More and more Indians are turning vegan. Some are even opening new businesses to help those who shun dairy products, reports Varuna Verma
The temple priest was surprised. It's not often that devotees refuse the curd-based prasad - but here was Ritika Ramesh turning it down. "I thought of the documentary on Indian dairy farms that I had seen, and my resolve doubled," says Ramesh, a 25-year-old assistant film director in Mumbai.
Ramesh is a vegan - an extreme vegetarian. She doesn't eat non-vegetarian food or dairy products. She has given away her Kanjeevaram silk saris - according to one estimate, about 5,000 silkworms are killed to make one heavy sari - and chic leather boots, produced with the hide of animals. And she buys only those cosmetics that do not contain milk, honey or lanolin.
In Udupi, Karnataka, a vegan group -- the Indian Vegan Society (IVS) -- is using music to promote an animal cruelty-free lifestyle. For the last three years, it has been organising an annual International Vegan Festival, where vegan artists play music to spread the message of compassionate living. It also brings out a newsletter to help members with vegan marriages and vegan jobs.
As Shankar Narayan, founder, IVS, puts it, "We are promoting veganism as an animal-friendly lifestyle, and not just a food choice." And that, the activists will say, is the real milk of human kindness.
The Indian Vegan Society is a member of the International Vegetarian Union - www.ivu.org