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City vegans bond over potlucks

When Sneha Poojarey (23) decided to turn vegan, she had not expected her will power to be tested at every step, reports Afsha Khan.

mumbai Updated: Apr 12, 2010 01:12 IST
Afsha Khan
Afsha Khan
Hindustan Times

When Sneha Poojarey (23) decided to turn vegan, she had not expected her will power to be tested at every step.

Her parents were concerned about her health, friends tempted her with kheer and the priest at her local temple wondered why she was refusing to accept the curd and sugar prasad.

“In the beginning, it felt like I was alone,” said the call centre executive. A default online search helped the Vasai resident discover Mumbai Vegans, an active community of vegans in the city. “I was surprised to see so many young vegans at my first potluck meeting.”

The Mumbai Vegans community is part of Sanctuary For Health And Reconnection to Animals and Nature (SHARAN), which holds health workshops in Mumbai every two months.

The group has about 50 members of which at least 20 make it to the monthly potluck held at one of the members’ homes. Members share food, recipes and tips for leading a life free of meat and other animal products.

“People don’t join us to become vegan,” said Dr Rupa Shah, an active hand in organising these meetings. “Many of us have been vegan for years and are looking for a platform to connect with like-minded people.”

Every member has his or her reason for adopting this lifestyle. Poojarey opted for a vegan diet to promote animal welfare.

Sunil Desai (59) was influenced by a SHARAN workshop on reversing diabetes. He started following a vegan diet last December and lost eight kg. “At my age it is difficult to lose weight. And I never imagined I could lose weight without exercising,” said the businessman.

Veganism also has its critics. Anju Venkat, a nutritionist at the Health Awareness Centre, recommends and follows a ‘natural healthy diet’ that is free of meat and other animal products, but does not believe in being typecast as a vegan.

“I think it’s a fad that creates barriers rather than building bridges,” she said. “Nature is about integration, not about communities with an ‘Us vs. Them’ mindset.”

Dr Shah said she respected Venkat’s argument, but believes that using the term ‘vegan’ helps people with common ideals find common ground.

“It (vegan) is just a term and an international one at that,” she said. “It makes the vegan lifestyle more accessible especially through search engines and blogs.”

First Published: Apr 12, 2010 01:11 IST