Interview with IVU Regional Coordinator for North America
Dilip Barman - serves as IVU Regional Coordinator for North America. Here is a chance to learn more about Dilip.
Hi, Dilip. How were you involved in vegetarianism before you started working with IVU?
My parents have always been vegetarian. When I was in graduate school at Brown University (USA), I was exposed to veganism when I was invited to a vegan Thanksgiving. Later, I started attending conferences like Vegetarian Summerfest and, upon moving to North Carolina (USA), I became an active member of the local vegetarian organization, Triangle Vegetarian Society (TVS).
Tell us more about your vegetarian activism.
Soon, I found myself President of TVS. I love to cook and I enjoy teaching and public speaking, which was a natural marriage encouraging my activism. I take the words of Howard Lyman, ex-cattle rancher turned vegan and one of the best speakers on vegetarianism, to heart - when we point at a person and say "You should ...", three fingers point back at us. I try to get the word out non-judgementally and make people who have any level of interest in plant-based diets comfortable in discussing vegetarianism.
We’ve heard about your vegan cooking challenge. Please tell us more.
Yes. Some people feel that a plant-based diet must be so restrictive - what can one eat or cook? I find it liberating; often those who move from a meat-based diet are amazed at the diversity of food. I love to top off my discussions about veganism with a reference to my food blog - dilipdinner.blogspot.com
I do the cooking in my house and in almost five years of knowing my wife, I have never repeated a dinner for her. She has problems digesting tofu, but I have been able to make a new meal for her each night I cook (which is most nights) that is fully vegan and does not include tofu, soy cheese, or other non-fermented soy products (we do use and love tempeh)! We also enjoy eating out, incidentally, and almost always find good vegan choices.
When and how did you learn about IVU?
I can't remember! I guess it was through networking with other organizations and perhaps finding the IVU website.
Do you do your RC work full-time, or do you have a regular job, too?
I used to be a software engineer for IBM. I currently teach (vegan cooking, photography, Gandhian philosophy, math, and computer science) for two universities, a hospital, and several area towns and arts institutes, and am a professional photographer.
Is there anything unique about the vegetarian movement in North America?
We are lucky to have many important plant-based and animal rights organizations that have global impact working here in North America. Some examples include PeTA, Vegetarian Resource Group, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Farm Animal Reform Movement, North American Vegetarian Society, and Vegetarian Union of North America.
In addition to your work with IVU, you also lead the Triangle Vegetarian Society in North Carolina, USA, where you live. Please say a bit about TVS.
I'm lucky to be involved with such a group of committed, non-judgemental vegetarians and those interested in vegetarianism. One of the founders of the group is Tom Regan, who of course, is considered one of the key contemporary philosophers of animal rights. Our claim to fame is that for the past few years we have hosted what we believe is the country's largest vegetarian (all vegan) Thanksgiving.
Please tell us more about your Thanksgiving celebration.
Thanksgiving is an American holiday that in the second part of the twentieth century seemed to become synonymous with the eating of dead turkeys, when in fact it started as a harvest holiday that was probably vegan or near-vegan. We are trying to bring people back to those roots. At the November 2008 TVS Thanksgiving feast, for example, we had almost 600 people from more than forty cities and seven states at one extended seating, with a long wait list of even more people. Check out the menu and other details at www.trianglevegsociety.org/thanksgiving08 !
What is one event or development that makes you particularly hopeful about the future of vegetarianism?
It is exciting to see how there are so many reasons, e.g., health, environmental, ethical, taste, ease of food preparation, strongly arguing for a plant-based diet. If I had to identify one development, it would be the increasing awareness of the environmental impact of a non-vegan diet.
Recently, you became a first-time father. Do you have any advice for new vegetarian parents?
Other than being in awe of your beautiful child, you should congratulate yourself on choosing a lifestyle of compassion. Much evidence shows that via a vegetarian diet you are giving your child perhaps the best path towards the great gift of health and longevity.
Please share a vegetarian joke with us.
Did you hear the joke about the farmer's fields? It's rather corny!