Giving Back

Hello Dear Readers,
Happy New Year! We wish you the best for the year 2016. Thank you for sticking with us so far, we hope you enjoy this new post.

 

Let me begin by wishing you an extremely happy new year. So this new beginning has had my mind in an overdrive. The last year was not that great. So I am glad that it is over. To be completely honest with you, unfortunately, yes, I have entered this New Year with a negative attitude. My friend has tried to wane away this attitude but in vain.

Like everybody I have tried making resolutions; lost count of the failed ones. So this year, I decided to make ones that I know I will make a harder effort to keep. My excuse for giving back until now was that I volunteered for a lot of causes and currently work at a NGO. So, I do give back to the society. But while looking at the bigger picture, I also realized that we miss out on so many people who affect our lives, every day.

I vow that I am going to try to be less irritated at people. I am going to try to be kind to lady in the train who takes up a little more space than needed. I am going try not to get irritated at the calls I get at work over silly doubts. I am going to be more thankful for what I have and understand that what I have is much more than I need. I am going to keep the humbling experiences close to me. I, also, need to be more proud of my country and my world; of all those unsung heroes that go unnoticed.

For my family and friends turned family, I am going to not take you for granted. I have this awful habit of being more kind and generous towards strangers than my own. I am going to work towards my relations and make them more sustainable in the long run.

Lastly, I am going to work on myself. Respect this body that has literally been and grown with me since inception. If I don’t take care of it now, then when? I am not my physical self only. Lately, the mental health has been taking a toll; high time I look after it. I am going to read more; fiction to be more imaginative and non-fiction to see reality. I am going to use the word ‘should’ less. Lastly, I am going to smile more and take a longer walks.

Don’t list out strong, knee jerk resolutions. Simplify your life and figure out what is bothering you at more personal levels. You may need to lose weight but you may first want to work on loving yourself, no matter the size. You may want to earn more money but you may want to first find out what makes you happy. Work on those. Life is going to fall into place anyway. You are not going to be sad always or happy always. But what you can achieve is a balanced life, to appreciate and give back.

Ishita

 

*Inhales*

*Exhales*

Just like that, in the blink of an eye, 2015 is over. Even though the universe didn’t stop to acknowledge this fact, I felt a flurry of emotions this past week.

Like most people, I have many hopes and dreams for the future. I also have no clue how I’m going to get there. All I can do is set some goals for the near future and hope that everything turns out well. Just this once I don’t want to make a list of selfish changes to make my life better. In view of all the good things I received last year, I think 2016 should be the start of a season of generosity.

I like to think of myself as a generous person. But I regularly meet people who do so much for others that I feel ashamed. In 2016 I’m setting a goal for myself to give more of my time energy and resources to those in need and those I care about. Partly because I like to help and to make people happy, and partly because this way I will spend less time being sorry for myself. This will require that I step out of my comfort zone at first. There is a unique satisfaction in giving to a cause without any afterthought. I cringe when people suggest to volunteer here and there, not because it is a good thing in itself but because it looks good on the resume and makes one look good in society. I tend to believe that this type of thinking leads to actions that only scratch the surface (if you have followed the controversy surrounding avaaz.org you will know what I’m talking about).

There is a balance to find between giving energy to others and being sufficiently strong oneself. In 2015 I’ve received so much from so many people. Emotionally, financially, intellectually. I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t at least try to give back some of it. And I know that in order to do that I must put more effort in taking care of myself. Being able to stand on my own two feet would be the greatest gift for my family, friends and all those who gave me guidance and support. I want to become a strong person able to support others, but I don’t want to fool myself into thinking that I am invincible either. Giving back is also about recognizing that we didn’t make it on our own.

Let me end by sharing with you some TED talks that have inspired me recently. Giving back is also about passing along the good stuff, and to me that is one of the best aspects of social media.

Talks to help you focus on what really matters

Patricia

Acceptance

There is something that scares me and humbles me the most. It is the fact that we are floating on a “pale blue dot” with nothing but vastness surrounding us. It nature wanted, she can swipe us all out in a second. We aren’t even recorded as a blip in the nothingness that surrounds us.

The string that is pulled the most, when I see the Carl Sagan documentary named the pale blue dot, is the part where he describes that all of the humans who have ever been born have lived and died here, on this same very land. We are not the centre of the universe as much as we would like to believe the same. So what are we even trying to capture? Why do we even try with violence?

Last week to the previous, there were attacks in Paris, Syria, Lebanon, Berlin and Iraq amongst other places. This week was the transgender day of remembrance, observed in the memory of those who lost their life due trans-hate. The girl child is still killed today. You can be stoned to death if you are found to be of any other sexual orientation than straight. Borders are important for governance and I understand that. But does that mean the imaginary lines drawn on paper need to divide the people living on either sides of the line?

The need of the hour is acceptance. I don’t mean accepting those who killed us. Fanaticism needs to be dealt with in its own way and I am, too, small to be giving solutions for that. But ask yourselves, why does racism and caste-ism still exist when it is 2015? I was less than 5 years old when I was playing in a sand pit with another girl. I started talking to her. Her question to me was are you a vegetarian, because mummy has told me not be friends with non-vegetarians? I was allowed to be friends with her because I am, in fact, a vegetarian since birth. But that incident has stayed with me. How could and why would a mother teacher her child to be distant from those who didn’t eat the same food as them? So clearly, it is not inbuilt but taught.

I don’t think there is a straight answer to the question. We were children back then so I don’t blame her. But what about the grownups? Why are we so against love and friendship? Hating each other makes the propagators win, successful in spreading hate. Are we genuinely that incapable of thinking for ourselves and realizing that we are made of the same mud and are going to return to same mud, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, sex, orientation, colour, language, nation of birth and everything else that superficially divides us? Coming back to Carl Sagan, he says, “For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.” Think about it and try to accept, if not love everyone.

Ishita

It’s 7.45 am, I’m listening to Roy Ayers’ Love Will Bring Us Back Together. The upbeat tune is making me want to dance, and only after a few minutes do I make a link with this week’s subject. Last time we talked about intolerance. this time we talk about the other side of the coin, acceptance. For me accepting our differences is not only tolerating their existence, but it’s making room for them in our lives, our communities, our humanity.

Just to be honest here I’m not talking about so called differences of opinions that people use to justify their oppressive behavior and thoughts. Obviously I am going to take precautions around people who exhibit hatred, but at no point am I going to stoop as low as them by denying their humanity and civil rights. By saying this I’m not trying to be holier than thou, because I know there are people who wouldn’t want to be near me either.

Unfortunately it is not a even given that we accept those who we love. First of all loving is not something easy nor instantaneous, even though people would have you believe otherwise (to all the people who went through postpartum depression this is for you).

So we reduce our expectations. You don’t have to love me, just accept me as I am. Why does this seem so difficult?

I noticed that not everyone teaches their kids to accept differences. The rules we receive regarding strangers are not very forthcoming: don’t talk to strangers, don’t follow them. We are told to be polite to some of them, ignore some of them, shun some of them. We have all watched this scenario unfold: a child makes a comment on a stranger’s appearances or actions, the parent hurriedly shushes them in embarrassment. It teaches us to be afraid and/or ashamed of appearing different than the average. How many of those parents will take the time to explain to their kid what they saw? Before that how many parents will know what to say? How many parents will teach their kids to avoid “those people at all cost” or that they are “evil”? Not knowing that maybe the kid was empathizing with that person and will now be ashamed.

Because one thing is for sure, no one is born a hateful person. It takes an education and live experiences for us to learn how to react to any given situation. Of course it’s extremely important to teach children as soon as possible how to recognize a harmful situation (predators thrive on children’s innocence and ignorance). But this also comes with knowing how to interact peacefully with others.

What we cultivate grows. Cultivating peace is hard because it requires a lot of selflessness and sacrifice, which goes against our basic survival instincts sometimes. My faith lies in those humans who make the choice of acceptance against all odds.

Patricia 

 

Intolerance : Us vs Them

Patience is a positive virtue. Somehow, I always heard tolerance with a negative connotation. Why should we tolerate? Why should we not have our own way? If it doesn’t match your demands, you don’t have to tolerate it. You should demand to have it mended your way. Over the years, growing up, I have realized that intolerance is probably not the best approach.

So somebody doesn’t match your values and ideas. Big deal. Just like you have your thoughts and beliefs, I have mine. You believe in God, I don’t. You believe our canine teeth are meant to tear meat apart. I believe the way our jaws move like a cow, we are supposed to be herbivorous. Do these differences mean that we cannot live in a peaceful and accepting environment?

Ever since school, we have always described our country as diverse but unified. We live together, even though we pray to different gods, eat different foods and celebrate different festivals. So what has happened to believing that? Is it because a few fringe elements are causing trouble, our unity is destroyed? Our country has been divided once before, 69 years ago to be exact. Didn’t that separation cause enough unhappiness? Why are we letting them divide and rule us?

We killed a man and injured his son because he was rumoured to have stored or consumed beef. We banned beef because it hurt our religious sentiments. Because it hurt our religious sentiment, we threw chicken in their temple. And, this meant we had fallen to their level. We attacked a Muslim barber because he didn’t shut shop as per Hindu traditions. We destroyed livelihoods and vandalised property worth lakhs of rupees, all to prove one point, that we are better than you. When did another human life, become larger than your religion? And sometimes, we even take away the other person’s right, to call our country intolerant, which eventually makes us the intolerant one. Our country always been a secular, multi ethnic, multi lingual, and a multicultural democracy, and it shall stay one.

Why are turning on our own, when we need our own the most? We are a fast growing country. We are successfully orbiting Mars. We have eradicated polio. Our minister of minority affairs is a woman from a minority. Our Prime Minister is trying to place us on the international map of investment, while we in our own backyard, don’t seem to love us or anybody else. This is the time for us. This is the time for us to frolic, accept one and other and prove that the other person is an absolute asset for the country, just like you are.

So, go on, hate on the religions, kill and rape people and, disrupt normal days to satisfy your ego. There are several like me, tolerant and accepting. And we shall fight, against the fringe elements and if need be, also against you, to protect the constitutional right of a respectful and dignified life.

Ishita

Some people imagine that France is such a friendly country. It’s true that it’s one of the most visited countries in the world by tourists. But when you start to scratch the surface and listen to people who live or have visited here, another story emerges.

France tells their minorities that they have the right to be here but only if they look like, talk and do exactly what white people want them to. You can only keep the aspects of your culture that are easily consumable like food and dance, your traditional clothes are reserved for special occasions or carnivals, and your religion well they don’t want to know about it. In France, white people are the only ones who have the right to keep exclusively to themselves without being called racists…

Last week a collective of women organised a march for dignity and against racism (#MarcheDeLaDignité). All of these women had their dignity trampled on by french society or government in one way of form. Some were mothers or sisters of people killed by the police and who never got justice. Some were women who are specifically targeted by laws that exclude them from society just because they choose to cover their heads. Veiled women are progressively excluded from all form of education, job opportunities, event forbidden to participate in the children’s school life.

There were also queer women, who marched for their right to be and love whoever they want. This year a young french athlete was attacked while she was out with friends. Mélanie Hénique is a world class swimmer who won a medal in the world championship. The men who attacked them insulted her and it was clear that she was targeted because she’s a lesbian. She got her nose broken during this traumatic experience, but what if she had gotten an injury that ended her career?

We also marched for Palestine, for refugees and undocumented migrants. It was the first time that a collective of only women, independently from major organizations and relying on donations, mobilized thousands of people to march in Paris.

Why is it that some of us have to constantly justify our humanness? Why is it that some of us don’t get all the rights that their citizenship grants them? Why is it that some people use the word “les français” – the french – when they talk about only white people?

Living together peacefully is not something that is easily achieved. Even in small family units it’s hard to achieve. Sometimes it seems as if our gregarious nature as humans was forced unto us. A few people have monopolized the planet’s resources for themselves, by brute force or cunningness. Sometimes it seems easier to follow their lead and try to grab a little piece of sunshine for ourselves.
But from now on, whenever I think that a world free of discrimination and injustice is impossible, I will have the memories of the thousands of people chanting louder and louder this simple word: Dignité!

We <3 Elephants

The Elephant World

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India has been fiercely represented at the UN. There has been a murder because of rumoured beef consumption and storage. The Bihar elections will soon be underway. Farmers are committing suicide. But there are scores of better writers to talk to you about the same. I am going to talk to you about my spirit animal. Elephants. At the offset they may look like grey giants that aren’t all that special. And I probably won’t be able to explain it all that well, but there is some inexplicable connection I share with them. I remember my earliest memories of elephants. I still don’t know the back story but there was a taxidermied baby elephant at home in a glass case. (It isn’t there anymore. How I wish for the opposite!) As a child, I would talk to it, stare at it and expect it to be my friend. The first time I saw a live one was a beautiful memory. I was intrigued by them. One of the babies chased my brother around and I still remember the laugh I had. Since then, I have fallen in love with them. I asked the care taker about the memory of the elephant. He said 7 years. That day, with all my might, I wished to be back before 7 years so that she wouldn’t forget me. A few years ago I went to a Bhutan sanctuary. We were in an open 4×4. An elephant with a mahout passed by. We got to touch the elephant. I felt its wrinkle, hairy trunk which instantly felt like home. I looked into its eyes and felt the most comfort I ever have.

I am currently reading “The Elephant Whisperer” by Lawrence Anthony. It is a non-fiction about his game reserve in South Africa and how he takes in a herd of wild elephants who don’t trust humans. It is as beautiful as it is emotional. Elephants are compassionate, sensitive to emotions, can communicate for hundreds of square miles and basically, marvellous. The book makes me want to settle in a reserve. While I can’t do that, I hope one day, I become best friends with an elephant, hopefully, a herd. Currently, I love anything with an elephant motif and watching elephant documentaries.

I do realise that I am gushing over a grey giant but they are my favourite, closely followed by horses. But I really don’t mind the judgement. It is a great feeling to feel this way about someone/thing that is living but not human. I urge you identify with at least one animal. It will help you reflect better and imbibe the many beautiful qualities each one uniquely holds.

Ishita

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While deciding what to write about this time, we realized something: this world is very depressing. Everywhere you look at it seems the only news are about people dying. So for once we decided to talk about something that we like and which had nothing to do with the current state of the world.

I just came back from a trip, during which I visited a zoo and an animal center. At the zoo the peak of the visit was the elephant. I am pretty sure it was my first time seeing one up close. I was excited and of course I shared the pictures with Ishi because I know she loves them. I have conflicted feelings whenever I see caged animals. I’m excited because they are beautiful but at the same time I feel guilty that they have to be restricted because of our selfish human entertainment. Sorry I tried but my mind is never too far away from social justice issues.

Elephants are a perfect symbol for what is wrong with the world. They are huge and majestic creatures but they are on the way of been extinct because of human greed. Where I was born (Cameroon) elephant herds are often massacred by poachers, for their tusk. What saddens and angers me is that the poachers don’t even make the most money in this business. There is a famous natural park called WAZA in Northern Cameroon but the region was not really invested in, and people turned to poaching and other illegal activities to survive. And now there are terrorists making life even more difficult for everyone… I wonder if I will ever get the chance to go there and see animals in the wild like my parents did in the past.

It is incredible that for all our intelligence as a specie, we are unable to devise a way to live in harmony with the world around us. I really envy how elephants are revered in Asia. I don’t know if it’s because of the difference in size but it seems african elephants are more wild and dangerous. There is a saying that « It is only by respect that the elephant runs through your crops at night », implying that even if you find an elephant walking through your farm in the middle of the day, there is not much you can do about it.

Maybe elephants will be reduced to be bred in reservations or zoos, like pandas. Whatever happens in the future because of humans, I will always be grateful to have witnessed the beauty of the elephants.

Patricia

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Game of Thrones: the Democracy version

I come from the largest democracy in the world. Politics in this country is a love-hate affair. Being a journalism student, it remains one of the most interesting and exciting topic of conversation. A friend of mine loves the saying, « Politics is about policies. » Politics is defines as: activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government, by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Politics are needed by the citizens to shape the future and growth of the country. Politics is needed by politicians to stay in power.

I remember when I was a child, the system always used to be made fun of because of the people that ran it. They would always make empty promises, barely follow through on their word and appeared to always be taking extreme measures. I, did, naively, think that it couldn’t get worse that that. These days it is not only about the false hopes but also about pushing the opponent down. It has come down to insulting the other. So what if we don’t have achievements to show, we shall manufacture them; better still let the people know how badly the others have fared, seems to be the new motto. It has become more about mud sliding than cleaning the muck around. Vote bank politics have taken over the real purpose of democracy.

A party had been ruling the country for the past 10 years. Not happy with their way of governance, the country yearned for a change. With having the largest number of registered voters ever in the 16th general elections (held in 2014), it was the largest elections that ever took place. There was a massive lot riding on these elections. But there will always be something wrong, when someone wins, not on their merit, but on the demerit of someone else.

Today the leader of the Congress (a political party), while addressing a rally, said that the current prime minister might blame them for India’s downfall but where was he when India needed him to fight for her independence. The major flow in this is that the current prime minister was not even born then. For another instance, there have been a lot of times when the BJP (current ruling party) have supported the same things they had objected to when they were in the opposition.

There is a casual saying that floats around the country which says, countries grow because of their government; India grows, despite its government. I would really like to see this saying change. It is not like there is no maturity but it isn’t the majority either. When our politicians stop watching porn in the parliament, sleeping during important decisions, throw tantrums along with chairs when their ways isn’t had, stop behaving like teenagers high on hormones and stop acting in only their self interest, is when the sliver of hope for change will broaden.

Ishita

The international community praises the democratic system (as inspired by antic Greece) like a panacea that is supposed to cure all the problems of any given society.

But from where I’m from, the periods before and after elections are synonymous of stress, uncertainty, fear and violence. Police start intimidating the citizens even more. People avoid speaking certain names or going to certain places. Rumours of occult practices start spreading around. Kidnappings and horrific crimes committed for the sake of winning positions. Humans become just a commodity to achieve one’s goal. Billboards fill up with caricatural pictures and montages of politicians and other citizens smiling brightly in the future. Even more cheerful and loud are the people who after receiving bags of rice and T-shirts

And that’s in the event that the elections are even held. In this past few years, West Africa has seen two occurrences of a government being overthrown weeks before the democratic elections. It happened in Mali in 2012 and in Burkina Faso a few days ago. Those military officers always have reasons to disrupt things by force. This same Burkina were a few months ago the people, lead by civil society association, revolted against an autocrat of 27 years. Now the people leading the coup are the military squad that was in charge of the fallen dictator’s security.

These events lead people to ask if Africa is ready for Democracy. Personally I think it’s a bit difficult to be ready for something you didn’t plan for. After the big disruptions that are slave trade and colonization, for almost centuries, is it a wonder that people are confused? Many African kingdoms and tribes had systems to ensure that different members of society could have a voice in the management of the society. They trusted that the designated heads of justice would be just and good, and when that wasn’t the case those people were put on trial too. Some of these secular institutions are still very powerful and coexist with modern republican institutions.

In the end I’ve observed that even in democracy, the power remains in the hands a certain group. Minorities are still struggling to get more rights as citizens, sometimes as simple as getting an ID card. Whether one obtains a huge amount of power by using brute force, or accumulating a lot of money and assets (which in our economy are synonymous of power) they can singlehandedly decided for the masses who sometimes don’t even grasp the implications of every decision of the government. I can only hope to see in my lifetime more people out there in politics who truly want to serve their fellow citizens and not their own agenda.

Patricia

Fences and Fortresses

I was watching TV, in the comfort and security of the four walls of my house. My building has a compound which has a gate to enter from. While aimlessly flipping channels, the windows shook; almost like they would be shattered. There was a really loud sound. This was 2011 and the sound was of a bomb going off. This was the first out of 3 bombs, that were to go off elsewhere in the city. My first reaction was to open the windows and look out. I could see a man in a white shirt with red stains all over running like he had seen his worst nightmare, which was probably what had happened. I could see my gate and the security guards. The huge white gates were pulled shut and locked. My first reaction was don’t close the gates; we can save these people from further trouble. My second was let them remain shut, less security issues to deal with.

This brings me to the recent Syrian crisis. Let me correct myself, the crisis isn’t recent. The Syrian crisis are going on since 2011. Yes, 4 long, torturous years. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the innocent residents to live there. They need the asylum. And there are a dearth of countries who can provide the same to them.

But accepting any kind of strangers is not only a financial burden but it also brings about an uncomfortable change. Accepting refugees takes courage. I understand if you were my security guards and you would be closing the gates on helpless people. But, you are not! You are a big country, with a massive economy with enough money and security, that can afford to be more than accommodating, if you wished to. You might be scared of allowing them to live near you or in your country, but what, we more often than not, don’t realize is that they are equally scared, if not more. They are only looking for safety. Something many of us take for granted. They are looking for a safe land where their children won’t be blown up or shot at; a place where they can have a carefree laugh, a stroll in the park, look at the blue sky, get good education and stable jobs.

Sure it will bring about a change in your community. The minute your country starts to accept the refugees, your nation’s identity changes, the culture changes; but only for the good. It shows your humanitarian side. It explains that you value human lives more than money. Strangers enrich experiences like no other. So please let them in, because gates work both ways.

Ishita

I’ve always lived a comfortable life, but as part of the few privileged people in the country it was hard to turn a blind eye to the plight of those around me.

Recently the dead body of a baby boy has been brandished as the symbol of the Syrian crisis and the plight of Syrian refugees has supposedly been brought to light. People are saying: “now we realize what is going on”. Apart from the fact that it’s horribly disrespectful, to me, what they are really saying is, they don’t care about what happens to all those brown people, but they have to save their reputation by AT LEAST saying something about a dead baby. Because who doesn’t like babies right?

My family has hosted refugees from war, and I’m happy to be know people who help refugees event with very small means. My mother’s godfather is from Congo Brazzaville and during the civil war that erupted there in the 1990s, he sent his children over to live with us in the neighbouring country of Cameroon. They became like older brothers and sisters to us. Their stories of hearing gunshots at any hour of the day and having to hide were scary to us kids who had only ever heard about such things in fiction. But they brought with them the internationally renowned Congolese music and dance, cheerfulness and the will to move on. They both did brilliant studies and now have great careers ahead of them. Apart from Aylan and a few others, the media talks rarely about refugees and migrants as individual people. Most of the time they are reduced to “ x number die at sea” or “x number try to cross the border”.

Unfortunately our world is built on the basis that the rich and powerful make the decisions for the others (whatever the shape or form of the organization), but are somehow exempt from accountability. People who have to make the decisions about how to help the migrants and refugees often have no clue what they are doing.

France is one of the biggest weapon manufacturers and its politicians are saying that France cannot harbour all the suffering in the world, to justify how they treat foreign people. Then why do you manufacture and sell weapons all over the place? It’s like people living in a fortress, they don’t want to open their gates but they throw their trash over the walls. A time will come when the trash piles up so much that the stench suffocates the fortress. Who is responsible for cleaning the mess then?

Patricia

Politics of Plates

Like everybody claimed, the one year at the university was going to teach me a lot. They promised me that it would change my perspectives. Today, I would like to concentrate on food perspectives. A very integral part of life; an important survival tool. While discussing our food preferences with my non-Indian , I was the odd woman out of sorts. Even though I wasn’t the only vegetarian around, I was the only one who was a vegetarian since birth. Yes, that did shock a few people. To some, it was a healthy choice and to others, it was crazy. While some mocked me, some supported me as to them, I supported the environment. The most common was when they would list out all non-vegetarian options and I would keep saying no and exasperatedly say then how do you survive? For me, it was first a family and religious diet and then it just naturally became my choice. It also surprised me to know that one could be so judged by the food that they eat.

I wouldn’t know much about the world, but I do know a little bit about my country. India choses its food based on religion. The origin could have been scientific, but today, if I question someone of a particular religion about the food they don’t eat, they would usually equate it to sin. My aunt sometimes tells me off for even watching non vegetarian cook shows. Most religions, like the regions they originate from have special dishes and special preferences. While, the Jains wants food that doesn’t grow under the ground and the Muslims want Halal, there are a few religions that follow a timetable of a day in the week or a month in the year to be vegetarian, allowing them to eat meat and fish for the rest of the period.

It wasn’t the easiest to be a vegetarian in a majorly meat eating country. I had to be extremely careful of reading what I eat. My other personal problem is that I don’t like cheese and that didn’t help. Usually, most of them would classify me as a vegan. While it is easy to follow a vegetarian diet in India, it is difficult to maintain a vegan diet. Mainly, because most dishes have a milk base. Studying about the harmful effects of meat on Earth and reading about why dairy is bad for the atmosphere as well as learning via Facebook about the harm any kind of non-vegan product does on the animals it comes from is slowly pushing me towards adopting a vegan diet, if not lifestyle.

Lastly, I request you to not judge people based on their food preferences. Even though beef is banned in Maharashtra and animal products and by- products are harmful, it still remains a personal choice, something you don’t have the right to judge. Just make sure they have food on their plate.

Ishita

In January 2015 a big brand of deli meats/cold meats launched a TV ad that featured a vegetarian family. What does one have to do with the other you must be wondering. Well, let’s watch it below:

It’s in French so below is a transcript of the conversation:

  • What do you mean you don’t want to be a vegetarian anymore?
  • I’m sick of eating the same thing everytime… green salad, celery, celery, green salad
  • There’s tofu steak!
  • And soja scallop!
  • Yeah but nobody even asked me if I wanted to be vegetarian… Please for once…
  • If you really want to, do it but do it well!

This advert made me angry as soon as I saw it.

Clearly they are mocking the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle as portraying them as weird hippies who don’t even go to the supermarket. Although the brand has published and apology unfortunately the ad is still airing and I don’t feel like they are really respectful of different lifestyles. That ad is riding on some real prejudice that seriously affects the people who choose not to eat meat or consume animal products. There are people who are threathened of loosing their kids if they give them a vegetarian diet.

They are also insinuating that vegetarian people try to micmick meat. It’s a conversation I’ve wanted to start because personnaly I believe eating healthily and sustainably is about eating less processed food. And when I see all these companies making fake chicken or fake bacon I feel like it defeats the purpose.

I’ve learned about the vegetarian lifestyle last year. I know people who are vegetarian for religious reasons and others for ethical or moral reasons. It is a healthy and diverse nutrition, that have kept billions of people alive throughout the years. But for some reason here in France there is a stigma around being vegetarian. I noticed it when I was in the UK, there were vegeterarians and even vegan option everywhere, even at KFC!!! In France you are lucky if there are a couple of vegetarian dishes. Even salads usually have ham and chicken etc.

One might argue that it’s no big deal, it’s just food after all. I wish it was that simple. Apart from the fact that the mass production of meat is unsustainable for the planet, what people put in their plates and mouth is a highly political question. Nowadays only rich people have access to clean water and clean food (i.e. not polluted by pesticides, harsh chemicals etc). In urban areas it is increasingly difficult to have access to fresh fruit and vegetables, which caused a trend of urban gardening on rooftops and balconies. Billions of people are malnourished while tons of food are wasted elsewhere.

I’m hoping that speaking up even with this small article, will add to the momentum of all the people trying to make the world a better place for everyone to live in.

Patricia