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Vegetarian Conference in Mahabaleshwar
A report by the Hon. General Secretary
IVU News 2-97

Following two successful seminars to promote closer ties among vegetarians, the Indian Vegetarian Society (Reverence for Life) chose the vegetarian Fountain Hotel with its peaceful surroundings and panoramic views for this years Regional Congress for India and the Far East.

photoThe theme of the conference, held to encourage greater participation in the World Vegetarian Congress in Thailand from 4 to 10 January 1999, was Live and Let Live a simple but daringly revolutionary statement of peace and tolerance as relevant in todays increasingly self-centred and aggressive world as it was 150 years ago when it was chosen by the Vegetarian Society of the UK for the struggle to establish the vegetarian ideal of a world ruled by compassion and respect for others.

The ascent to our vegetarian Shangri-la in the mountain resort of Mahabaleshwar required considerable endurance as well as good lungs, starting out from the commercial and financial hub of the bustling coastal city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), through the outlying heavily congested and polluted industrial areas and continuing across the dry plains of a rich and varied landscape, shaped as much by the unrelenting heat of the sun as by the ceaseless human activity.

A truckload of stones spilled in the road, a punctured tyre on the bus and the endless stream of lorries along the way combined to delay the start of the conference programme, which followed our first meal in the relaxed mountain atmosphere of the Fountain Hotel where time seemed to take on a different quality and meaning.

The conference was attended by about 70 delegates from various parts of India Chennai (formerly Madras), Ahmedabad, Baroda, Mumbai and also by some Europeans. It began with a brief prayer and introduction by Shri Justice Kantharia, who recommended drinking more water and eating more raw foods; he also stressed the health advantages of vegetarianism and the important role that women who feed both the young and the old could play in shaping the vegetarian future of India.

IVU Deputy President Maxwell Lee invited everyone to join in the UK Vegetarian Society's 150th anniversary celebrations this year and spoke of the licensing of the vegetarian symbol for use on vegetarian products. A specialist eye surgeon from Mumbai, Dr. Kulin Kothari, led a lively and informative question and answer session following his interesting presentation on eye disease and the benefits of vegetarianism. He also referred to scientific and ethical vegetarianism.

Mrs. Ushaban Dharia, a well known cookery expert, staged a lively cookery demonstration of vegetarian shish kebabs.

The importance of radio as a means of communication was highlighted by the station director of All-India Radio, Mrs. Mrudulaben Desai. Dr. Gunvant Shah captivated his audience with a speech on Vegetarianism a Way of Life, in which he explained the meaning of three different manifestations of violence: killing an animal oneself; letting someone else, such as a butcher, do the killing for you; and consuming slaughterhouse byproducts such as animal skins.

Dr. Kinjal Suratwalla, a sports physician, spoke of the positive effects of having implemented vegetarian eating habits in the Ranji Trophy team in Mumbai. IVU General Secretary Francisco Martín stressed the importance of maintaining a good rapport with our food, air, water, etc. and the link between healthy eating habits and the rejection of violence. #

templeDr. Pankaj Parekh, a noted paediatrician, said that the best doctors were sunshine, water, rest, air, exercise and a healthy diet of natural foods, consumed in a proper way. He also gave some health advice and practical vegetarian tips with the aid of audio-visual equipment.

Shri Saurabh Shah, a popular presenter from the Good Morning Mumbai programme, spoke of non-diet-related aspects of vegetarianism, offering advice to couples on how to bring more harmony into their relationships. Dr. Bhamgara, who led the morning meditation and exercise sessions with the assistance of Shri Jayantibhai Parmar, referred to the link between alternative medicine and spirituality.

Shri Jashu Shah, Hon. General Secretary of the Indian Vegetarian Society (Reverence for Life), stressed the importance of the scientific arguments for vegetarianism in discouraging young people from eating meat. At the close of the conference, he expressed the wish that there should be reverence for all things and thanked everyone for attending.

Interesting outings during the conference included visits to an old fort perched high on a mountain, and to the temple of the seven rivers to drink the life giving waters. We also enjoyed sampling the delicious, locally grown strawberries, a short boat trip on a pleasant nearby lake, and some memorable shopping at the busy and colourful Mahabaleshwar fruit and vegetable market, where the local cows could be seen attempting to chew some of the produce on display.


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