Veganism in India: How one woman is taking plant-based food mainstream in Mumbai
As part of Plant You, one of my missions is to provide a platform for others to share their plant-based stories, wins and aspirations. One of the unique and amazing things about this lifestyle is that it is shared by people all across the world, united in their passion for health, animals and the environment. I recently reached out to members of my private Plant-Based Support Group, asking if anyone would be interested in writing a guest blog post about their plant-based experience. I’m thrilled to share the first written by Kinjal Darukhanawala, the Founder of Wegan Foods.
Is India ready for plant based living and veganism?
India is definitely an amalgamation of multiple cultures, beliefs, languages and food habits. Every section of the Indian society shares an intimate relationship with food. Just like most cultures and countries around the world, all celebrations in India are centred around food. But is there space for plant based eating? Or veganism?
Dropping the V word in India calls for much speculation! Being a vegan in a country where milk is considered not just a superfood but a holy offering to God in many religions is definitely an uphill climb. While a huge chunk of the population may be vegetarian, veganism is a concept as unrealistic as utopia. Get ready for some serious knit-picking! For vegetarians in India, getting rid of paneer (cottage cheese), buttermilk, masala chai, cheese and butter may be equivalent to asking for their first born!
Excuse my exaggeration! Keep reading; it gets better, I promise. A viral video on Youtube almost two years ago changed my life. I turned vegan from vegetarian and never looked back. Initially, a huge chunk of my energy went is finding/ creating substitutes and explaining to people the reason behind my transition. I am not one for an activist approach; I strongly believe unless people are inclined from within, you can’t and should not try to change them. So I decided to focus on my own journey, instead of trying to convert others. If someone genuinely was interested in knowing about the philosophy of veganism or about following a plant based diet, I was more than happy to guide them and share the info I had.
However, even after almost two years, I still find myself on the receiving end of unnecessary badgering, questioning and dissecting about my lifestyle choices. It’s funny how even though your personal choice makes no difference to anyone else in anyway, they may still have an opinion about it. Is it really to do with you or is it simply an inner conflict with their own choices?
Wegan Foods is born
As I started planting the roots of my start-up – Wegan Foods, I was lead to a treasure trove of information about the plant based / vegan community in India. I was amazed to see so many people in my city and country who have been following in this lifestyle for years and are creating so much awareness in the form of workshops, seminars, ebooks, products, blogs, etc. So many people who are raising their children without any animal products, so many individuals who have reversed lifestyle disorders with the help of whole foods and plant based diet.
Pretty soon, I realized at least 20 restaurants in my city (if not more) are serving myriad vegan options. In fact, cities like Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad, Balgalore, have several cafes that are 100% plant based. In Mumbai (my city) too there are fully vegan tiffin services, bakers, bloggers, healers and authors. All wonderful people with non-judgement and compassion at the centre of their philosophy!
The plant based food pyramid allows you to be really creative and there are substitutes for almost everything. There is nothing that you can’t veganise! It is not uncommon today to find so much of urban youth suffering from lifestyle diseases, hormonal imbalance and low energy levels. A poor nutrition is definitely at the core of these issues. People are now realizing that instant foods, takeouts and quick fixes may make our life easy for now but they will come to bite us in the long run.
A New Page for Plant-Based Eating in India
Healthy eating is not a fad in India! More and more people are seriously ditching dairy and switching to a plant based diet. This awareness is slowly snowballing in India and the supermarket shelves are fast filling up with plant based milks, mock meats, cold pressed juices, nut butters, and organic produce.
In short, being dairy free, animal product free or plant based in India is not any different from being these things anywhere else in the world. People all over may face some resistance and ridicule when they try to do something different. But the ones that question why you are doing something, will probably be the same ones who will inquire how you did it in the near future!
More power to plants!
About the author:
Kinjal Darukhanawala is the Founder of Wegan Foods, based in Mumbai, India. Her company aims to provide dairy alternatives to help people transition to a plant based / vegan diet without compromising on nutrition or taste.