Vikram Shastri - Showing Us The Way To A Sustainable Lifestyle
My journey towards Veganism began when I was in school. Having learnt about slaughterhouses and other cruel practices that go into creating leather, silk and honey, I consciously stopped using these products. Non-violence has always been an important part of my ideology.
However, my awareness did not extend to the cruelty in the dairy industry. Since childhood, I was programmed to enjoy cheese, butter and ice cream. The thought never crossed my mind about how the cows were being treated to give us these dairy products. Then, roughly six years ago, I saw a man beating some buffaloes with a stick while trying to get them inside a ‘tabela’ or cow shed. That's when it struck me that I am responsible for this as a consumer of dairy products. That was an epiphanic moment for me and I stopped consuming dairy products that very day.
The craving for cheese stopped, the need for milk faded away, the taste of ice creams vanished. I realized, My love for animals was stronger than my taste buds.
A few months later, I saw an article in the newspapers about Veganism. It was a big thrill to put a name to the lifestyle choice I had made along the excitement of discovering other people like me. I was on a path that a lot of people believed in and nothing was going to stop me from spreading this word.
I had stopped consuming dairy but I failed to recognize that even the music instruments I was using had certain animal parts. I decided to abandon those instruments but putting that to practice was a challenge. As a musician, whenever a work project required me to use those instruments, I would be in a dilemma. But then, I found a solution. I would use pre-recorded samples for those.
But even that didn’t go down well with me, because I thought using those sounds either way promoted the usage of those instruments. I am now on a path of doing research about musical instruments that are free of animal cruelty and hopefully I will soon be creating music with only those instruments to spread the awareness about this matter too.
From my own experience, I have come to realize that awareness and the ability to identify what really contributes to animal cruelty has happened with time and it has been a learning curve for me. There are still a lot of people who are compassionate but still continue to consume animals and animal based products. A lot of people today are knowledgeable about the cruelty meted out to animals. However only a selected few make conscious choices based on this knowledge.
Let’s talk about another aspect of cruelty towards animals. Unfortunately in India “dog lovers” prefer to “own well bred dogs”, no matter what the climatic conditions are. What they don’t realize is that even though they might love dogs, these special breeds have to go through a puppy mill which inflicts so much pain on pregant female dogs. Instead, I chose to rescue and adopt dogs that have been injured or are ill. In the last six years, due to my meagre contribution, I have managed to find homes for 15 stray dogs and 4 kittens and rescued a lot many cats and dogs.
In parallel, my passion for nature conservation and sustainability kept growing. The more I delved into sustainability, the more I realized that veganism and minimalism was the key to conservation of the environment. One cannot be truly vegan without being sustainable, and one cannot be truly sustainable without being vegan. They belong to the same path.
For example - if you’re vegan and you don’t recycle your plastic waste, there is a good chance it may end up in the oceans and harm marine life. That’s why it goes hand in hand.
This happened over a few years, I could clearly see that the modern way of living was impacting the ecosystem and thus chose to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. Veganism for me was one such lifestyle. I did extensive research to find out about natural living. I really wanted to live off the grid and maintain a self-sustainable lifestyle.
This led me to find a solution. I recently bought a piece of land at a beautiful location. It gave me an opportunity to experiment and put into practice whatever I had learned about sustainable living in the past. My goal was to build a house which, at the end of its life, would disintegrate and be hundred percent biodegradable. I was surprised to find out that there are so many things used to construct a house which are either non biodegradable or toxic.
As of now, I have built an extremely low impact natural house. It is made with mud and stone. Most of the material required for the house came from the land itself. I purchased used roof tiles, doors and windows. No cement was used. The fence too is made with thorny branches of 'Karvanda' trees. I intend to build a few more structures with different completely natural materials such as bamboo, thatch and straw. This will enable people who visit to experience this sort of natural living, which I hope will encourage them to choose this path too.
Living close to nature, in a mud house surrounded by forests has definitely opened my eyes to many pleasures as well as challenges. I am enjoying the pleasures of being in touch with mother nature, and living a pure, earth-friendly life while trying to figure out natural ways to deal with the challenges I face due to its structure, location. I also wish to set up a food forest which will provide me with food security. I wish to establish my farm as a showcase for natural, sustainable living, through my project earthify.in.
While doing research about natural off grid living, I came across the concept of Permaculture. Though I found out that some people included animals in this way of living, I had to learn the right way. That’s when I came across Permaculture teachers who happen to also be vegan. Having learnt from masters Clea Chandmal and Rakesh Rootsman Rak, I feel that their learnings have made this way of living a smoother ride for me.
Image sources: Vikram Shastri
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