International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

On the Path of Enlightenment
Shankar Narayan.

Goa, India - Sep.10-18, 2006: Probably the most important 9 days in my life so far. During this period, I met a number of beautiful people from around the world who share my concerns for the health of the earth, who share my dreams of making this world cruelty-free, who care for the pain and pleasures of every mute creature as they care for the humans, who dare to accept me as one of their own and with whom I am proud to identify myself as a member of the universal vegan family. And I met some caring people who wanted me to care for the organised vegetarian movement worldwide by putting me on the International Council of the International Vegetarian Union, I met some saintly people who showed me how to keep one's cool in the face of adversity, I met some people who would become my life's best friends and companions in the arduous journey of making the human race sane! I met some people who are the cream and the essence of the human civilization who would probably shape the destiny of the earth and its inhabitants.

This all seemed so easy, so simple and so dreamlike. But behind this there were decades of struggle, suffering, isolation, humiliation and dedication & determination for a cause about which most humans seldom care.

It seems very flattering to say that I live in a country where more than 300 million vegetarians live. It seems very easy to lead a cruelty free life living among these 'kind-hearted' fellow beings who inherited thousands of years of civilization. We are conditioned to feel proud that we live in a great nation which is the birthplace of many religions preaching the message of kindness.

But the reality is quite different. I live in a country having more than 800 million meat-eaters, a number which is growing. I live among 1100 million people who eat and use one or the other animal or animal products extensively for life's various activities including the activities to please their deities! I live in a country which is the largest producer of dairy products in the world. I live in a country which has 200 million affluent middle class citizens who consider it fashionable to eat meat! I live in a country in which the majority of the population are illiterate and live in abject poverty who cannot understand anything other than what is good for them. I live in a country whose educated class is in competition with the affluent section of the world to gain material pleasure at the expense of morality.

Right from my childhood, I was influenced by the messages of Mahatma Gandhi's life viz. non-violence and truthfulness. Having seen and undergone the difficulties of an economically deprived family throughout my childhood, I was thinking of frailties of human systems, inequalities in our society and measures required to improve over these weaknesses. Being at the receiving end always, I was worried about the violence, robberies, exploitation, suppression, corruption, caste and religion based differentiations prevalent in our societies. I used to think that the birth of humans was the cause of all pain in this earth, and explosion of human population was the cause of all evils inflicting humans. But I could do little and I was always besieged with the problems of the world around me.

Later, when I grew up and after my graduation in commerce from the Mangalore University, I had the opportunity of reading Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography 'My Experiments with Truth', and this gave me some insights into the fact that it is not just human society which is suffering from the many evils but the other members of the animal kingdom also have many problems which are mostly human made. I started to think how I could help our fellow animals who have been enslaved by humans and cruelly exploited in all the ways one could imagine and even beyond one's imaginings. I was a traditional vegetarian even before my birth. With the learning from Mahatma Gandhi's experiences, I stopped drinking milk which was a rarity and a strange behaviour in my society.

At the same time, I started working in the Indian corporate sector and it was bumpy. Everybody was after money, fame and success. To be successful, one was ready to make any compromise. Traditional vegetarians used to eat meat and convert themselves to be on par with meat-eating 'elite' people and people who would not compromise were made fun of, looked down upon as 'grass-eaters' and pulled down the corporate ladder. Seeing and suffering these ignominies, I started a vegetarian association to get rid of any inferiority feeling among vegetarians and thereby arrest their conversion to be non-vegetarians. It is a different matter that my noble ideas and intentions didn't bear much fruit. However, I was strongly rooted in non-violence and a cruelty-free lifestyle and an article in a newspaper about skinning of snakes alive for leather prompted me to discard all my leather goods and stop buying and using any more leather articles.

Later, in 1996, I had the opportunity of travelling abroad and working in a Middle East country. At that time, email and internet were proliferating and I was exposed to their benefits at my office in Dubai, UAE, where I was working as Accounts & Sales Administration Manager. A very interesting and fulfilling aspect of my working there was having a very good, understanding, supportive, and vegetarian boss in Mr.Ganesh Srinivasan who showed through his life that to be successful one need not compromise on ethics and principles and can remain vegetarian.

During my stay in Dubai, I learnt about internet and that helped me learn about the International Vegetarian Union and the world vegetarian movement. I also came to know about the Vegan Society, UK and discovered that my lifestyle was called vegan and I was not alone in being so. And I had decided to do something for the suffering non-human animals and the humans by awakening my brethren and persuading them to lead a cruelty free lifestyle by becoming vegans.

After returning to India from abroad in 2001, I started living a complete vegan lifestyle and urging others to follow. When I saw some good results and with many becoming vegans, I thought of organising and keeping them together and started Indian Vegan Society, in 2004, probably the first vegan group in India. Since then I have been part of the organised veg*n movement and have been urging people to form vegetarian/vegan groups with the aim of spreading veganism as a viable means of protecting the earth and the rights of all its inhabitants to lead a cruelty free life. Personally, I am exploring the possibilities of becoming a raw-foodist or fruitarian and reaching the next level of vegetarianism or veganism.

My story is incomplete without recounting two very important events of my life. The first concerns my physical health. I suffered a series of typhoid fevers in 1988-89. Suffering the deadly disease 4 times in 2 years was almost fatal and left me completely debilitated. But with utmost care, caution, naturopathy and vegan food, I have recovered to a great extent and am able to lead a normal life.

The second event was on the social front. There were some powerful bigots in my society who couldn't digest my veganism and more so my son becoming vegan. They considered it as anathema to their religious practice and conspired to scuttle my efforts by various means including isolating me. But my determination to survive and sustain my coveted principles to help the helpless didn't allow their designs to succeed and saw me through the crisis. And Gandhian and vegan principles played a crucial role in managing this crisis.

Today I lead a completely satisfied life in the company of many vegans including my 9 year old son who are with me in times of joy, sorrow, crises, happiness and to express, share and advance my mission. There are still many hurdles left but I have to cross them. As Robert Frost aptly said, "Woods are lovely dark and deep but I have many promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep", I too have to carry on with all my might on the chosen path.

I have a dream of seeing this world vegan one day. It may be utopian as it seems today, but one day, maybe centuries later, it will be a reality. I am an eternal optimist, I believe in myself and in the world around me. The world vegan movement started 60 years ago, and has come a long way. As a beginner in India, I have some plans to veganise India and emancipate the chained and suffering. I would like to share such plans with you all and request you to support my plans in whatever way possible to you. My plans are:

1. Organising 11th International Vegan Festival from Sep.30 to Oct.6, in Murdeshwar, Karnataka, India. While we would like to give all vegans and other participants a good time in a good place and in the company of good people for a very good price, we also expect to get a lot of publicity in the electronic, print and visual media. This should create a lot of curiosity among the general public and a lot of self-confidence and positive identity for the already initiated.

2. An essay competition in English and the local language Kannada on Veganism and its relevance to India to students and general public. This is open to all and prizes will be given in different categories like India and rest of the world, English and Kannada, born before 1.1.1990 and born on or after 1.1.1990. All the winners will be given an all-expense-paid trip from anywhere in India to Murdeshwar and cash prizes will be given out during the Vegan Festival (IVF-07). This is aimed at creating curiosity and awareness about veganism. Details will soon be available on

3. Conducting annual vegan festivals in various places commencing in 2008.

4. Encouraging veg*ns to create groups transcending all religions and castes at all places using links and bringing them all under one umbrella like IVU.

5. Encouraging non-veg*ns to change their lifestyles and join Veg*n groups.

6. Setting up a place, housing a vegan residential school, a vegan holiday home and an animal sanctuary.

7. Setting up a vegan exhibition centre in a prominent place having access to public.

8. Setting up a mobile vegan education centre to educate school children and the public about veganism with the aim of spreading the sparks which could light many lamps to give light to the world.

9. Helping vegan children to take up higher studies and or encourage Gandhian studies.

With these plans and programs, we want to make an impact and give a thrust and make it a self-propelling movement to make our earth a rightful place for all living beings to live a harmless life. I request everyone to chip in with whatever ideas, suggestions, experiences, resources etc.