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Bindi Bottoms
Aishwariya Viswanath Vegan Cafe Owner, Pune

"I was a proud “egg bhi nahi khati” vegetarian. I believed I was not a part of hurting and killing animals to sustain my food habits. Then, an article I came across challenged me to the core. It was about the life of a dairy cow and how it was victimized to sustain the dairy needs of people. I was shocked that I had also contributed to it by consuming dairy all my life. That’s when I decided to turn vegan.

It was not easy. My family thought I had gone crazy. Some people thought veganism was the newest fad and I would soon be back to being a nice dairy-eating vegetarian. Eventually, I went to the UK to study. A variety of vegan options was easily available there. Whenever I ate great vegan food, I’d send my folks a picture to tell them I was enjoying it. When I returned to India, I brought a good stock of some of my favourite vegan items.

The real challenge began after this stock got over. I had to start cooking vegan food. I would host a series of potlucks and receive compliments for my culinary skills. I had always known that I wanted to start a vegan business. When people appreciated my vegan cooking, I thought of starting a vegan cafe. Although I knew that it was an ultra-niche market, I assumed that I would be fine. As always, real life proved to be more difficult than the plans. It was tough to tame the vegan recipes to yield consistent results. Learning the logistics of running a café was not easy either.

Today my café is a sort of a vegan hub where vegan food lovers and animal rights activists meet, connect and bond over vegan delicacies.

We also get a lot of hardcore non-vegetarian customers in the cafe. They usually come with vegans or vegetarian friends in a quest for something new. Some of them don't even know that it is a vegan cafe; they just know that it is a vegetarian plant-based cafe. They don't really focus on the 'vegan' aspect of it. I used to be very judgemental towards such people earlier. I kept asking friends, “How can you eat meat?” However, over the last year of being an entrepreneur, I’ve realized that it may be difficult for lifelong meat-eaters to give up their established food habits.

All said and done, I have been a vegan for five years now and life is going on. For my convenience, I have two Facebook profiles: one for my vegan friends and one for my non-vegan friends.”


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