Labeling myself

Feminist, Agnostic, Atheist, Vegan, Pacifist, Secular…

I’ve never been one to be shy to put labels on myself. But is it the right way to go about things? And does it matter?


I’m often told that there are extremists associated with most of these social movements. People who are too loud, who take it too far, who don’t really understand, who are irrational. People like these, who become a prominent face of the movement  & you don’t really wants to associate with scary folks. Identifying with a label, thus, comes with a baggage. People’s perception of you is affected by the labels you choose to wear. But there’s a catch here: this perception of you is limited by people’s knowledge and their previous perception of the label.

For example, if some stranger casually happens to mention that they identify as a feminist. What can you learn from this? What will be your perception of this stranger?

  1. If you don’t know what this word means, you might search for it’s meaning. (That’s how I came to know about most things).
  2. If you believe in equal rights for all genders & choose to label yourself a feminist, you are likely to have to positive perception of this person.
  3. If you don’t believe in equal rights for all genders, you are likely to have a negative perception of this person.
  4. You might agree with the crux: equal rights for all genders but don’t feel that the word feminist represents this definition. You’ve met people calling themselves feminists before and their behavior greatly differed. And hence you might not be too sure of what this person means by feminism. You may ask them further questions or just observe their behavior to make up your mind (good/bad feminist). Or just leave it at that, and not form an opinion. In which case your perception of this person remains largely unaffected by their use of this label.
  5. You might agree with the crux: equal rights for all genders but based on some past experience, you feel like feminists are an angry bunch of man-hating women or something like that. And this likely results in a roll of eye and a negative perception of this stranger.

So, one drawback of putting a label on yourself is that you might have people who essentially believe in the same thing as you do (definition of the label) and still carry a negative impression of you.

Now consider a slightly different scenario: instead of a stranger, imagine a person you’ve known for some time & this is someone you like and someone whose broad ideology you agree with. This person casually mentions that they are a feminist. Now what?

  1. Same as above.
  2. Same as above.
  3. Same as above.
  4. Here, since you already liked this person before, you might categorize them as a ‘Good feminist’ in your head and the perception likely doesn’t change overall. But it still has a positive effect of you knowing one more of the good kind.
  5. This is the fun part. You found this person agreeable before & here they are saying that they identify with this angry bunch of man haters! If your negative perception of the label is greater that your likeness of this person, their reputation is going to take a hit in your head. On the other hand, if your likeness of this person is greater than your negative perception of the label, it might push you to re-assessing your stance or in the very least, strike up a conversation with them on the topic.


Ultimately, it seems that a lot depends on the person you are talking to when you choose to share your labels with them. Coming back to the questions I started the post with:

Putting labels on oneself: Is it the right way to go about things? And does it matter?

The answer I suppose lies in how strongly you feel about the issue. Is it more important to you that more people know/talk/discuss/debate the issue or is it more important that people not perceive you negatively? What would you regret more: not being vocal about an issue that is important or being dragged into unwanted debates requiring obvious clarifications?

For me, a person who is a natural debate seeker, the answer is a no-brainer. I refuse to be scared of the extremists who try to hijack the issue: I will try my best to call them out. And I refuse to be concerned with how I’m perceived by people who seek no clarifications. My personal stand is that by trying to be a rational & thoughtful person, I might be able to change some people’s perception of the label & the kind of people who associate with it – which ultimately helps the cause. I also run the risk of being considered stupid/obnoxious/etc. by some, but if it’s not due to my actions but their view of the issue in general, then frankly I don’t care and I don’t see how not labeling myself will help in this case (except maybe I’ll be more likeable at the cost of not actively supporting the cause, which again comes back to – how strongly do I feel about this issue?).

I don’t know if the broad categories above cover all the likely scenarios, this write up is not a well researched one. But hey, what do you think?🙂

Trying to be a sane vegan

People come in all shades of grey. It’s always best to not be clouded by stereotypes or think in terms of black & whites. I want to list some important points to keep in mind if you’re a vegan or transitioning into one.

  • Being a vegan does not put you on a pedestal giving you special rights to pass judgements on people who aren’t vegan or vegan enough, according to your standards.
  • Being a vegan does not absolve you of everything else. Trust me, you can still improve and learn. And a lot of that learning can come from non vegans.
  • You don’t have to agree with another vegan, just because they are vegan. Sounds silly, but happens a lot. In a vegan vs non vegan debate you are forced to participate in, do what you should do anyway: try to be rational and keep an open mind.
  • Non vegans are not evil. Even the ones you think know what veganism is all about. Chances are they don’t understand what the deal is. And in any case, we are a product of our social conditioning and it takes time to break away & change.
  • Don’t oppose anything important (medicine for example) just because it doesn’t align with veganism unless you are aware of a vegan alternative that’s almost equally viable. Only protesting, without providing a solution doesn’t help. It’s always a better use of energy to instead promote viable vegan alternatives, and help find solutions where those don’t exist yet.

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.  – Socrates

I’m gonna end here with a promise to come back and update this post as & when I learn more.


I started this blog about 11 months ago. And I feel it’s a good time to reflect on my goals & see how far I have come. Here’s what I wanted to explore, along with the mission status :

  • Be vegan: Successfully completed!🙂
  • Create zero waste:  Have taken several steps in this direction (composting, menstrual cup, carrying my own bags for grocery shopping, refusing bottled water, cutting down on heavily packaged foods, etc.) but there’s still some scope & I don’t believe I’m done with as far as I can go.
  • Live in a sustainable manner: This is so vague, what does it even mean?! I guess I’ll have to define this properly before I can say how far I could reach.
  • Adopt minimalism & a frugal lifestyle: Hmm.. again frugal is vaguely defined here. In any case, this mission was mostly unsuccessful. We ended up getting a new bigger refrigerator, a basic sofa set and a fancy bookshelf this year.
  • Help the environment: How very grand of me!😀 Well, we planted a couple of trees. And nagged our local elected corporator to plant a whole lot more. I am also experimenting with some environmentally friendly products (shampoo, soap, detergent).
  • Be fit mentally & physically: Hmm.. since I again slacked on the definition.. I would say a partial success. I feel strong and healthy, I am managing exercise 5 times a week, I’m eating healthy most meals. My weight is stable & I dint fell sick at all (I know because I dint apply for any sick leave for last 1 year). I don’t know how to judge my ‘mental fitness’, hence the partial successful tag.

I guess finding your younger self immature & lacking in the basic grasp of ideas.. is well a good sign. Maybe I have become a slightly better version of myself!🙂


Recently we went to a 3 day workshop on permaculture. It is a farming technique which focuses on mimicking natural ecosystems. The basic idea is to strengthen & build the soil using organic matter & microbial action. The idea is to make a sustainable system which minimizes the external inputs into the soil i.e. no fertilizers, pesticides etc.

The ideas of permaculture and natural farming can be studied in Fukuoka‘s famous book ‘One Straw Revolution’ and I will not try to cover them in brief here as I’m scared I’ll mess it up. For the longest time I thought the obsession with nature & organic was against science, and hence was always vary of it. Well, it kind of is against science in a way, as science is practiced in a  reactive form in this area. Meaning, it kind of focuses on fixing the symptoms of a given problem rather than root causing the issue. Almost all the government policies which are supposedly aimed at helping farmers end up using this incomplete science and encouraging wrong practices. The book & the workshop offered some inexpensive, practical solutions that can easily be adopted. I’d really recommend everyone to read this short book, even if you have no interest in farming. In the very least, it will teach you to be better consumers.

Anyway, here are some pictures from the workshop:

IMG-20160411-WA0001 IMG-20160411-WA0003 IMG-20160412-WA0002


Morning Routine

The importance of routine cannot be overstated. Especially if you’re trying to achieve a goal. In my pursuit of a ‘better self’ I realized my old habits: sleeping whenever, getting up whenever, eating whatever, wherever.. it basically sums up to a week, a month, an year, a lifetime of just ‘living’ and not achieving all the things that I want to achieve. Sure, I care, I get ideas, but without an implementation plan, complete with a routine to crack it regularly, my ideas will fade away into nothingness.

So, here I am with my morning routine. It’s not perfect yet. I am still working on it. But it’s getting better.

  • Get up between 6:30-7 am
  • Plan my day while getting up from bed. Remind myself of the stuff I have to do for the day, get excited about whatever interesting I’m going to do today.
  • Water the plants in my balcony garden. No kidding, that’s the first thing I do after I get out of my bed! It’s a great way to open my eyes. The greens, the flowers are pleasant & so is the morning wind.
  • Freshen up, meet & greet whoever else is staying at home. Check messages on phone. Reply to the urgent ones. Read some article I marked for reading last day.
  • Go for a run from 8-8:30.
  • Take a shower, get ready for work.
  • Make a green smoothie. This is my second favorite part of the morning, after watering my plants. I mix and match leafy greens, flaxseeds, some nuts and some fruits to make an awesome smoothie every morning (granted it’s not awesome every morning, but hey, that’s how we learn!).
  • Have a bowl of sprout salad with variable ingredients ranging from various fruits, nuts, seeds, veggies or have vegetable oats.
  • Add all the organic waste from my bin into the composter & give it a good stir!
  • Cycle to work by 9:15, reach office by 9:30 (perks of living close to work, you can have a lazy morning).

This routine stays mostly the same on weekends, except I spend almost twice the time for each task! This daily morning routine enables me to get my exercise, breakfast full of nutrition, spend at least a few minutes with my plants and on my compost every day! It’s almost perfect. I just need to make some room for reading. I’d really like to have 20-30 minutes of time for reading a book.

My Vegan Journey

I’ve been a vegetarian by birth and never felt the urge to have any meat. It was never religious for me (since I’m not religious), or that my parents told me so (which in fact they never did, they told me to do whatever I want outside their house. Fair enough.). To me killing for food just felt plain wrong. More so when every nutrient I ever need can be consumed through a plant based diet. I grew up around healthy vegetarians and dint find I was missing out on anything important, since I’m not going to kill only for taste (by that logic, why stop at chicken, beef, pork, etc. why not try out all sorts of animals or insects like cockroach, lizards etc? In fact why stop at that, why not try out human meat because it might taste exquisite?).

I’ve now given up dairy too, because dairy industry is really no different than beef industry. I started reading about veganism when a former colleague of mine shared this information with me and simultaneously when my interest in green & sustainable environment increased. It was shocking when I first found out that animal farming is the biggest cause of our climate change or that world hunger could end if we use all the produce for human consumption than for feeding farm animals raised for slaughter.

I was raised on a lot of myths about milk and it took some time to let them go. I’ll elaborate on the two major reasons I kept having dairy without ever bothering to cross verify them.

Myth #1: Milk is an essential part of a balanced diet.

We think milk, we think calcium. In reality however, we can get calcium from so many other plant based sources, minus all the bad things that come with animal milk (like detergents, pus, and all that calories & fats). Human beings don’t need cow’s milk for survival. No adults of any species have milk, it’s only for infants. And no animal ever drinks milk of any species other than their own, except humans of course. There are vegan athletes, body building champions, famous celebrities, people who have reversed their diseases after giving up animal products. Turns out, human beings can thrive on a vegan diet (of course you’ll have to eat well, eating french fries all day will make you vegan but you’ll likely die sooner than most!).  Milk, in fact, is a product of an industry that makes money by mercilessly exploiting milk giving animals. It is not a requirement of any kind!


Myth #2: Cows produce more milk than that needed for it’s calves. Also, cows produce milk all year round.

All cows, wild and domesticated, will only lactate in the period between their calf’s birth and weaning. Just like human females. So to keep up with the year round supply of milk,  a dairy cow is artificially inseminated (read: raped) over and over again, without any resting period. Cows are also loaded up with hormones to produce large quantities of milk, more than they otherwise would if left on their own. This causes numerous diseases in the dairy cows & reduces their otherwise ~20 years of lifespan to 4-5 years.Not only the cow is raped to produce babies & babies, those babies are then separated from the mother and they are not allowed to bond. Male calves are killed for meat & leather. Female calves are hooked up with hormones and growth food to turn them into baby-making-milk-producing machines asap. Imagine the horror.

Once I knew all this & confirmed from various sources that this in fact is the industry norm and not some isolated case, I turned Vegan.

People mention that vegan food is expensive or that it will require them to plan too much for all the nutrients, which they don’t need to do with animal products. Or that they can’t give up the taste (this I find insensitive). For me it’s a no-brainer. I don’t want to be part of this unethical behavior, period.

If I see a human being on the road, bleeding from an accident, I would go & help them. However inconvenient or expensive that may be. It’s the same logic here. I know something terrible is happening, and I know the right thing is to not support it. The little I can do is to learn about my own body, my nutritional needs and what local, easily available produce fulfills that need. It’s a one time investment I’m willingly making to live a cruelty free, guilt free & healthier life and I don’t see why I shouldn’t do it.

P.S. Yes, vitamin B-12 is the one & only thing we can’t sufficiently get on a whole plant based diet. We need to consume fortified foods or supplements for it. The fact is that many vegetarians & occasional meat eaters also suffer from B-12 deficiency, so it’s something non vegan population has to take care of also.

Minimalism Update

I went through the audio book “The life changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo and did some purging. In this book she advocates a tidying method which is basically to look at each & every item you have and ask yourself if this item sparks joy. If and only if it does you keep it, else give it up.

Of  course the book is quite detailed than that. I’d highly recommend it to anybody struggling with too much stuff and it’s management. I was able to let go of so much stuff! I chose to donate it all to Goonj (A Delhi based NGO).


Also got rid of most of the plastic containers I was using in kitchen. I just have some expensive tupperware left which I don’t yet have the heart to part with. Of course, won’t ever buy any more plastic containers!

Ms Kondo actually recommends doing all the tidying up at one go. I don’t have that kind of time with me right now, so I am doing one thing at a time. Here’s how my closet looks after the first round of purging:


Looks much lighter than before and I’m so happy for it! Still, there are a lot more clothes than I’ll ideally want to have. Will get there eventually, I guess.