Category Archives: Portfolio

The Seed Festival- Beejotsav

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We have just celebrated the earth day with much fanfare in all parts of the world. In most places, the idea of conserving nature and protecting Mother Earth is celebrated once in a year and people disperse after taking pledges and making vows. Many forget about them even before they reach their homes and until the next year, nothing ever happens. If you are the type following the news in the papers and media, you will agree with what I am saying. Of course, there are many people who really get inspired and try and do something in this direction. Even a small step counts.

But deep within the country, there are so many indigenous people like the Adivasis of Khondh in Odisha or the women of the Khasi tribe in Meghalaya who are silently renewing their relationship with mother earth not because it is earth day or something but because it is their way of life, something women from these communities have been doing for thousands of years. The Khondh community celebrates the seed festival or Bijun Parab just before the arrival of the first rains. The women collect different varieties of seeds throughout the year and store them safely from insects, beasts or any such intrusion by mixing neem paste or using natural fertilizers like lining the basket with cow dung. During the annual seed festival, they bring out the varieties of seeds they have saved into the open outside their homes and place them in the village square. The entire community participates in rejoicing during the festival with men beating the drums, women singing songs and children dancing and playing. Those who were unfortunate and have lost their seeds need not worry; the seeds will be shared by all the women. What a wonderful spirit of community sharing and caring.

And they wait, till the signs of rain. Then off they go to scatter the seeds in the patch of lands and soon the land gives them a rich reward and thus the cycle continues.

The Khasi tribe which is matrilinear also does something like this. Women preserve seeds of all varieties for they need wholesome meals which should include cereals, vegetables, fruits even medicinal plants. The knowledge that these women possess is amazing. They pass it on to generations along with the deep reverence for the mountains, rivers and forests. They are untouched by the guile of the outsiders and have made their lives simple and closer to the elements.

That is true earth day. Every day is a celebration. How I wish we can learn from our cultures and respect the earth and her resources with gratitude. The Beejotsav teaches us just this.

Seed Donation in Ketitu

The Seed donation drive started by Kenya Vegetarian Club continues as it races to meet its target of reaching out to farmers in the interiors. This time we went to Ketitu as more than 35 representatives from various villages had assembled at Ketitu world vision office.

We also reached out to St Fredrick sub primary school where more than 120 kids participated and promised to be vegetarian and also help the school in farming of Muringa Seeds. These enthusiastic students are the hope for the future of our country and if we instil right values and habits from a young age, I am sure they will grow up to be bright honest citizens of the land. It was a day well spent and I am happy we are visiting so many places and distributing muringa seeds.

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Priming the mind using social media

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How to break the cycle of habits and start something afresh? Many of us make New Year Resolutions but we are not able to stick on to them for long. This is more so when it comes to things like diet, exercise etc. We want to do it but somehow end up not doing it. I am sure you have all faced these dilemmas and I am not alone in this.  I recently read an article which explains how we can use our social media to help us sort out many things. We use it for a limited purpose for sending messages or forwards. But we can use it to break habits also.

If we start having discussions on our social groups on the need for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, switching over to a healthy food plan etc, then we will be able to take the discussion towards this particular task and it would be easy to follow it. This is backed by research as the article goes on to explain. Exposure to social-based messages promotes healthy eating which can actually increase consumption of fruit and vegetables and reduce consumption of high-calorie snacks. I think sub consciously the mind keeps getting bombarded by such similar messages that it starts attuning itself around it. They call this priming the mind which is an effective technique.

Advertisements make use of this priming effect by floating images of products which we reach out for when we go shopping. So why not use the same trick for getting something good done, I think it is a good idea. Likeminded people can motivate one another.

 

 

Ringing in the New Year with Resolutions

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Yet another year draws to a close. Everyone looks forward to a fresh beginning. It has been a mixed bag this year. Trump’s win is poised to change the way the US is seen in the world. Many areas of the world are still marred by war, senseless violence, devastation and homelessness. Drug fuelled lives continue to claim many talented lives. Demonetization changed many things in India. People have adjusted to living within tight budgets. Nature’s fury has resulted in unseasonal floods, droughts and other calamities in many parts of the world.

Looking back we can see how many things could have been avoided if only we had led more responsible lives with consideration for others. That is what the world currently lacks. Expanding waistlines can be treated with diet and exercise but how do we set right contracting hearts. If the heart has to expand and accommodate goodness, a lot of self-effort is needed. We need to look beyond our self, but unfortunately the I, me, mine syndrome seems to be difficult to move away from.

Let us resolve to be a wee bit more loving and forgiving.

Let us resolve to include not just us and ours but also others in that circle of love.

Let us resolve to include other life forms also in our thoughts and prayers.

Let us resolve to preserve nature and prevent its exploitation in the coming year.

May the New Year bring us all happiness and cheer!

Reaching out to women and handicapped children in slums during christmas 

Kenya Vegetarian Club visited the slums of Oboch market near Nyalenda market in Kisumu. The club donated maize and bread to these women and children during the christmas festival of the year. The club also donated to women in Abonga market near domestic airport and Toyota Kenya’s workshop. ​These women mostly sell fish. We explained to them to slowly shift their livelyhood to vegetable farming and stop eating fish. 

Every year during christmas the club invite people to eat only vegetarian food. This time we reached out to them in different areas. 

Son of the Soil

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Each time we fill our plate with food, I think of all those who have toiled hard to make it possible to bring the food from the field to the table. Gratitude is what comes uppermost to my mind. Perhaps that is the reason we have so many festivals in India dedicated to agriculture and farming. The year begins with the onset of uttarayan coinciding with January.  Sankaranti is a harvest festival that honors all that is associated with farming like the farmers, cows, implements etc. Then it is the colorful festival of Holi which celebrates the onset of spring after the cold spell of winter. Farmers pray for a good harvest during the year. Baisakhi celebrated mostly in Punjab in April is a thanksgiving for bountiful harvest. The Hareli festival in July August is also a harvest festival popular in Chattisgarh where tribes worship farming equipment and farm animals. Nuakhai is a harvest festival of Odisha celebrated in August September. The Kut Festival celebrated by tribes in Manipur is a post harvest festival. Bengal and other North Eastern states also have their own local versions of the harvest festival.

So there is so much beauty in this great diverse land where people, whichever place they may belong to, have specific festivals dedicated to harvest. 23rd December is observed as Kisan diwas in India. Africa also has many harvest festivals like the Yam Festival or the Homowo Festival which are all thanksgiving festivals for good harvests. We certainly need to observe these days as our lives are blessed by earth and rain, which give us good food which sustains us.

 

Vegetarianism- Myth Vs Reality

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The day was warm and pleasant and we set out on our expedition into the interiors. This time our destination was Songhor Village near Chemeline. The place is so close to nature and with a lot of prehistoric sites, it is a beautiful village near the mountains. There is a huge potential to improve farming in this area and we decided to continue our seed donation program in this village. The farmers there are a well-informed lot. They are aware of the new techniques of farming. It was a pleasure interacting with them.

But what really surprised me is the fact that most of them were vegetarians. They seemed to know all about the benefits of a vegetarian diet. There is this great myth doing the rounds that native African tribes do not endorse vegetarian diet. In fact many seem to think that I am wasting my time promoting plant-based food in Kenya. During the time I was researching for my book The Veg Safari, I read that there were many Africans who embraced a plant-based diet as a matter of routine though they would not advocate it. For many, it was also because of economic compulsions. They found adequate energy for their tough life even in the plant-based items they would prepare. A few tribes have been vegetarians out of choice. So these were all interesting findings and it is a myth to typecast anyone in a particular bracket.

All about Ghee

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The box of sweets lay tantalisingly inviting on the table. I tried to ignore it and succeeded. Well almost. Then out of curiosity, I started reading the lines on the packaging. Pure ghee sweets—  written in bold. I also recalled my visit to the ISKCON temple last month where they served Prasad made out of pure ghee.

With so much of ghee news on my mind I started reading about ghee and whether it is actually good for us. Ghee has always been used since ancient times in India. Clarified butter began to be used in the south where temperatures were always warmer than the north. So it had to be ghee or clarified butter and not butter which had to be used. And slowly people started realizing its benefits. As a cooking medium you can use very little and get enhanced flavors. Scientists are now saying that it also aids weight loss. The energy from medium chain fatty acids in ghee and coconut oil actually burns the fat in the body. It improves the functioning of the gall bladder and enhances digestion. Food gets burnt quickly and this also helps in weight loss as fat is not accumulated in the body. Ayurveda recommends usage of ghee as it provides an alkaline system for the body.

All this sounds quite good and I am definitely planning to try out ghee in my diet. Of course moderation is the key.

 

International Meatless Day

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November 25th is observed as the International Meatless Day. It is the birth anniversary of Sadhu Vaswani who advocated non violence and compassion along with service to the downtrodden during his lifetime. His birthday is observed as Meatless Day and the movement has gained international recognition due to the sustained campaign by his followers. In India, four states Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh – have issued instructions in the past for the closure of slaughter-houses as well as butchers’ shops on 25th November every year, in their respective states. This is a great achievement and like all campaigns this change cannot happen overnight.

Long time ago if you mention vegetarianism, people would snigger and say it is the cult of the crazy. Mahatma Gandhi writes in his autobiography how difficult it was to find vegetarian food in the west. But now, thanks to health and lifestyle reasons people have started accepting vegetarianism as a way of life. Our younger generation should be convinced about the ill effects of animal food and more importantly alternatives should be introduced to them so that they understand that vegetarian substitutes are equally tasty.

At Kenya Veg Club we will continue to promote vegetarianism.

 

Sustainable Development

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20th November is Africa Industrialization Day, on this occasion, it is so important to remember how much industrialization has helped to take our country forward. We need to train our women and youth in skills that are required to industrialize. This is very important and for this small scale units have to be set up and we should be able to achieve sustainable development.  In our own small way if we support our local workforce, then that will see sustainable development in the region in the long run.

When we distribute seeds to local farmers and help them cultivate their farms and assist them by buying their produce for our own consumption, then we are helping the agriculture sector grow in a systematic way. Kenya Vegetarian Club is aiming at achieving this kind of development in the region. There is a vast potential as our land is green and there is always a need for locally made fresh produce. This will also help in the creation of jobs for locals and setting up of farming related allied industries.

 

Vegetarianism- Awareness Month

The month of October is observed as Vegetarian Awareness Month after being endorsed by the International Vegetarian Union in 1978. It is a great way of acknowledging the benefits of vegetarianism to the individual, to our resources, to our environment and above all in bringing compassion to our lives. It is sad that people indulge in cruelty to animals just to fill our plates and pamper our palates. If our movement should succeed then we need to create awareness as many people may not even know what animals go through before they end up as food on the table. That is why this month is also known as Reverence for Life month. By being a vegan we can take this concept one step ahead by promising that we will not use any animal product at all in our lives.

What can each one of us do to promote this concept in our immediate neighborhood among our friends and maybe even family in some instances? Vegetarians should come out and speak about how life-changing the whole experience is. As it is good for nature and animals, we are not burdened with guilt and can feel a lot more light both physically, mentally and emotionally. It can also resolve many diseases like digestion problems, obesity, breathlessness etc. and definitely it keeps us fresh and energetic. For those who want to make the switch but cannot give up non-vegetarian food, there are substitutes from the vegetarian world, which can bring out the same or if not at least equivalent taste. The internet is full of such recipes. Where there is a will, there is a way.

This is a great month as it provides us a chance to sit back and reflect on why we should turn vegetarian. It would be good to read books and articles on vegetarianism as it will give a true picture of what animals go through. My book Veg Safari describes various aspects of vegetarianism which will help in gaining an in depth understanding.

Happy Vegetarian Experience to all my readers!

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A talk on who is myneighbour by Gandhi Foundation at St. Martin in the fields

I atrended a very inspiriting talk on how to deal with diversity and avoid conflicts by Gandhi Foundation at St Martin- in- the- Fields at Trafalgar Square in London. The talk was initiated by Rowan Williams who is actively involved with various works of Gandhi.

He addressed on how to accept the diversity and avoid conflics arising out of it. It was an wye opening for me to know a completely different shades of empathy, diversity and peace. 

It is surely going to take my reaearch on peace and restoration of peace to the next level.

Few excerpts from the talk

– conflicts arises out of failing to understand the difference

– I have no idea how you feel is definaltely not a good statement 

– Empathy might do wonders id applied positively 

– Accepting the complications of diversity is the only solution

– Deeper sense of all religions and identity and security of that identity is the key issue of today’s world

– Ethical behavior is the roots of the civilization and culture 

– Border disputes, tribalism, civil war- outcome of a rigid mind

– Diversity is not the death of the country

– Deficite of knowledge is growing

– Education system is designed to make people fit into the society as they like

– Collective nervous breakdown can be avoided 

At peace with oneself

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The United Nations has marked 21st of September as the International Day of Peace. It is observed in all the nations all over the world and the practice began in 1981 with the sole aim of promoting peace in the world. The UN Secretary General strikes the Peace Bell to signal the commencement of the celebrations. The Bell was cast using coins donated by delegates from 60 countries and collected by children and presented by Japan to the UN in 1954.

But we often wonder if all this is mere tokenism or is there a higher purpose to observing an exclusive day dedicated to peace. We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves is what the Dalai Lama says. We need to be at peace with ourselves only then we can reflect that in our actions. Today in the world we find people who are ready to retort and react at the drop of the hat. There is so much of anger within each one that it manifests in acts of violence against all those who are vulnerable. Peace does not mean absence of war alone. There should be no violence even in the minds of people only then can we say that there is real peace.

How do we attain the state of being at peace? We need to practice it meticulously. Thích Nhất Hạnh, the Vietnamese monk speaks of mindfulness as the key to finding peace. Every act should be done with a mindful consciousness. Even something as mundane as drinking tea. We need to concentrate on the act and not gulp it down as a chore. This mindfulness becomes a habit if we extend it to all our actions. Then we will think and speak only if there is an absolute need and that too after analyzing whether it will hurt other’s feelings or not.  This is one way of developing the state of being at peace.

 

 

 

Tree planting at various schools in Kibigori

My team went to plant 450 trees in various schools in Kibigori area. We donated 450 trees to Oroba Primary school, Wook Primary school, Minyange Primary school and Waware primary schools. We also donated some trees to Miranga Dispensary in Milani. These indigenous trees

A lot of thanks to donor of these trees. My team delivered the trees to the school early this week. The school authorities confirmed planting them into the schools with the help of kids of the school.