In 2008, I was out shopping at Bangalore where National Geographic had a stall. I got a cool eco-friendly tote bag in exchange of a crappy plastic cover from them. The volunteer told us how plastic covers affect the environment and how cloth bags come in handy for shopping.
In winter 2008, I visited a faculty’s house, Ms. Swathi Seshadri who was my post-graduation thesis guide at my college. I used to have my research meetings at her place. She is a social activist from Bangalore who has worked for the Narmada Bachao Andolan and with people’s movements in various parts of India since the noughties. Her apartment was lined with balconies on three sides; she decked them up with plants.
I visited Dr Regi George and Dr Lalitha Regi of Tribal Health Initiative, Sittilingi in November 2009. They empower tribal communities in Sittilingi through their work. I visited their house that was set against the backdrop of mountains. The hexagonal house was open on all sides with tapestries for walls. They had an indoor pond as well.
I also happened to visit Mr Krishna and Ms Anuradha’s house at Sittilingi, the architects behind Thulir, an NGO that works on educating tribal communities. The couple and their students constructed the house, complete with the plumbing and electrical works. The students called that house their pet project, a chance where they put their theoretical knowledge to practice.
After seeing such houses, I decided to have a house with indoor landscaping as well.
In 2010, I had worked for an environmental NGO, where I learned about how our choices and behaviour have an adverse effect on the environment we live in. I started to learn more about waste management, kitchen gardening, eco-friendly products, recycling and upcycling. I came across a person who sold biodegradable plastic covers. Another acquaintance (Mathew, Paperman) for converting trash to wealth, simply buy collecting waste papers from every house and selling them to factories. That way he raised many funds for other NGOs and Kabadiwalas.
In 2011, I was also helping an environmental activist to operate waste management and organic farming projects at colleges and corporate. I also started kitchen-and-organic gardening at home. I made my own manure out of kitchen waste. I will explain more about how to make compost and manure at home later. I grew tomatoes, muskmelons, fenugreek leaves, chillies and more.
In 2015, I personally underwent a change where I started to become averse to liquor, cigarettes, eggs, meat, milk and cheese. I still loved butter, buttermilk and ghee (clarified butter).
In 2017, based on a relative’s suggestion I watched Cowspiracy, and that changed something in me. I could not quite place a finger on it but I was pondering about veganism and if it would be possible to transition into one.
I learnt about terrariums and indoor landscaping. I realized that through terrariums I could clean the air around me, beautify my house and combat pollution in a tiny way. Since terrariums are pricey, I started to deck up my house with money plants and lucky bamboos.
This year, a fellow blogger Mahalakshmi, wrote an article on veganism for me. She also suggested her readers to watch this documentary, Earthlings. That is when I decided to try veganism for real. The decision to change has taken roughly 9 years.
I understand that there is animal cruelty and environmental abuse happening. People entitled to their own food, recreation and buying choices. I am not urging anyone to change his or her mindset, attitude or behaviour. I am not trying to be any kind of an extremist here or preach. We have people of different permutations and combinations.
A non-vegetarian may be an organic farmer who is doing his bit to save the environment and the people. A vegan smoker may contribute to pollution or may eating food that is non-organic so he/she is still contributing to deforestation etc. A vegetarian may not meat but may have several wardrobes of silk saris and clothes (indirectly contributing to silkworm cruelty).
There are pet owners in my neighbourhood who have too many dogs than they could accommodate in their small apartments. They do not walk their dogs and buy more from breeders. They feed the strays in the area but do not take care of their vaccination or other health needs. These owners love their pets and strays but neglect their health and spatial needs. Now they are contributing to animal cruelty yet taking care of their strays. How would you label them?
Boycotting everything and stereotyping everyone is not the solution. One thing I have learnt after several years of social advocacy is this: lobbying wrongly for social/ environmental issue will only make the issue worse. For instance, the Sivakasi child labour issue is one.
I want to try different options to contribute to the environment and wildlife. So, I want to make small changes to my lifestyle by choosing where I want to make those positive changes. It could be veganism, waste management, organic farming, using eco-friendly products or boycotting silk and plastic products.
While I cannot stay away from killing roaches and mosquitoes, I can stay away from cow milk and butter if I want to and substitute that with almond and peanut butter. I can choose cloth bags and cotton clothes; do away with leather and silk. Instead of shunning vegan products, I want to explore those.
I urge my readers to watch documentaries irrespective of their consumption choices. It is better to be aware of what you are consuming and what goes behind making products for you. That way you are making informed decisions of your lifestyle.