International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

From The Vegetarian (London), February 28, 1891:

Indian Vegetarians
Part V.

We saw in the last article that the bodily weakness of Hindu Vegetarians was attributable to other causes than their diet, and also that the shepherds who were Vegetarians were as strong as meat-eaters. This shepherd being a very good specimen of a Vegetarian, we may with profit examine his way of living, but before proceeding further, the reader may be told that what follows does not apply to all the Indian shepherds. It applies to the shepherds of a certain part of India. Just as the habits of the people in Scotland would be different from those of the people in England, so also would the habits of the people living in one part of India be different from those of the people living in another part.

The Indian shepherd then gets up generally at five o'clockin the morning. The first thing he does if he is a pious shepherd is to offer some prayers to his God. Then he does his toilet which consists of washing his mouth and face. I may be allowed here to digress for a while to acquaint the reader with the brush an Indian uses for his teeth. The brush is nothing more than a branch of a thorny tree called banal, one branch is cut up into pieces about a foot long. Of course all the thorns are removed. The Indian crushes one end of the stic between his teeth tll it is soft enough to brush his teeth. Thus he makes for himself every day a new and home made brush.When he has well brushed his teeth and made them peark white he splits the stick into two, and after bending one part into a curve scrapes his tongue. This process of brushing probably accounts for the strong and beautiful teeth of the average Indian. It is perhaps superfluous to add that he uses no tooth powder. Old persons when their teeth are not strong enough to crush the stick use a small hammer. The whole process does not take more than twenty or twenty-five minutes.

To return to the shepherd, he then takes his breakfast consisting of a thick cake made of millet - and Anglo-Indian name for bajari, a kind of corn much used in India instead of, or in addition to wheat - clarified butter and molasses. At about eight or nine o'clock in the morning he goes to pasture the cattle placed under his superintendence. The place of pasture is generally two or three miles from his town. It is a hilly tract of land studded with a green carpet of luxuriant foliage. Thus he has the unique advantage of enjoying the freshest air with natural scenery thrown in. While the cattle are roaming about, he whiles away his time in singing or talking to his companion who may be his wife, brother or some other relation. At about twelve o'clock he takes his lunch, which he always carries with him. It consists of the ever present cakes, clarified butter, one vegetable, or some pulse, or instead, or in addition, some pickle, and frexh milk taken directly from a cow. Then at about two or three o'clock he not unfrequently takes a nap for about half an hour under some shady tree. This short sleep gives him relief from the heat of the scorching sun. At six he returns home, at seven he has supper, for which he takes some hot cakes, pulse or vegetables, and winds up with rice and milk, or rice and whey. After doing some household business, which often means a pleasant chat with the family members, he goes to bed at ten o'clock. He sleeps either in the open air, or in a hut which is sometimes overcrowded. He resorts to the hut in winter or in the rainy season. It may be worthy of remark that these huts, even though miserable in appearance and often without any windows, are not air tight. Being constructed in a rude state their doors are made, not as a protection against draughts or wind, but against burglars. It cannot, howver, be denied that there is much room for improvement in the huts.

Such then is the living of a well-to-do shepherd. His, in many respects, is an ideal mode of life. He is perforce regular in his habits, is out of doors duting the greater part of his time, while otu he breathes the purest air, has his due amount of exercise, has good nourishing food and last but not least, is free from many cares which are frequently prodcutive of weak constitutions.

M. K. Gandhi.