On attempting to be vegan in India

So… Nearly 20 years ago, I decided to go vegan. This is after being the most cheese eating vegetarian I have ever know for the six years previous to this (we are talking like a lb of cheese a day type cheese eating vegetarian).

And though there has been some slip ups over the years, I have steadfastly stuck to the diet I find the most humane.

When I decided to come to India I knew my veganism would be challenged in ways I could scarcely comprehend. Milk in india is akin to ingesting a god him/herself. The idea that I would rather the cow keep her milk seems a totally incomprehensible concept to most Indians I meet. In trying to be closer to god I’ve been told consuming milk is essential by many Hindus I’ve met. Either that or they look at me like I am totally and completely mad when I ask. In fact there has been more of this than the former.

The use of ghee, clarified butter, is so omnipresent that when I ask for a dish to be cooked without it I am either not understood or what would easily be call humored. I doubt very much that I am getting food that does not contain ghee, but I somehow feel better asking. I even briefly asked for things to be prepared the Jain way, thinking this meant without dairy & eggs, but while it does mean no eggs it also means no onions or garlic not without dairy. And frankly food cooked with out the power house of garlic, ginger & onions interests me not. Though some Jains do abstain from consuming dairy, it is not a central tenet of their brand of vegetarianism.

And when I order my tea in the morning I have to order it black, and then make sure this means no milk, as for some reason many people here thinks this only means unsweetened. I have taken to ordering it black and without sugar. I do this all the while longing for my copious green tea that can only be found in very few places, places that are hidden much like the clues to say the Di Vinci Code….

But while I found this very frustrating when I first got here, I have learned that if I want to travel in India I have to accept that I can not be vegan 100% while doing so. This does not mean that I will be eating panner and drinking milk tea. It only means that I have come to the conclusion that while I am here my veganism is in flux and that I will once again be in a place with my diet I am far more comfortable with once I leave India. I will try and limit my consumption of dairy while I am here, but starving is not really an option, nor is making every meal.

And I am finally content with this, made my piece. It is what it is.

About Randy

I'm just a guy trying to out run his dying kidneys and live life as vibrantly as possible. Until I can't. I grew up in Tejas. Went to school in Vermont. And currently live in Brooklyn. But not for long....
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3 Responses to On attempting to be vegan in India

  1. Randy says:

    Just to show exactly how much milk is entrenched into the way people view vegetarianism here, tonight at dinner when I asked for my meal without ghee my waiter indignantly told me that would make the meal not vegetarian. And since it was a “pure veg” restaurant it had to be made with ghee.
    um…..
    I am all for respecting other cultures and all, but…

    This is pretty much why being vegan in India is impossible.

  2. Ayan says:

    I can understand your situation. I am indian & have lactose intolerance but here avoiding dairy is almost impossible. If you read hindu scriptures you will find that being a lactose intolerant hindu is like being a gay catholic…….

    • Randy says:

      as someone with a few gay catholic friends, that sounds just about right. this is a huge factor is deciding if i will visit again.

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