A Humans of Bombay-like page, but with stories from those who've opted out of dairy, allows for a better understanding of a movement
In May 2018, Harsha Atmakuri pulled the cord on a thriving medical career in pursuit of activism from his dingy one-room-kitchen home in Navi Mumbai's Kopar Khairane. But after working behind the scenes for a few months, the 29-year-old vegan realised it was time to take the cause to the next level. "I would talk to people on the streets, encouraging them to turn vegan; I also created educational videos and shared them on social media. But that was not enough," he says. So, in February 2019, Atmakuri launched the initiative, Vegans of India, on Facebook. And, within four months, the page today has close to 4,000 followers.
Atmakuri's journey to embracing veganism, after being a vegetarian for almost nine years, dates back to 2016. "I was a non-vegetarian and would eat fish, chicken and beef. But around 2009, I watched a video of a fast food joint preparing meat. The cruelty shown towards animals broke my heart, and I turned into a vegetarian overnight," recalls Atmakuri, an MBBS doctor.
Atmakuri makes almond tea at home. Pics/Sneha Kharabe
A few years later, in 2016, Atmakuri learned about cruelty in the dairy industry, and turned vegan. "To meet the demands of the 130 crore Indian population, cows need to be continuously pregnant. They are artificially and forcefully inseminated. If this was done to human beings, we would call it rape," he informs, sternly, adding, how a cow is separated from the calf within days of delivery. "The male calf is either starved to death or slaughtered; the female offspring is used just like her mother to provide milk and more babies. Ideally, a cow gives two to three births in the entire life cycle of 25 years. But here in India, by the time she completes five years, she has already undergone three to four pregnancies."
Atmakuri is now striving to create a more compassionate world through his page. He speaks to one vegan at a time and shares their inspiring stories of change. One such post is about dietician and dance movement therapy practitioner Aarti Kedia. The 51-year-old Powai resident shares, "Plant-based diets are easy on geriatrics. Absorption of such foods is far better. After turning vegan by choice, I started encouraging others, too." Kedia, whose post has garnered over 900 likes, advocates that veganism improves mental health. "We are what we eat. If we are going to eat anything that comes out of pain or torture, we are bound to have the same emotions. Animals, when killed, release stress hormones, which are later on carried by us after consumption. Thus, it is important to do away with meat," she adds.
Dr Harsha Atmakuri
When Atmakuri turned vegan, the first few months were not easy. "I loved curd and ice-cream, and it was difficult to give up on that. But I later learned ways of their vegan preparation. Today, my breakfast includes almond tea, dosa, upma or poha. My lunch and dinner involves the regular dal, rice and sabzi without any dairy products." When asked what difference it has brought to his life, Atmakuri says he is fitter today. "Earlier, I used to catch a cold at least six times a year, and now I don't remember the last time I fell sick. I also used to be constipated, but even that has changed after my high fibre diet that improves digestion." The goal of the page is to provide concrete evidence that people can live the vegan way in India.
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