navigating veganism in a desi household & Indian diets

How to navigate Veganism in an Indian home?

Adopting veganism in a desi household with parents and grandparents may be tough. So we asked some Indian vegans to share their stories and struggles.

By Sanjoli Arora

Making a small change in your routine takes days worth of efforts. Even that sometimes leads to slip ups. A big lifestyle change can thus be more challenging. To all our fellow vegans out there, we understand that this transformative journey can be difficult at times.

Plus, making a change that your family does not understand or worse, does not support can be a major speed bump. But you know what makes any journey a little easy. Hearing from other’s- people who have walked on the same path and are willing to share their story.

So, we got a few fellow vegans who are years into their journey. They have given insights into their vegan journey but most importantly what were their family’s reactions to this change. Here are three real-life stories of navigating veganism in a desi household.

Vegetarian to Vegan: Why I chose the path of Ahimsa?

by Dr. Devanshi Shah

I was a vegetarian, in fact a Jain throughout my life. But I wasn’t really aware about the dairy industry’s cruel practices towards animals.

In 2020, during the lockdown, I stumbled upon Cowspiracy – a documentary that gives insights on animal agriculture and the workings of the dairy industry. I could not believe what I saw, but mostly I was shocked at how hidden this information was. Animal agriculture is a deadly practice with high environmental costs and yet it goes on, unchallenged.

What I saw left me with a sense of despair but also motivated me to make a change. I left dairy overnight , my parents were a little skeptical about it but they knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong so they let me.

I had no clue about anything, so I just bought the most accessible brand of soya milk from a near store the next morning. That is how I turned vegan. It has been a year and now I feel more comfortable with my decision each day.

Since then, I have come across many eCommerce brands, websites and vegan stores that have helped me make the switch and find alternatives. I was overwhelmed by the number of vegan products available in the Indian market 

My mom also believes in Ahimsa (non-violence), so she gave up dairy within a month of my vegan journey and joined me. Having her by my side has made this journey easier for both of us. She has never been happier and healthier! 

While I found a vegan ally in the family, I am still struggling with my father and grandmother. The food we all consume is common meaning that most of our family meals are vegan. The only resistance is with the morning glass of milk.

Nonetheless, hope is alive. It won’t be easy to bring the other two family members on board but it is not impossible. My only wish is that not a single penny from my household goes to the horrible industry that ill-treats animals.

Veganism in a Desi Household- It’s not always easy, but worth it!

by Kumar Ritwik

I left meat six years ago and have been following a vegan diet since five years now. The first few years were the hardest but now it is easier. I have found people like myself, and people around me understand (or are at least, inquisitive) why I chose to go vegan.

On the family front, the story has been a journey. My mother is very supportive of my lifestyle choice. She quit eating meat after 5 months I started. She is almost vegan barring her dairy milk-based tea. Her first impression when I told her about going vegan was that of concern for my health. I was that kid who had milk thrice a day. Thus, she was concerned about my calcium intake. This concern stemmed from the myth many of us believe that calcium is necessary and only another animals milk will provide it. But when I shared better alternatives with her, she was convinced. She is also very supportive of alternatives like tofu instead of paneer.

My father has not interfered with my lifestyle choice and has not done anything negative to stop it. His first impression was that I am taking too drastic a step and shouldn’t think too much about how animals are treated or our impact on them. He may not have understood veganism completely, even though I share my insights and videos with him. For him, meat is a lot about taste and convenience. His consumption has reduced significantly though, from 8-9 times a month to probably 1/2 times. He understands that meat consumption is wrong. This is also coming from his childhood where he had a cow that was treated as a family member and thus, the family consuming cows milk was justified.

My younger brother was intrigued as to why I want to switch to a vegan diet. He is a hotel management student and loves to cook. Thus, he has a special relationship with food. Plus, his profession demands to make meat-based delicacies. He did try a vegan diet but could not sustain it. He has however reduced his meat consumption besides some occasional indulgences.

My vegan lifestyle has not gone so well with my grandparents. They believe that this is not how things are meant to be. The way to go forward is probably to stop cruelty against animals but a vegan diet is way too far. My grandmother thinks I am playing with my health and I should take supplements, particularly around dairy consumption. According to her, that is how people lived and should live for a healthy long life.

The common perception at home is that going vegan is too much. Particularly because our family has been heavily dependent on meat. Non-vegetarian food has always been the go-to meal on special occasions. However, I plan on staying vegan and hope to see more family members and friends join this movement.

Overcoming cravings and finding alternatives

by Lakshmi Selvakumaran

My vegan journey has been pretty smooth, to be honest. I became a vegan about two and a half years ago when I watched a documentary called The Dominion. I was already a vegetarian by then and this documentary pushed me to take the plunge into becoming a vegan. 

When I turned vegan, I was living with my friends in Bangalore, away from my family. It was easy and my family didn’t really have to do much to support me in this journey. But it was challenging because I had to find my own way around veganism. 

Few things I found really challenging initially were saying ‘no’ to things I loved. I loved cakes, ice cream and cheese. I had to say a hard no to all of them. When I started my vegan journey, I did not have access to vegan alternatives to these foods readily and easily.

But over time, my cravings grew down and I also noticed more alternatives available freely. More importantly, I also learnt to make these alternatives at home for myself. I felt extremely empowered by this. Now I bake my own vegan cakes and cookies whenever I feel like having them. 

When I met my partner, another struggle popped up – he was a non-vegetarian. I told him that being a vegan was very important to me and I wanted him to consider switching after doing his own research. Understanding how I felt deeply about this, he would only eat vegan when he was with me. But he was occasionally having meat when he was with his family. 

Over time, I believe this journey has been meaningful for him enough to turn him into a complete vegan. That has been a great success. His switch to veganism has made my journey easier.

We hope that reading these stories gave you some insights. Of course, each individual has a personal journey. But that is what it is, a journey. You can decide the pace at which you make the change and go step-by-step.

Sanjoli is currently working as a Content Strategist and has a Master’s degree in Fashion Journalism. She has contributed to publications like MensXPMindless Mag and Sustain: The Mag in the past. Conscious Charcha is her way of learning more about sustainability and spreading the word about a sustainable lifestyle.

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