a week, but I suffered from migraines, which were debilitating and no course of treatment over the years had brought any relief. And then I became a vegan and included a lot of raw food in my diet. Within weeks I felt fresh and light and my migraine disappeared forever!! I have been so lucky to see so many people experience a positive change by adopting the vegan lifestyle.

Manasa's Raw Pea Hummus

A lady in her 50s with high cholesterol, and osteo arthritis and severe pain in her knees was advised by her doctor to eat a dairy rich diet, take calcium supplements and a whole lot of other supplements and painkillers. When she came to me, she was hesitant to go dairy-free but finally did. She also went high on raw food and within three months, her cholesterol levels improved significantly, her calcium levels were normal, and her knees felt significantly less painful; she could now walk 3-4 kms everyday. A man in his 40s with type 2 diabetes was able to reduce his medication by half in three months just by reducing dairy and adding lots of raw fruits and vegetables to his diet. My six year old daughter suddenly developed allergies a few years back with hives on her whole body that were itchy and uncomfortable and we didn't know what caused it. The doctor put her on allergy meds and then stronger allergy meds with steroids, which made her gain weight; however, the hives were still present. We moved to a diet free of dairy, processed food, and sugar. We included clean, high percentage of raw plant-based food and sure enough, her allergies subsided, she could swim, go out in the sun, eat peanuts without any hives now – all of which earlier caused her to break out.

Food should be clean

Apart from being hygienically prepared, what we consume must be free from preservatives, chemicals, artificial colors, stimulants, hydrogenated oil, and as far as possible be organically grown. Processed junk food is exactly what the name suggests – junk! The chemicals in it increase the shelf life and make it more visually appealing and addictive. There are about 3000 chemicals systematically added to our food! Now, to hydrogenated oil otherwise known as trans-fat—cheaper than other oils/fat—increases the shelf life of the food while coating our arteries with fat. Trans fat is present in biscuits, packaged popcorn, and so many other packaged foods! All of the chemicals that we consume get deposited in our body as toxins and cause disease.

Manasa's Raw Energy Bites

Food should not cause disease

Our food should not clog our arteries, be the cause of arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, or make us obese or depressed! When it comes to the food that makes us sick, there are innumerable lies spread around us for financial benefit – for example, sugar and chemical-filled packaged juice is good for us! We should go on drinking cow's, buffalo's, goat's milk well into our old age for supposed health benefits, when in reality the by products from digesting it reside in our body as toxins and are disease causing. Energy drinks are nothing but a concoction of chemicals that give an artificial high. Meat, which is touted as a great source of protein, is actually not an ideal source for us humans at all and can cause cancer, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and so on.

Food should be freshly prepared and had in the most natural form possible, with the least amount of salt, refined sugar, and oil

Manasa's Spinach & Cherry Tomato Pie
Over cooking, deep frying, over salting are virtually rendering the nutritive benefits of the food useless. Fruits and vegetables are the most nutrient rich in their natural, raw form. Grains and seeds are the most nutrient dense as raw sprouts or micro greens.

When we start eating more raw and lightly cooked food with less salt, sugar, and oil, our taste buds develop, we begin to appreciate the wonderful taste and textures of natural, real food. We are able to efficiently digest our food and absorb the maximum nutrients. We feel more satiated and happy with our food. There are no feelings of guilt attached to eating. Slowly we build a healthy relationship of trust with our bodies and with our food, and we realize that our body is a self-healing organism, with an innate intelligence to guide us and heal us.

To consult Manasa, you can reach her at:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

‘VGF’: Come to the FIRST Vegan Food Fair in Bangalore on Feb 24, 2013 and Experience Food's Power!

In thinking about plant foods, many of us seem to don culturally-and-market- driven blinkers. We hear people repeat things such as plant-based foods are not exciting, tasty, diverse, and cool enough. As we deny more, these ideas grow on us and exercise more power on us.

However, the truth is quite contrary. Let us consider the diverse wonders that Nature has provisioned for us in the form of plants, aptly summarized by Dr. Will Tuttle in the chapter, “Food’s Power” of his masterpiece, World Peace Diet:

“Most plant foods are fruits and seeds released from grasses, herbs, trees, vines, and other plants…. For example, grains such as wheat, oats, rice, corn, barley, quinoa, rye, and millet are the seeds and fruits of cereal grasses. Legumes such as soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, beans, and peanuts are the seeds of leguminous plants. Fruit-vegetables like tomatoes, squashes, peppers, pumpkins, okra, eggplants, and cucumbers are the fruits and seeds of herbaceous plants. Fruits and seeds released from trees and other plants make up many of the other plant foods we eat, such as apples, oranges, bananas, papayas, avocados, breadfruit, melons, grapes, lemons, plums, peaches, cherries, apricots, olives, figs, dates, and other fruits; blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and other berries; pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamias, cashews, almonds, coconuts, and other nuts; and sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, cocoa, flax seeds, pinenuts, and other seeds. Some foods are seed-bearing flowers, like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and artichokes, or spore-bearing fruits of underground fungi, like mushrooms, or starchy tubers like potatoes and yams. A few are roots, like carrots and beets, or leaves, like chard, cabbage, and lettuce, or stalks, like asparagus, celery, and sugarcane.”

Whoa, that’s a lot, isn’t it! To bring this idea into our homes and hearth, Bangalore, this Sunday, February 24, 2013 will see its FIRST vegan gourmand food fair called the VGF, replete with decadent deliciousness! Yes, there will be vegan cheese, curds, barfis, exotic pickles, chocolate truffles, multi-grain cupcakes, exotic cupcakes, gluten-free orange-almond cakes, banana walnut cake, carrot cake, exotic coffee chocolate, Ferrero Rocher cake, butterscotch cake, banana chocolate chip muffins, cinnamon buns, tofu scramble sandwiches, stir fried tofu, cashew milk beverage, coconut butter, vegan ice cream.... It is a day to spoil yourself with vegan choices, a day to first-hand experience the diversity and deliciousness of vegan food!

For the complete details of VGF, please visit this page on Veganosaurus blog.

To join the VGF event instantly, please visit the event page on Facebook:


Dr. Will Tuttle in the same chapter of World Peace Diet continues:
“Behind the plant foods on our plates, we see orchards and gardens, fields, forests, and seasons, and people nurturing and tending plants. If they are organically grown with sustainable and small-scale methods, we see the beauty and abundance of the earth yielding delicious and healthy foods to hands that practice caring and work in harmony with nature’s rhythms.

Looking deeply, we see that there is very little suffering caused by eating these foods….  unlike animals, which are mobile and thus need a nervous system with pain receptors to help them avoid self-damaging behaviors, plants have nothing analogous to a physical nervous system or pain receptors. Since they are rooted and stationary, there is no reason for nature to grant mechanisms that would help them by allowing them to feel pain.”

Let us keep it this way in our hearts, forever. Come to the VGF and experience Food’s Power.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

‘Senso Vegetarian Shoes’ Because Every Living Being Matters

From a few designs to an impressive men’s collection, from launching a ladies’ collection to laboring towards the collection to grow, from educating about animal-free leather to acquiring a PETA-approved cruelty-free certification, this blog has followed ‘Senso Vegetarian Shoes’ journey and seen them achieve new heights by sheer commitment to a cause. It all started in 2012 from a single store in Mumbai and now, Senso Vegetarian Shoes is all set to expand into many other cities. What’s admirable is that they have never wavered in their commitment to safeguard the ‘right to life’ of animals, an ethic central to their business and which makes them extraordinary.

This blog heartily welcomes, Ritu, Director of Senso Vegetarian Shoes, to share their story and enlighten us on the soul and the essence of the company.

In Conversation with Ritu, Director, Senso Vegetarian Shoes

Vegan India!: Thank you so much for consenting to this interview with the Vegan India! blog. It is heartening to know that your company is steadfast on ethical values. Please tell us the motivation behind founding Senso Shoes.

Ritu: Senso is the brainchild of two vegetarian friends and the company was formed to give vegetarians an alternative to leather products. People usually expect great quality and durability from leather products, and insist on buying “100% genuine leather”, without realizing the cruelty endured by animals to produce them.

Our brand aims to reverse that mindset by offering high quality, fashionable footwear that is against animal cruelty. We believe that you don’t need to sacrifice on quality or durability if you go animal-free.

The Senso Team

Vegan India!: Many do not know the dark secrets of the leather industry and take pride in saying it’s “genuine” leather/shoes/accessories. Please comment at what costs the “genuine” leather is made available.  

Poster courtesy:
Ritu: This has been the most surprising thing for me, personally. As a Hindu, I usually see how sacred and revered the cow is in Hinduism; the cow is part of our rituals and we won’t eat beef because of this. But on the other hand, we insist on buying genuine leather products. What most people don’t realize is that cows are being slaughtered to produce these products for us. And if we won’t eat cows, why should we wear them?

Vegan India!: It is a notion that “genuine” leather is one, more durable and two, fashionable. Thirdly, many consider “genuine” leather as a status symbol. Please tell us what you would say to counter each of these three viewpoints.

Ritu: I would say leather is more durable, but only if you take extreme care. You can’t let it get in water, and if it’s “genuine” leather it will have a strong smell. “Genuine” leather will also cost you more.

As for fashion, I don’t think it’s limited to animal leather products. There are different materials that can be used to create fashionable footwear. So going leather-free doesn’t mean you have to compromise on style.

I guess leather is considered as a status symbol because of its price tag. Although, I really believe that we are paying a much higher price for leather products than the monetary value. It’s senseless, the cruelty endured by animals to produce these products.

Vegan India!: Many would be curious to know what “vegetarian” shoes and accessories are. Please tell us what cruelty-free or animal-free raw materials Senso Shoes uses in making shoes and accessories, and how they are procured.

Ritu: For us, “vegetarian” means that our products are 100% animal-free. Most of our footwear is designed using polyurethane. This material is versatile, lightweight, resilient, comfortable, and long-wearing.

In terms of style and fashion, polyurethane is exceptionally disguised to offer the same look and feel of high quality leather. This innovative material has a tough exterior; while maintaining a soft and springy interior to cushion your feet.

Some Senso designs from the men's formal shoes collection

Some Senso designs for women

Vegan India!: Many western as well as Indian designers have begun to denounce animal leather for making shoes, accessories, and garments. In India, the Fashion Design Council of India has announced the Fashion for Freedom Boycott Bill to encourage vegan/vegetarian fashion. As emerging players in the market, as a company, have you felt an impact of these developments on your clientele base? How has the response to Senso Vegetarian Shoes been so far?  

Ritu: It’s great that people are becoming more aware of what they are wearing and how it’s made. Earlier, being a vegetarian was limited only to our dietary habits; however, now people realize that it’s a lifestyle. There is more to it than the food you eat.

The Bill is a great step in allowing people to make conscious fashion decisions; however it hasn’t really impacted us. I think there are very few companies that cater to vegetarians, and I can’t think of many that are 100% animal-free. Whenever people hear of us, they are really glad to know that they now have a choice, which they didn’t earlier.

The response to our products has been great thus far. We are still getting the word out and trying to associate with organizations that promote vegan/vegetarian lifestyle. I am really glad to tell you that PETA has approved us as a Vegan brand, and this has helped in maintaining our credibility as a 100% animal-free organization.

Also would like it if you could include our contact details, in case Vegan India! readers have any questions or would like to visit the store. Please see our details below:

Senso Vegetarian Shoes
Tel: +91-22-25611995
Fax: +91-22-25611996
Customer Service: +91-22-25611997, +91-22-25611998

Location: Shop No.1, Moti Nagar, LBS Marg,
Mulund West, Mumbai – 400080
Maharashtra, India
Landmark: Next to Nirmal Lifestyle Shopping Mall

Twitter: @SensoVegetarian

Please note: Many designs from Senso Vegetarian Shoes are available at the online store on the website. You can enter the code, vegan01, to avail a 15% discount on the merchandise you select. The Senso collection also comprises an animal-free range of belts for men and purses for women.

Poster courtesy: PETA

You can also read one of our previous stories, Who Pays For Your Leather Shoes? to learn more about the “genuine” leather industry and how to buy animal-free leather.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

In Conversation with Anuradha Sawhney: A Peep into “The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!” and a Happy New Year!

It's official. India's first vegan cookbook, The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!, is out. This is a treasure at a time when India is waking up to the many disturbing realities of food production.

Food binds. It has always been a central part of everything we do – whether it be ceremonies or festivals or events or meetings or travel. Food sustains. It gives us what we need to live. And the vegan consciousness takes this given to a new, enlightened level of understanding. At what expense is our food being made available to us? The vegan mind questions.

This book is more than a recipe book. It is among the finest examples of mainstream vegan advocacy in the Indian scenario. It has Bollywood and it has the message. It has made a great leap in inspiring change with creativity and purpose.

Today, in our very first post of the New Year, we heartily welcome the versatile author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!, Anuradha Sawhney, to share more about her book, her activism, her outlook, her journey, her message.

For those in the animal rights circles, Anuradha Sawhney needs no introduction. For the uninitiated amongst us, Anuradha is the ex Chief Functionary of PETA India. She is one among the early vegans in India and also among the early animal rights campaigners. She served the animal emancipation cause for nine years beginning 2000 working with PETA. During this time, she was ranked by the Femina magazine as amongst their 50 most powerful women in India. Currently she is the Director of the vegan food service and wellness center, Back to the Basics in Pune. She frequently writes on various aspects of animal rights and the vegan lifestyle in different mainstream publications. Anuradha lives in Pune with her family that includes seven rescued cats. She is a very busy activist and this blog is immensely grateful to her for taking time off to respond to the questions.

In Conversation with Anuradha Sawhney

Vegan India!: Thank you so much Anuradha for consenting to this interview with the Vegan India! blog. It is great to have the opportunity to do this interview with you. Anuradha, you embraced the vegan lifestyle in 2000 at a time when there were very few vegans in India and not much awareness. Please tell us what you feel has changed in the vegan scenario in India in the last 10-12 years. Also where is the movement headed, what is the next logical step, what do you see in the crystal ball in the Indian context?

Anuradha Sawhney: I am happy to be doing this interview. Yes I turned vegan in 2000, when I joined PETA India. A requirement of joining it was that I had to be vegan. So, though I was vegetarian before (a true confession: it took me many tries before I turned vegetarian for the final time, as giving up mutton was the easiest, giving up chicken and fish was the toughest), I turned vegan on the day I joined them. Within two months of joining, I was made the head of the India office, a position I held for over nine years, till I finally retired. During this time, I not only stayed vegan, I also found out that there was unimaginable cruelty that is still being inflicted on our revered cows. In fact, my colleagues and I at PETA put together a report on the state of the dairy industry in India, which was very well received.

In the year 2000, there were hardly any food choices for vegans. If you went out to eat, you could order any vegetarian Chinese dish as long as there was no paneer in it, at Indian food restaurants, you had to specify over and over that you wanted a dish that had no doodh, no dahi, no butter, no cream, no ghee, over and over. The waiter would seem to have understood the order, and then invariably bring the dish with dahi, or cream, or butter. I returned countless dishes back to the restaurant kitchens, and spoke with countless chefs, begging them to make me some food other than dal, bhindi masala, palak mattar, you get it! Very rarely, did I ever get my wish.

If I wanted to cook at home, the choice was as dismal. I was forced to cook simple, basic fare, like the aforementioned dishes, as there were no decent vegan cooking ingredients available in the market. Yes, you got soya milk in different flavours, and yes, you also got tofu, but they tasted terrible! It was only one company making these products, and no one must have told them that their products tasted terrible! It seemed everything tasty was made in ghee, and I had to forgo Indian sweets for many years since not only did they contain ghee, they contained milk or its derivatives like khoya. If I had not turned vegan for the animals, and if I was not passionate about animals, I would have given it up in a heartbeat, the food choices were so dismal.

Today of course, it is very easy to turn vegan in India. Lucky you if you have decided to turn vegan at this point of time! Now in almost every decently stocked supermarket, one can find fake meat products. The soya milk available now has the flavor of the soya bean removed from it, which makes it very palatable to the taste, unlike the options I had back in 2000. The milk tastes so good that one can even have a cold coffee or a hot chocolate with no compromise on taste. And you also find almond milk and rice milk and cashew milk, all really tasty and all healthy alternatives to milk. So now, instead of only consuming soya milk, you can try peanut milk, cashew milk, and almond milk as alternatives to dairy. It is now possible to find great tasting vegan sausages and burger patties and mince pies, sitting cheek by jowl in the freezer section of supermarkets! Things are looking up! An Indian company has already started to produce fake meat products as they have seen the huge potential for these products.

Eating wholegrain, oil free, plant-based diets is fast becoming the norm in today’s age of high cholesterol, obesity, lifestyle-based cancers, hypertension, and adult-onset diabetes. The recipes in my book fit the bill of being nutritious, whole grain, and plant-based to a T!

Feeding half the world’s grain crop to animals raised for meat, eggs, and milk instead of directly to humans is a significant waste of natural resources, including fossil fuels, water, and land. To meet the daily nutritional needs of a rapidly expanding population, the world’s human community needs to reduce its reliance on animal products and shift to a more plant-based diet.

Some points to think about:

•    Meat production typically uses 5, 20, or even 100 times the land, water, and energy that plant food production does. As much as 80% of the global soybean crop and 40-50% of the annual corn crop are fed to cattle, pigs, chickens, and other animals used in agriculture.

•    According to recent research by the International Food Policy Research Institute, if this practise continues, the global meat industry “may find itself in a position of competing with poor people for cereals” and other grains used as feed stocks for farmed animals.

•    According to the UN Environment Programme, “stabilizing the current meat production per capita by reducing meat consumption in the industrialized world and restraining it worldwide to 2000 level of 37.4/kg/capita in 2050 would free estimated 400 million tons of cereal per year for human consumption”. That is enough food to satisfy the annual caloric needs for more than 1 billion people.

•    Raising animals for food requires substantially greater quantities of water than raising plants for human consumption. It can take 5 times as much water to supply 10 grams of protein from beef than from rice, and 20 times more water to supply 500 calories from beef than from rice. According to the International Water Management Institute and the Stockholm International Water Institute, an average of 6 m3/kg of water is required to produce 1 kg of chicken, whereas 0.4-3 m3/kg of water is needed to produce 1 kg of cereals.

•    At cattle slaughter plants globally, 44-60% of total water used for processing is utilized during slaughter, evisceration, and de-boning. A “conservative” estimate by FAO in 2005 found that processing chickens for meat uses 1.9 km3 (0.45 mi3), which represents 0.05% of all water used globally.

•    In a growing world in which nearly 1 billion people are already hungry, animal products represent an extremely wasteful choice of nourishment.

•    The land used to grow crops to feed livestock is 10 times what is needed to grow crops for human consumption. 70% of former Amazon rainforest is now used for pastureland. The increase of carbon dioxide due to forest clearing, as well as the tremendous methane production of huge herds of cattle, contributes a great deal to the greenhouse effect and to global warming.

•    According to author Keith Akers, the United States uses twice the energy per capita on food production than the less developed countries use per capita for all purposes. Even if 100% of all the land on the six inhabited continents were used for agriculture (including the Sahara desert, Greenland, etc.), and even if that land were as productive as U.S. agricultural land, there would still not be enough land to feed the world population if their diet continues to be a meat-based diet.

Vegan India!: You have inspired many. Who/what has inspired you?

Anuradha Sawhney: I have been inspired by the pain in the eyes of animals on the streets. A horse who is being whipped to pull a heavy load and who just cannot understand how he can possibly go any faster. A dog who comes wagging up to people because he just wants to find a human to belong to, so he can give that human lifelong devotion and gets hit by sticks and stones in return. A goat who has no idea that in a few more days, life as the goat knows it will be over, or a cow who is being led to slaughter following her butcher unhesitatingly and trustingly…. these are the things that have inspired me.

Vegan India! Coming to your recently published book, The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!, please tell us how the idea of the book came to you? With a very stimulating introduction from you in the book, with very informative and scientifically-verifiable forewords from luminaries – Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., and Mickey Mehta, and healthy vegan recipes from the kitchens of essentially the who’s who of Indian cinema, music, and fashion, please tell us what is the aim of the book as you conceived it? Who do you hope will or should read the book and benefit from it?

Anuradha Sawhney: The idea to put together this collection of recipes came about as a result of a true life incident. I managed to reverse the onset of certain heart disease for me with the aid of a nutrition-based vegan diet, along with light exercise. I learnt the importance of a nutrition-based diet the hard way, when in January 2010, I was told that I was on the way to getting heart disease. A routine blood test had shown that I had very high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, and I was advised immediate medication.

I was flabbergasted, as I had been vegan for 10 years by then and had always thought that eating a vegan diet was all I needed to stay healthy. What I found out was that it was also important to eat the right kind of vegan food. Eating no animal products was one thing, but eating processed food, and chips and wafers and chiwda and samosas, just because they were vegan…. now in no way was that a healthy thing to do!

On researching, and reading the book, Reverse and Prevent Heart Disease by internationally acclaimed Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., I realised that just because I did not consume any food from an animal—in other words food with cholesterol in it—did not mean I could not develop heart disease. I ate wafers, chidwa, ladoos, samosas, and pakodas like they were going out of style. I ate processed foods like my life depended on them. All of these contributed to trans fats, or bad fats, in my body. I ate hardly any fruits. I did not exercise. I did not eat whole grains. These were all ingredients for bad health.

I realized that I had to change my eating habits if I wanted to help my heart. I immediately started my fight against heart disease and impending diabetes (my sugar levels were also borderline high) by switching to a nutrition-based diet.

This book is aimed at anyone who wants to reclaim their health, and especially for those who have lifestyle-induced diseases like hypertension, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer amongst other ailments.

Vegan India!: How easy or difficult was it to get through to the stars to share a bit of their kitchen secrets? Any fond incident or memory that you may want to share? Do you have a special favorite recipe/s in the book? If yes, please tell us why.
Anuradha Sawhney: All of the recipes are foods that I love to eat! And ever since the celebrities gave them to me, they have become a part of my regular daily menu :-) it was very very easy to get the recipes from the celebrities; when I wanted their help to spread awareness on the importance of good health, they stepped forward willingly. They are all fabulous people. When I worked with PETA they were happy to help spread awareness on animal cruelty, and then now when I wanted their help to spread awareness on the importance of good health. It was very interesting hearing all the little tricks the stars used on their food. And I learnt many things, like a twist of lime can change the taste of a dish (Saira Banu and Dilip Kumar’s dishes), fenugreek and spinach taste awesome together with mushrooms (Sushmita Sen), chocolate mousse with tofu is not only tasty it is very healthy (Sandip Soparrkar), Avocado is one of the healthiest foods possible (Anoushka Shankar), oatmeal pancakes are so very tasty (Nitin Malik, lead vocalist of rock band Parikrama)…. I could go on and on.

Vegan India!: In India we have a strange dichotomy, most vegetarian families are traditionally high on dairy products. It came as a mild surprise when we read in your book that the recipes have been well received by over 2000 Jains and Krishna bhakts and they vowed to not touch dairy again. Could you please elaborate on that experience?

Anuradha Sawhney: Jains are traditionally against cruelty, and because their religion tells them to worship cows, on becoming aware of the cruelty meted out to cows in the diary industry, they are the first sect open to giving up milk, strange as it may sound to all of us Indians who are so deeply entrenched in a dairy-full life! The PETA dairy report was tabled at a Jain seminar, and when the video that goes with the report was shown, the audience present immediately vowed never to drink milk again!

Vegan India!: One of the most important topics you’ve touched upon is the need for vegans to stay away from junk vegan food, and avoid hydrogenated oils and processed foods. Could you please walk us through the oil free cooking that you discovered? Did you find it difficult to remove oil from your own diet? Could you share some tips about healthy vegan food and no oil cooking?

Anuradha Sawhney: I did not find it difficult to give up oil at all. That’s probably because I did it for the most important reason of all, health. But others who have followed my advice have often told me that they find it difficult to give up oil, and that’s because fat is an addiction, just like cigarettes and drugs. Your body gets addicted to fat and craves it. But one must be strong, and if you have been advised to give up oil, do it, it’s possible to cook very yummy food without a drop of fat. And the fun part of giving up oil was the discovery and invention of fat free recipes. I would say that today I can replicate any dish in its oil free vegan avatar. For more tips on cooking without oil, check out my book The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style! at

A meal spread from Anuradha's wellness center  Back to the Basics: Stuffed aubergine in peanut gravy with freshly ground whole wheat rotis. Spinach & radish salad with orange juice & sesame seeds. Sweet potato cutlets with fresh mint chutney. Green gourd & tomato health drink.

Vegan India!: You devote a part of the book to vegan desserts. We understand that veganizing desserts is understood to be among the most difficult part of being an Indian vegan, partly because of the high use of dairy in our desserts and partly due the lack of ingredients in departmental stores. What can be done/has been done to address this area?

Anuradha Sawhney: Not much has been done in India on a large scale to address this area unfortunately. There are a few random outlets which may have a few vegan desserts, and normally those desserts would be vegan by chance, not by design. I veganized desserts at home primarily because I wanted to eat them of course, but also because I took on the challenge of making vegan versions of desserts so I did not feel I was depriving myself of any food. Though there are vegan bakeries popping up randomly in areas across the country and I hope this trend continues.

Vegan India!: Please tell us the kind of food “Back to the Basics”, the vegan food service and wellness center you have established in Pune prepares. How has the response been so far? You also prepare fantastic varieties of vegan cheese through Back to the Basics. Could you please share their names, what they are primarily made up of, along with their pictures?

Anuradha Sawhney: Back to the Basics teaches people how to take back control of their lives using nutrition. Back to the Basics specializes in making organic foods that are full of nutrition, full of fiber, basically full of goodness. Our foods are all trans fat free, contain no cholesterol, and are vegan. We do not use any of the following: maida, white rice, white sugar, white bread, and white atta.

Another meal spread from Back to the Basics: Thai style vegetables with coriander brown rice. Tofu crumble. Tossed green salad with cranberries. Spinach-tomato health drink.

My foods help people manage work stress and related conditions like diabetes, hyper tension, and heart disease. The health advantages of a vegan diet have been confirmed by numerous doctors and nutritionists. A vegan diet strengthens the immune system and promotes longevity, health, intelligence, and balance. It has a preventative affect against cancer, as well as coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Yet another meal spread from Back to the Basics: Brown rice biryani with cucumber raita. Corn idlis with carrot chutney. Kachumber salad. Pumpkin-amla health drink.

We provide organic, nutritious, wholegrain, oil free food packages as well as snacks for the afternoon time munchies, when people typically tend to eat anything at hand, with no thought to how unhealthy it may be. All our items are made of natural, unprocessed, wholegrain, organic ingredients.

My vegan cheeses have turned out to be quite a hit item! I prepare vegan feta cheese which is mainly cashew-based, cheddar cheese spread (people swear that its better than the real thing), and even vegan butter (yes you read it right, I have now ventured into making vegan BUTTER which I can guarantee you cannot tell the difference in taste between dairy butter and my vegan butter. I make plain as well as chocolate flavored butter).

Organic-vegan Feta Cheese from Back to the Basics

Back to the Basics can be contacted via email at or via phone at 09423033569 or via our page on Facebook at Our web site is still under construction but till then, you can find us at:

Vegan India!: Please walk us through your favorite ingredients in a vegan diet. What ingredients do you think are under appreciated? And a few ingredients that are a must in a vegan kitchen?

Anuradha Sawhney: My kitchen has every food item possible, as long as it is not from an animal and is wholegrain. So you will find all kinds of fruits, vegetables, pulses, cereals, spices, and nuts amongst other food items. I do not have any maida or any processed food in my house. My favorite ingredients are dates for sweetening dishes and nuts for making nut milk, quinoa, chia seeds, flax seeds…. my list is endless!

Vegan India!: You must have encountered many people who appreciate the tenets of veganism but are not sure they can convert. What advice would you give someone who is interested but afraid of taking the leap?

Anuradha Sawhney: Just do it! There is life after turning vegan, do not worry. And as long as you eat the right foods, you will have the best health possible in today’s harried and hurried world.

Vegan India!: Thank you so much Anuradha for taking time off from your very busy schedule to share your thoughts. We hope that in this New Year, more among us are able to heal ourselves and our communities by becoming conscious about our food choices. We hope more among us begin to acknowledge that we don’t make choices in isolation to the whole, our choices impact the entire ecosystem.



To read the PETA report on the state of the dairy industry in India that Anuradha has referred to in her response to the first question, you can click this link.

To get a copy of the cookbook, The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style! authored by Anuradha at the most competitive price, you can click this link.

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