‘Chennai Vegan Drinks' on Facebook provides details of vegan options in the city and brings together like-minded people
A blue-green cocktail glass with a sliver of lemon stuck strategically on the rim invites vegans from the city to join the ‘Chennai Vegan Drinks' page on Facebook.
Dig deeper, and Niranjan Amarnath, the 25-year-old behind the Chennai chapter of this international group, emerges between pictures of vegan toothpastes and lip balms.
A vegan for the last five years, Niranjan was looking for a forum to exchange ideas and places where others like him could find what they wanted. “Vegan Drinks began in New York, and soon other cities across the world began to have their own version of this group. This is a forum to help those interested change from meat-eaters or vegetarians to vegans,” he says.
“A lot of people want suggestions and alternatives for different things they use — such as tattoo ink, baking products and so on. I started this community in January so that we can share information on non-dairy recipes or places such as restaurants and bakeries that offer vegan options.”
It's not difficult to be vegan and only requires a few minor lifestyle adjustments, says Niranjan.
“Many think turning vegan is tough, but if you research, you'll know that South Indian food is mostly vegan. Actually, most south Indians are lactose intolerant; hence they use diluted curd in their diet often. There could be a problem on festivals or special occasions, when sweets or other dishes might have dairy products. But otherwise, you can manage.”
Niranjan, a Plant Biology and Biotechnology graduate from Loyola, turned vegan sighting health and ethical reasons. He will soon be joining PETA's Asia office in Philippines. “Chennai has a good number of vegans. Things are changing, and people are conscious about their health these days. And, some others have reasons such as ethics and environment. In fact, the UN recently declared meat-eating one of the reasons for global warming.”
The group meets once a month, and it even held a vegan potluck recently. “We're having another potluck on New Year where vegans from all over the city will bring one dish each. When the first potluck happened, many were surprised to find lots of vegan around; they usually think they're the only ones that are vegan. This platform helped them meet the others,” says Niranjan.
There are alternatives for everything — soy milk or coconut milk replacing regular milk, and peanut butter for regular butter. “Being vegan is not just about avoiding meat and dairy, but also eating healthy,” he says. “You eat greens and nuts, replace white rice with brown rice, and white sugar with unrefined sugar and so on. It's also becoming easier to eat out since restaurants and cafes are beginning to offer vegan alternatives.”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/ChennaiVeganDrinks.