Part 1 covers why and how I took to Veganism at all. Part 2 will cover why I reverted back to Vegetarianism.
Hailing from a conservative Brahmin family, I am a vegetarian since birth and later by choice too (by giving up on the only eggetarian dish I allowed myself, which I relished as a kid, ‘cake with egg’, as now we have good eggless versions too😉). My brother and I grew up drinking a glass of milk twice a day as we weren’t allowed to drink tea/coffee. We were only allowed milk with additives or just plain old milk with sugar and this went on until we left home for higher studies. Milk and milk products (especially curd, buttermilk, and ghee) are an integral part of our South Indian diet.
My search for a cure for my respiratory problems in the past five years has led me to meet many extraordinary people whom I wouldn’t have come across otherwise; and who dedicated their lives to follow a principle they believed in. They made me look at the different and often ugly facets of life which I was unaware of or didn’t take seriously; influencing my thought process.
I attended an Ayurvedic retreat (not a recognized but self-taught practitioner) some two years ago, where I was given a strict diet regimen as part of the treatment plan. I gained a lot of knowledge regarding food and food combinations thanks to this retreat, some of which I still follow to date, but the topic of attention today is the center head who is an old man in his 80’s (Let’s call him grandpa). He is the one who influenced me to take up veganism (by the way this was the first time I came across the term vegan). The first time anyone comes to see him, he has but one story to tell which goes something like this, “How will you feel if someone pulls your child away from his/her mother while breastfeeding and doesn’t let the child drink anymore milk? Would you not be agitated to the extent of wanting to hit/kill that person? Now think about how a cow will feel when its baby calf is pulled away after drinking a little milk so that the humans can steal the rest of the milk.” That definitely hit me hard.
Grandpa had so much to say about the health hazards caused by drinking milk. The diet regimen during the retreat days included a dairy-free diet for all participants. Every day we had a commentary session by him where he would speak on different subjects like food, food combinations, yoga, god, lifestyle, etc, but invariably it would include reading a few excerpts from the book “Milk— The Deadly Poison” by Robert Cohen (btw I haven’t read this book), and he would translate it into the native language for the benefit of the participants who were mostly natives. He was a consistent believer that the Earth would be better off without humans. He went on narrating about how humans are literally destroying this planet’s resources owing to their greed and how they wouldn’t allow any other species to thrive or survive unless those are of some use to us. All other species take only what is required by them and maintain a perfect ecological balance and we are not only destroying, but abusing our powers, as well.
“See how we are mistreating the cows as if they are not living beings but milk-producing machines”, he would say. The milk sucked by the calf contains the mother’s love along with immunity and strength-building hormones. But the milk that we drink contains blood, pus, stress hormones along with antibiotics, vaccines, and viruses. How can we be healthy by drinking that milk? Milk is for babies, not for adults. Not only milk, if we want honey, we kill the bees and steal their food. His saga would just continue about ‘Humans, the Destroyers.’ And anyone listening to him can never come out uninfluenced.
Grandpa owned this big 4-5 acres of land in a completely remote area cut off from the general population, which he allowed to develop as a natural forest over the years along with some fruit, vegetable, and medicinal plantation. He wouldn’t allow anyone to take the fruits, including himself unless they have fallen to the ground. He would say those are for the birds, monkeys, and other species; we can buy from the market if we want. We, participants, could only eat the leftovers of birds, squirrels, and monkeys since those usually used to be the sweetest but half-eaten. He would go around bare-bodied except for a loincloth(pure khadi only). Even we were supposed to wear dresses made out of pure white khadi cloth only. The house that he used to dwell in was made out of mud, and no furniture except for a study table, to use while sitting on the floor and a mat to sleep. The house had two rooms: one as a utility room and the other was a room filled with books. He was a voracious reader along with being tech proficient.
I was cured of my ailments during my stay there but all of it returned a few weeks later after coming back home. But at least I understood the dynamics of food and lifestyle habits. And yes, I turned vegan after this retreat and stayed so for nearly two years because of his influence, until I turned vegetarian again because of a few other influencers.
PS: The most difficult part of being vegan for me was avoiding ghee. I found myself craving for ghee idly with ghee karampodi (dry powdered spice mix), ghee dosa, ghee pongal, dal rice topped with ghee……….😋
See you again.
Image credits: Couleur from Pixabay