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Interviews with Vegetarian/Vegan Activists
November 2007


Interview with IVU Regional Coordinator for South & West Asia
IVU has six regional coordinators (RC) around the world. Shankar Narayan serves as IVU’s RC for South and West Asia. Here’s an interview with Shankar. To find out more: www.ivu.org/members/council/shankar-narayan.html

1. You are the IVU Regional Coordinator (RC) for South and West Asia. How were you involved in vegetarianism before that?

I had started a vegetarian association in 1993 and later the Indian Vegan Society in 2004. Apart from this, I believe in the power of education and therefore, had been to many schools, colleges and some public audience to propagate kindness through diet.

2. How did you learn about IVU?

I came to know of IVU when I was in the Middle East (Dubai) a decade ago, when I got access to internet. At that time, I thought that the IVU was very big and doing so much. Now, being part of the IVU, I realise that how small we (IVU) are in front of the gigantic problem we have and how much more we have to do!

3. South and West Asia contains India, the country with far and away the most vegetarians in the world. What is the state of vegetarianism in India today?

While most traditional vegetarian youth feel inferior and go away from vegetarianism with the smallest excuse, there is a small section of traditional non-vegetarians becoming vegetarians due to the awareness they are gaining about the benefits of vegetarianism. While about 70% of world vegetarians live in India (30% of India’s population), few are active in spreading vegetarianism.

4. You recently organized the International Vegan Festival in India: www.ivu.org/veganfest/2007/photos2.html From what I know, most vegetarians in India are lacto vegetarians. Is it easy to find vegan food in India? Do many people know about veganism?

Veganism is a novelty, very few are aware of it here. Though most Indian vegetarian food is traditionally vegan, with the boom in milk production in the last few decades and the commercialisation of lives, at present it is very hard to find complete vegan food in India. But with some explanation and exploration, vegan food can be obtained.

5. As RC for South and West Asia, what are some of your plans for countries other than India?

First, I reach out to vegetarian minded people in other countries via email groups and motivate them to organize themselves with societies, events, etc. It is a tough job, miles to go before I sleep.

6. What are some of your plans for further promoting vegetarianism in India?

With the availability of more resources, I have plans to appoint (sub) regional representatives in various parts of India to promote vegetarianism in their respective areas. 

7. Do you do your RC work full-time, or do you have a regular job, too?

I have taken up promoting vegetarianism as a full-time job during the last 6 years, using up all my savings.  When I need some money to feed myself, I do some part time jobs (teaching, consultancy, etc.). [ to help Shankar’s work in India go to: www.ivu.org/india/donations.html ]

8. Please share a vegetarian joke with us.

When I was a child, I wanted to make people laugh and give them joy. Now, some of the same people laugh at me because, unlike them, I am a Gandhian and not materialistic. What a joke!  

On the lighter side, two persons - one vegetarian and the other non-vegetarian – were travelling on a train. The vegetarian was just holding the chain, the pulling of which would bring the train to halt. Seeing this, the non-vegetarian thought that the vegetarian was struggling to pull the chain but too weak to do so, because of his meatless diet. The non-veg wanted to show that he was stronger because of being meat eater. So, he pulled the chain forcefully and the train stopped! Afterwards, he was arrested for the mischief and penalised!