1.Deepak, can you give little introduction about yourself
I was born in Agra, India in 1986. My father was in Indian Air Force and had a transferable job. I always lived in the Government colonies with spacious green spaces. My first school was in Chennai and then a small town in Central India. In 1996, my parents moved to Kapurthala, Punjab, when I was in 6th grade school. Now, My father works as a computer engineer at Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala under Indian Railways – one of the most peaceful, clean and greenest residence colonies I have lived. One of the best outcomes of living and traveling in multiple places since childhood is that it made me flexible to adapt anywhere, respect the diversity in food and culture in our society.
Deepak Ashwani: Ongoing Journey of an Inspiring Environmentalist & Vegan
I have been always attracted towards forests and environment preservation activities. I studied Masters in Environmental Management from Aalborg University in Denmark between 2010-12. I have also studied ‘Exponential Technologies to positively impact the society’ from Singularity University, NASA Campus, California, USA in 2017. Since 2011, I mostly lived in forests or near vicinity of forests in Zambia, Rwanda, Denmark, Bhutan and now in India. I have founded Dazin – a cooperative initiative in Bhutan. I have been involved in renewable energy projects with community ownership to provide reliable cooking fuel supply to reduce the deforestation and health hazards of the smoke coming from using firewood during open cooking fires. Now, I keep on traveling to various forest locations and advocate veganism at systemic level in India.
2. What were your earlier consumption habits?
I have been eating mostly vegetarian throughout my life. I have been drinking heavily cow’s milk, butter, curd, etc. since my childhood. My family used to take fish and goat meat occasionally at home. I use to sit in the middle of vegetarian and non-vegetarian groups in restaurants with my friends and workmates to take food from both ends. When I started travelling abroad in 2010, I have started consuming pitty much anything that is available in that region. For food, clothing and entertainment – I accepted what society gave it to me for 28 years. But in 2014, I started asked questions on my lifestyle which had magical effects resulting in opening new world in my life.
3. When did you turn vegan? Was there ‘a moment’ that made you change?
Surprisingly, I never came across (and no one told me) about any environmental damage due to animal agriculture during my studies in Environment. It was my curiosity to ask questions on my lifestyle – that triggered me to explore the food I eat and why I eat what I eat. In 2014, I was living outside of Copenhagen (near to a forest) – I started exploring common sense questions like ‘Do I really need dairy? / Isn’t milk only for babies?’ and ‘How can I simplify my lifestyle?’. I also started doing experiments with my diet along with reading / learning from others on internet. One thing lead to another, and finally in summer of 2015 I decided to go Vegan. This learning made me ethically motivated as well along with health and environmental reasons to see all beings as equal.
4. Why do you think it’s important for you to stay Vegan?
It is important for me to stay Vegan because it reflects my ideology and personality. If I am driven by being compassionate to all beings on earth, minimising my environment impact, and to live healthy clean life (treating my body as a temple) – I must put it into an action. Vegan way of living allows me to practice my core values everyday and make me feel good towards my humble contribution to planet earth. I live a life of inspiration – asking questions everyday on how can I improve further my lifestyle to create minimum impact and what can I share with others to help them as well.
5. How being Vegan impacts your life now?
Being Vegan positively impacts my life on day-to-day basis and deciding on my work activities for long term decisions as well. Once I have explained the ethical and health reasons behind veganism, my family was supportive about it. My parents (who were already vegetarian) also stopped taking milk tea and other milk products at home. All of my friends are aware of the vegan world – most of them heard this word first time because of me. Initially, some of them made fun, but later when they understand its deep-rooted reasoning behind it and observe my determination for it, then they start changing their lifestyle as well. Some of my friends has became vegan. I also got new friends who were already vegan or animal rights activists. It is such a helpful and trustworthy community of 300+ Million all over the world.
6. You are a well-travelled person, can you mention how travelling and being a vegan goes hand in hand? How each country had thrown surprises at you?
I had lots of surprises and memorable moments in my travels to around 35 countries. Once, an old lady has invited me for a dinner in Denmark. She only had pork meal in her home. She was not aware about my vegan lifestyle. She asked me if I eat potatoes from the pork meal, is that still considered vegetarian?
Some of the restaurants staff stare me first when I ask them for no meat, no dairy meals, and then they have a word with a chef to convert one of their meal into vegan. I have learned to find the vegan places by searching in advance and try to eat there only. It is great way to support vegan restaurants as well. I mostly eat fruits while traveling – it has sweet taste and available everywhere easily. Papaya and coconut water is my favorite while traveling in India. I was in Tunisia during Ramadan, when all the shops are closed during day time. Fruits helped me to provide nutritious plant powered food in those days.
7. Do you talk to people about being Vegan anywhere?
I haven’t talked to people about veganism for first 2 years. I was taking time to observe changes in my health, understand the sector in depth and read more about it before spreading the word. In last one year, I have been actively spreading the word with my friends and professional networks. Many of them got convinced to go vegan. Now, my work decisions are also driven by Veganism. I have launched Edible Forest (www.edibleforest.org), with a mission to create access to food forest for all. I am also one of the ambassador to VeganNation – first cruelty-free currency aiming to unite 300+ Million around the world. I am helping grow the Indian vegan maket-place VgungHo as an advisor. I am trying to coordinate the efforts of plant-based healers and practitioners.
8. Do you wish to contribute beyond what you are doing now in Animal Rights/Vegan field? What will you do if you had only that thing to do?
I want to be the change that I wish to see. I wish to create a fruit forest and live there in a most ethically vegan way possible. I mainly eat fruits and some vegetables these days. There will be no environment emissions by growing food there and eating directly on the spot. Any animal or human being will be free to roam there safely, in the abundant paradise of fresh air, water and food. This place will have retreat for people suffering from health issues, so that they can experience the benefits of this simple organic natural lifestyle first-hand. Let this natural lifestyle inspire people to adapt and change their perspective towards life and living healthy. This will be my dream to not just spread veganism but also to mitigate systemic consumerization trap in our society.
9. How can people reach out to you? And what would be your message to people?
My message to people is ‘To seek out the truth themselves’. Let truth become your master. Ask questions about whatever you do in day-to-day basis – Why you do it and what is its impact?. Let your curiosity drives you to find an answer that is good for everyone – for you and for the planet. Never allow social conditioning to determine your behaviour. If you have strong willingness with your reasons to take an action – go for it.
I will be happy to help anyone or provide more information in your journey.
My email: email@example.com
A Video of Deepak and his younger brother on a Fasting Retreat in a forest near Bhopal, MP, India.