Mr Indra Gunawan of Gramedia, Indonesia's leading chain of bookstores, will be a keynote speaker at the IVU World Veg Congress, 1-6 Oct in Jakarta, Indonesia: www.wvc2010.org. The event promises to be huge with both in terms of Indonesian attendance and in terms of national visibility. Thus, we hope for a good turnout of overseas visitors. Mr Gunawan kindly agreed to be interviewed for 'IVU Online News'.
Hi, Mr Gunawan. How old are you now, please? How and when did you become a vegetarian?
I am already 70 years old. I became a vegetarian about 1999, because of my teacher in pranic healing, Grandmaster Choa Kok-Sui. According to him, if you want to become a good healer, your life energy should be subtle and fine and that could be accomplished by becoming a vegetarian.
You head Gramedia, which is the largest bookstore chain in Indonesia. Please tell us a bit about Gramedia.
I headed Gramedia bookshops until 2004. Now, I am one of the company directors. Gramedia group is a media company. We do radio and publish newspapers, magazines, books, online news, etc.
Gramedia is now working with Indonesia Vegetarian Society (IVS) to encourage people to go without meat at least one day a week. Please tell us about that.
Due to our friendship with Mr Bambang Sumantri, founder of Indonesian Vegetarian Society (IVS), and Mr Susianto Tseng, COO of IVS, the management of Gramedia is willing to support the noble mission of IVS, in this case, to convince people to refrain from meat at least one day a week. To make people healthy is noble indeed.
Other than Gramedia, do other Indonesian companies encourage people to eat less meat?
I think there are some other companies who encourage people to become vegetarian. If the head of the company is a vegetarian, directly or indirectly he/she will persuade the people to follow her/his eating habit. An example is Royal Progress hospital in Sunter, Jakarta.
In your lifetime, how have the eating habits of Indonesians changed? Are there differences between generations?
Yes there are a lot of changes. Now, many people prefer to "eat out". Many new restaurants with many variations of menu have emerged. Perhaps their foods are delicious, but not necessarily healthy for people or the environment.
What about the Indonesian government? What do they do to encourage useful change in people's diets?
The government is more concerned with stabilizing the price of foods than with the healthfulness of food. Thus, they have not encouraged people to become vegetarian, although some officials personally support the idea of vegetarianism.
What reasons do you give to convince people to improve their eating habits?
We can convince people to become health conscious by setting good examples by providing vegetarian foods which are "healthy and delicious". Healthy but not delicious will not attract people to become vegetarian.
What is your vision for the future of IVS and of the vegetarian movement in Indonesia?
The future of IVS depends on the quality of their leaders, whether they have the capability and time to lead the organization, and certainly also the support of the members, Leaders can not work alone; so, full participation from the members is needed. Also, IVS should work hand in hand with other organizations who have the same mission.
What is a book, film, article, etc. that has recently inspired you?
I have been inspired by all the vegetarian cookbooks and by vegetarian cooking shows that I have seen on television. The quality and quantity of vegetarian options are most impressive. Thus, we can easily please our taste buds at the same time that we promote our health, protect the environment and show kindness towards our fellow animals.