Zero waste stores in India – from Dehradun to Chennai – can help us ditch single-use plastic in everyday groceries. At a time of lockdowns and social distancing, many online zero waste stores have popped up to offer plastic-free deliveries too!
Guest post by Aishwarya Muralidhar (with inputs)
My zero waste journey started after reading the book Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn. Although the book isn’t exactly about the zero waste lifestyle, it urged me to rethink my relationship with the things I bought. Soon after, I started working for a zero waste brand and began to understand the life cycle of the things we buy.
However, as someone who lives on the outskirts of Bangalore, I don’t have access to many of the zero waste options that the city has to offer. Reusing what I have, refusing unnecessary plastic and mindful shopping have been my go-to practices.
Zero waste stores in India: The concept
The concept of a zero waste lifestyle isn’t new in India. Many of us might remember how our parents or grandparents frequented local kirana stores with steel dabbas in tow. The reusable dabbas eliminated the need for packaging, and we’d have flours and spices for weeks!
But things are a little different now.
Most of us frequent supermarkets or just buy essentials online. It’s convenient, saves us a bunch of time and often gives us a good deal – but it comes at a huge cost to the environment.
With many kirana stores now stocking groceries and grains in plastic too, ‘zero waste stores’ – stores that receive, stock and sell all their supplies without any plastic packaging – have sprung up to fill the gap.
Organic groceries, reusable cloth diapers and nappies, herbs and spices from tribal cooperatives, cleaning products, farm-to-table produce, kitchen essentials, healthy snacks – it’s now possible to buy all this and more without single-use plastic!
In this post:
Zero waste stores by city
The zero waste movement is slowly gaining momentum in India. A slew of bulk shops, refill stores, zero waste essential shops and sustainable living brands have popped up, both online and as physical retail spaces.
Green Mantra, Bangalore
“We cut the plastic packaging at the source level to prevent plastic from going to the landfill.”
It’s been exciting to witness the evolution of zero waste stores in Bangalore, where Green Mantra, located in Marathahalli, carries package-free, preservatives-free groceries, and offers home-refills of spices, baked goods and even dosa batter! Their home refill model makes going zero waste that much easier.
Founded by Debayani, Prachee and Shikha, their collective love for the environment pushed them to start Green Mantra and spread the message of a simple, affordable, accessible, eco-friendly lifestyle.
EcoIndian Zero Waste Store, Chennai
“It was difficult to convince our customers to carry their own bags and containers in the beginning. But we’ve built a small positive community who care about nature over the past few years.”
Founded by childhood friends Prem Antony and Pradeep Kumar, EcoIndian started out as an organic grocery store, but pivoted to a zero waste model after the plastic ban in Chennai. They stock everything from regular groceries and pasta to dips and snacks in reusable glass bottles or compostable paper packaging – inspiring many in the city to shop more consciously.
Assav Organics, Dehradun
“As soldiers, we’ve defended the motherland. Now we need to defend Mother Earth by creating a sustainable world.”
Started by Lt Col Arvind Rawat (retd) and co, Assav Organics has ushered in a new phase of the conscious consumption movement in Dehradun. Col Arvind’s journey as an organic farmer gradually led him to set up the first zero waste store in Dehradun, in Nehru Colony. He sources certified organic grains, pulses, spices, herbs, oils and other essentials from farms across the country in traditional ringal (hill bamboo) baskets – available for sale in paper bags or your own containers.
Adrish Zero Waste, Delhi
“We dream of a day when plastic-free items won’t be considered an alternative but the regular way to shop.”
The search for plastic-free, eco-friendly, organic products took friends Akshay Agarwal and Gajendra Choudhary to remote parts of India – and led to India’s first zero waste grocery store chain. Adrish became the first zero waste store in Delhi, offering groceries and produce sourced directly from 9000+ farmers!
They also stock toys, home decor, cleaning products and skincare essentials – all packed in plastic-free, reusable and compostable packaging. Going zero waste at home couldn’t be easier.
Green Chokrees, Goa
“We first started living in Goa nearly 15 years back, when the quaint village of Siolim had only 1 ATM machine and everyone shopped at the old-fashioned, loose-grain store near the church, where things were packed for you, either in newspaper or brown paper bags.“
Goa has been leading India’s vegan movement, so it’s no surprise that an eco-friendly, zero-waste lifestyle is sought after here too. Green Chokrees is the brainchild of chokrees Jasmin Jagada and Nivedita Magar, who source mostly certified organic groceries from across India – and retail them in paper bags, glass jars and your own containers from a cozy space in a charming Goan-Portuguese home.
Besides everyday groceries and essentials, look out for products handcrafted by local entrepreneurs – kombucha, vegan cheeses, nut butters and more!
Eco Posro, Goa
Started by two Goan chokraas Jonah and Elridge, Eco Posro is the first zero waste store in Goa (“posro” means small local shop in Konkani). Inspired into action by the plastic waste overtaking Goa’s pristine beauty, the two friends set out to offer locally / regionally sourced alternatives to daily essentials like plastic bottles, groceries, spices, cooking oils, cleaning agents and fresh produce.
Bringing your own containers is encouraged, though reusable glass jars, paper bags and cloth bags are available.
Zero Waste Eco-Store, Hyderabad
Zero Waste Eco-Store, the first zero waste store in Hyderabad is located in Secunderabad, with a treasure trove of 150 plastic-free products. Expect to find daily kitchen essentials (dried fruits, cold-pressed cooking oils and organic groceries), handmade soaps and shampoo powders, and even traditional coffee and tea. Carry your own bags or buy their cloth potlis!
Adrish Zero Waste Store, Hyderabad
Shocked at the amount of plastic created by our daily lifestyle, the founders of Adrish pledged to make zero waste shopping easier across India – and have gradually expanded to several cities, including Hyderabad.
Speak Earth, Jaipur
“When we were younger, we shopped at local parchun shops, where everything from oil to flour and pulses were picked up in steel dabbas. The idea of a modern zero waste store occurred to us while shopping at a large retail store where everything was packaged in plastic.”
Speak Earth is a pioneer of the zero waste movement in Jaipur, and works on the BYOC (Bring Your Own Container) model – inspired by the local bulk stores and steel dabbas of yore!
Founders and friends, Ankita Sharma and Sourabh Sharma, did extensive research (for nearly two years!) before opening up shop just two months ago. Their huge variety of offerings include daily groceries, cleaning essentials, beauty products and cooking ware. The store also houses a cafe with fresh cold-pressed juices and organic smoothies.
Through their zero waste store and cafe, they aim to spread the word about the BYOC concept and educate Jaipur’s residents about the harmful effects of plastic packaging and chemical preservatives.
7 to 9 Green Store, Kochi
“We’ve had an outstanding show of support and are currently working on a franchise model. I’m looking forward to supporting others who want to start their own zero waste stores.“
After returning home from an inspiring trip to London in 2016, founder Bittu John took it upon himself to convert his family-owned grocery store into the first zero waste store in Kochi and all of Kerala! It took him nearly 2 years to figure out the logistics – but the store now enables conscious shopping with plastic-free groceries, organic cleaning products and more.
With all the wisdom gleaned on his own journey, Bittu now hopes to support others who want to be at the forefront of Kochi’s plastic free shopping revolution – both shoppers and potential store owners!
Adrish Zero Waste, Mumbai
Yes, Adrish again! The quaint Adrish outlet in Andheri West is the first zero waste store in Mumbai – stocking farm-to-shelf groceries and essentials without single-use plastic packaging. Shipping options are available without plastic too.
Online zero waste stores in India
While there are many niche zero waste brands out there, online zero waste stores in India tend to curate and aggregate these as a one-stop conscious living solution.
“Most people want to live more sustainably, but don’t do so because of a lack of options.“
Nitika Sonkhiya quit her corporate career to start a truly unique zero waste brand that makes products largely from three ingredients: bamboo, coconut coir and coconut shells!
ONEarth is a one-of-a-kind artisan-first brand and online zero waste store that offers a range of personal care products, kitchen essentials, yoga accessories, and home and office supplies. They also carry beautifully handcrafted handbags and purses made from jute and kauna grass.
“Our aim is to make plastic-free living the norm. To advocate that sustainable living is for everyone.”
Founded by college friends Shreyas Narain and Vanya Gangwar amidst the pandemic in 2020, Conscience Nook aims to make the switch to a plastic free life fun and easy. Their mission is to deliver sustainable, eco-friendly, durable products to your home, whichever nook of the country you might be in.
When bringing a new product on board, they make sure that the product is ethically sourced, sustainable and 100% plastic free. They go a few steps further by supporting local businesses and ensuring that their vendors align with their eco-friendly vision as well as promise transparency in how they they operate.
Conscience Nook’s wide variety of zero waste options come creatively packed in compostable kraft and cardboard material. Expect to find an expansive range of personal care products, home and kitchen ware, and sustainable stationery.
“One of the many joys of transitioning to a low waste lifestyle is the simplicity and sense of mindfulness it brings to all that we do.”
Sahar Mansoor, the founder of Bare Necessities, thinks of herself as an accidental entrepreneur. Overwhelmed by our country’s garbage problem, she felt compelled to do something for the environment – and the health and social justice issues associated with it.
Like other zero waste stores, Bare Necessities offers everything from upcycled bags to sustainable body care and home essentials (check out their cool collapsible steel tumbler!). But it goes many steps further.
Bare Necessities’ starter kits are designed to make travel, homecare and dental needs more sustainable. It offers a program to return and recycle glass jars, as well as refill them physically in Bangalore. And it offers several educational programs and corporate workshops to make a low impact lifestyle more accessible.
“For us, real impact is when consumers use sustainable products – not just buy them.”
Chaitsi Ahuja embarked on her zero waste journey after feeling overwhelmed by the plastic crisis. That eventually led her to founding The Brown Living – an online marketplace that hopes to convince millennials and Gen Z to become conscious consumers without compromising convenience.
The Brown Living team has developed a detailed framework to assess new products, giving equal attention to the source, method, packaging, life & beyond, and aesthetic.
From bamboo-cotton earbuds and upcycled scrunchies to vegan travel gear and sustainable gift boxes, The Brown Living offers a wide variety of zero waste options for everyday needs. They have a strict plastic free shipping policy and their shipping boxes are upcycled or reused.
“We are building a strong community who can put the planet first when it comes to business. We personally test all products that we bring onboard and also conduct random visits to manufacturing sites to ensure they’re complying with our plastic free policy.“
Social science teacher and environmentalist Sagar Singh co-founded Going Zero in 2021, with blockchain marketing professional, Naman Sharma. Their team of environmentally conscious millennials work remotely across the country, rallying to reduce resource wastage.
With innovative products like edible cutlery and coconut shell jugs, Going Zero offers a fun collection of zero waste alternatives – many of which are vegan, cruelty-free and chemical-free.
“The biggest challenge of being a zero waste business? Balancing the awareness that we should buy only what we need while still being a business that needs to sell.”
When Mrudula Joshi began sharing her zero waste journey on Instagram, she realized that many of her followers relied on her recommendations. That eventually inspired her to start Ullisu Store – an online marketplace where she curates personally vetted zero waste alternatives, and encourages buyers to appreciate the little imperfections in natural products.
Look for reusable wax strips, gardening essentials, plastic-free rakhis, a travel-friendly tea diffuser and other self-care and home care products that can collectively reduce our impact on the planet.
Some zero waste products in India worth trying
From kitchen products to zero waste beauty, homegrown Indian brands are changing the way we shop – with plastic-free, cruelty-free, vegan and conscious alternatives.
Zero waste essentials
Tampons, pads and panty liners, along with their packaging and individual wrapping, generate more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year. With each female using an average of eight pads per menstrual cycle, more than 12 billionsanitary pads are disposed off every year in India. A menstrual cup is the perfect green alternative.
Have a little one at home? Bumpadum offers reusable cloth diapers and nappies in many sizes, so you can go zero waste easily.
Zero waste cleaning products
Have you ever looked at your living space and felt guilty about all the plastic lining the shelves? Almitra Sustainables makes it easy to switch to plastic-free daily essentials, including innovative zero waste alternatives to common household items like coconut fibre sweeping brooms, upcycled wooden soap dishes, natural loofahs and even reusable coconut cutlery.
A plastic-free laundry detergent that’s 100% non-toxic and biodegradable is no longer a distant dream. Coco Custo makes natural vegan detergents that come in tins, and offers a refill program that allows us to to buy detergent in compostable refill packets from the second purchase onwards!
Zero waste clothes
Yes, it is possible to shop zero waste while looking for clothes. Try buying from slow, sustainable fashion brands that are transparent about where their clothes come from and how they’re made.
Some favorites include:
They use 100% organic cotton and animal-friendly inks.
They upcycle clothes from waste material (dead stock) from factories.
They offer a repair shop so you can make your winter clothes last for the longest time possible!
Zero waste beauty
Cosmetics and beauty products can be tricky when it comes to packaging. But some homegrown ones not only use natural, clean ingredients, they also offer zero-waste bars and return programs to keep their plastic footprint low.
Scentora has everything from handmade and vegan perfume bars to conditioning shampoo bars and lip scrubs – shipped without plastic across India. The bars are plastic-free, while the glass jars can be returned for sterilizing and reuse.
Nature Masons has a range of natural deodorant options to choose from, along with a tempting range of soap, shampoo and conditioner bars. Their aluminum containers can be returned for shopping credits – which are then passed on to a verified recycler.
Zero waste gifts
Wild Berry Organics
“Our biggest joy is to meet entrepreneurs from the environmentally conscious tribe, while introducing organic and eco-friendly brands to as many people as we can.”
The love for food and nature inspired Niharika to launch Wild berry Organics – an online, plastic-free store that specializes in green gifting. She personally curates tried and tested organic and sustainable brands, and works with up and coming entrepreneurs to receive products in bulk.
Innovative gifting options include seed calendars, upcycled badges and even kombucha. Fresh food and beverages are only delivered within Hyderabad – a good excuse to visit the city!
Other tips to shop low waste
Going low waste doesn’t mean that we have to clean out our entire kitchen or bathroom and make room for sustainable products!
The idea of the zero waste movement is to reduce what we throw out. That means using what we have for the longest time possible, then replacing it with a greener alternative.
If you’re like me and want to embrace the zero waste lifestyle, but don’t always have access to zero waste stores, here are a few easy steps to reduce your waste:
Shop at local farmers’ markets
Buying local, seasonal produce directly from farmers and small businesses is perhaps the easiest way to go zero waste. Many cities, from Mumbai to Dehradun, host weekly organic farmers’ markets – take your own bags and encourage farmers to sell without plastic packaging!
Ever traveled with a reusable bottle? Or gone to the store with your own bags in tow? Then you already have a few zero waste habits under your belt.
1,60,000 plastic bags are used worldwide per second. On average, a plastic bag is used for just 12 minutes and then thrown away. By bringing our own cloth or jute bag while shopping, we can help prevent all that plastic from entering our oceans and landfills.
It’s also important to note that most zero waste stores pack purchases in paper bags. Although biodegradable, paper bags require four times more energy than plastic bags to manufacture – so must either be avoided or atleast reused.
Buying in bulk saves money – but it also reduces packaging waste. Five 1 kg packets of lentils for instance, generate sizably more waste than one 5 kg packet. Sounds small, but it adds up over the years.
Inspiring zero waste accounts on Instagram
Pankti is a zero waste practitioner and a slow fashion advocate. She shares easy zero waste swaps, composting tips and upcycling ideas.
Mrudula, the founder of the online zero waste store Ullisu, offers a realistic glimpse into the zero waste lifestyle, featuring trash-free snack ideas, homemade bio enzymes and other cool tips to reduce everyday waste. Her Map Project maps out bulk stores and plastic-free shops across India!
Mehndi’s honest approach to low waste cooking, natural hair care and everyday zero waste dilemmas is inspiration to keep doing our bit, no matter the challenges.
Eco youtuber Nayana shares DIY hacks for low impact living, low waste shopping and veganism. Her profile is proof that embracing the zero waste path doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.
A climate change activist and zero waste enthusiast, Parth uses humor to create awareness. A pick me up whenever I feel down about my zero waste efforts!
Your questions about going zero waste in India
Do you have any zero waste beginner tips?
Take it slow.
Aiming to go low / zero waste at once can seem overwhelming, but we don’t have to change our lifestyle overnight. Start by making small changes like buying from online zero waste stores or carrying your own bags whenever you go shopping.
What are some easy zero waste swaps?
Is it possible to go zero waste on a budget?
Of course! The 5 Rs: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, Repurpose and Rot can help you go zero waste with very little.
Reuse the things that you have. Yes, this means your plastic containers too.
Reduce what you buy – really think about your purchases and whether or not you need them.
Recycle your waste as much as possible – that can be done by returning it to those who sent it, sending it to a recycling plant or making ecobricks.
See if you can Repurpose the things that you’re throwing away. For example, old clothes can be turned into a throw pillow!
And compost (Rot) your organic waste from your kitchen.
Why is zero waste important?
It is estimated that India generates nearly 5.58 million tons (5500 billion kgs!) of single-use plastic in a year – made from fossil fuels and meant to be used only once!
We’re drowning in plastic, literally
A startling 91% of plastic produced thus far, has not been recycled. It either remains as litter around the country, releases harmful gases in landfills or lands up in the ocean.
Every time we choose plastic wrapped veggies, buy groceries in packaging material or accept a single-use plastic bag, we contribute to this crisis.
The ‘use and throw’ culture is hurting our health and our planet’s
Chances are, your grandmom saved and used everything for the longest time possible. But our generation, raised with plastic cutlery and disposable coffee cups, doesn’t think twice about disposing things after using them for just a few minutes.
Once dumped, these single-use plastic products take hundreds of years to disintegrate, often leaching into our groundwater, soil and oceans. Ultimately, they enter our bodies – and have even been found in the placenta of unborn babies!
It’s a way to save money!
If you’ve tried to shop sustainably or been to a zero waste store, you might be feeling a little perplexed right now. Aren’t zero waste alternatives more expensive? At first glance, it might seem so.
But any well-crafted zero waste alternative is made to be durable, so it can safely be reused multiple times. That means it will last much longer than its cheaper, disposable counterpart – and be more cost effective in the long run.
Doesn’t India already follow a zero waste culture?
The concept of zero waste living isn’t new to us Indians. From going to Sunday bazaars for groceries that had little to no packaging and DIY beauty routines that were passed down through generations, to water-conserving bucket baths, we’ve long lived zero waste.
But things have changed with the generations. With more disposable income, we’ve become less cautious of what we buy and throw.
Do you aspire to a zero waste lifestyle? Which are your favorite zero waste stores in India?
About the guest author:
Aishwarya hopes to leave the world a little better than it is and spends her time working for causes that change lives. Both the human and animal kind. From teaching, writing and a little bit of design, she loves donning new hats when it comes to work. She hopes to expand her repertoire to pitch in her two cents to help our tiny blue dot as much as possible. Connect with her on Linkedin.
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Some Muslims think it’s un-Islamic to be vegetarian or vegan. And some vegans have an anti-Muslim sentiment. So what’s it really like to be a vegan Muslim?
Guest post by Nina Ahmedow
I was just 12 years old when I first tried to turn vegetarian. The idea of killing animals for meat broke my heart, so as I approached my teen years, I decided not to eat them. But after just a few months, my mother told me I was no longer allowed to be vegetarian. She never explained why, but I suppose it was due to the fact that at the time, there was not a lot of information about eating healthy as a vegetarian.
At 18, I made my second attempt towards turning vegetarian. This time, it was a step-by-step process. I cut out red meat, then poultry, and finally fish and seafood. Even though the first time I had tried to be vegetarian for mainly ethical reasons, the second time I was more concerned about the health benefits of cutting out dead animals from my diet.
As I was making the switch, I remember there was a girl in my school who was vegan. At 18, I was 100% sure that I’d never go vegan. After all, it was too “extreme” – plus, there were a lot of people at my school who lived on farms and assured me that “cows needed to be milked” and that “free-range eggs are worse than eggs from caged hens.” It seems bizarre now that I look back on it.
For many years, I continued my life as a vegetarian. But the more information became available, the more I thought about going vegan.
Finally, when I found out that male chicks were shredded alive in the egg industry, I turned lacto-vegetarian. Trying to cut out dairy proved more difficult as milk and cheese were such a huge part of my diet.
I grew up in Germany, but upon moving to Greece, I found it much more difficult to be vegetarian so I started eating eggs again. But as luck would have it, I also lived across from Greece’s only vegan business at the time – a vegan mini market. For years, I was too afraid to enter the shop, although I was desperate to find things like tofu which are readily available in German supermarkets but a rare find in Greece. Somehow, I felt that entering that vegan shop would force me to re-evaluate my choices.
When I finally did go inside, I turned fully vegan in just a few weeks. My religion didn’t play a role at the time since the Muslim community in Athens where I live is mainly comprised of refugees. Given that the city’s first actual mosque only opened this year, I wasn’t attending any events and didn’t have much contact with other Muslims at the time.
Gradually however, I realized that there are many contradictions and confusions when it comes to being a vegan Muslim.
Also read: Lemons and Luggage: Being Vegan in Greece: A Local’s Honest Guide
Some Muslims think that it’s un-Islamic to be vegetarian or vegan
The fear of taking something which is halal (allowed), and making it haram (forbidden), makes many Muslims hesitant to forego animal products.
“It’s haram not to eat meat.”
I still remember my friend’s words like she uttered them yesterday. I didn’t want to get into an argument, so I said nothing. But when I looked back on this moment later, I played out a conversation where I asked what made her say that. Was it because she associated vegetarianism with Hinduism?
This specific friend is half-Indian, half-Pakistani. Her father was born to Hindu parents but had become Muslim to marry her mother. Had he gone from being vegetarian to eating meat in the process? Perhaps that’s why she thought it was haram not to eat meat.
Many Muslim cultures around the world center their diets around meat – a result of industrialization and an increase in wealth. It often seems like only poor people don’t eat meat as frequently.
While it’s true that eating certain animals is permissible in Islam, it isn’t mandatory. Many traditional scholars have issued a fatwa supporting this, some of which can be found here. Yet the fear of taking something which is halal (allowed), and making it haram (forbidden), makes many Muslims hesitant to forego animal products.
But veganism and Islam don’t necessarily contradict each other
According to a hadith (saying of the Prophet), a man told the Prophet: “Messenger of Allah, I was going to slaughter a sheep and then I felt sorry for it [or “sorry for the sheep I was going to slaughter”]. Muhammad said twice, “Since you showed mercy to the sheep, Allah will show mercy to you.”
We know that the early Muslims rarely ate meat, and the meat they ate obviously wasn’t a product of factory farming. The excessive consumption of animal products has a proven association with animal cruelty, climate change, greenhouse gases, loss of habitat, species extinction, water shortage, and world hunger.
If the only argument in defense of a non-vegan lifestyle is that it’s allowed according to the Qur’an, it falls short with regards to the reality of the world we live in. Many people don’t know this, but Islamic law is actually quite flexible and open to new interpretations. When realities change, application of laws does, too.
Most Muslims today wouldn’t defend slavery although it was practiced in the early days of Islam. In fact, slavery was not specifically outlawed by the Qur’an although it is clear that it is discouraged. Nonetheless, Islamic scholars have since come to a consensus that slavery is un-Islamic. Clearly, something can be theoretically permissible but not desirable.
So why do we feel differently about the consumption of animal products? The strict halal regulations state that an animal should not see another animal being slaughtered, and that an animal should not be in distress when being killed. These are clear indications that veganism actually makes a lot more sense from an Islamic point of view.
Muslims who defend halal meat often don’t bother to look behind the label. Make no mistake, modern animal agriculture, whether it operates with halal certification or not, is a far cry from what was practiced by early Muslim communities. Playing a recorded prayer to thousands of animals does not make halal meat any less cruel.
On Eid al-Adha, the biggest Muslim holiday, millions of animals around the world are slaughtered and much of the meat is then distributed to those in need. Ironically, nobody considers how many more people we could feed if we focused on plant-based foods (10 billion, according to one study). By defending the continued consumption of animal-derived foods, we are indirectly responsible for other people’s hunger.
Also read: The Ultimate Guide to Being Vegan in Japan
While some Muslims have an anti-vegan sentiment, some vegans have an anti-Muslim sentiment too
Muslims are not above criticism, but I can’t help but feel that the criticism against Muslims is one that feeds into the stereotype of Muslims being inherently cruel.
In Islam, as in Judaism, the correct method for slaughtering is highly regulated. But to outsiders, it often appears more cruel than the methods common in industrialized countries. For one, the animal should not be unconscious. People protest against halal or kosher meat, then happily turn around to eat their meat burgers (because hey, the animal was stunned before being slaughtered).
But I’ve also seen the subject being discussed in vegan Facebook groups where the “barbaric” Muslim tradition is pointed out particularly.
The same thing happens each year on Eid al-Adha, the biggest Muslim holiday. Sadly, on this day, millions of animals are slaughtered by Muslims. But this tradition gets a lot more attention in vegan discussion forums than, for example, Orthodox Easter where hundreds of thousands of lambs are killed every year.
Muslims are not above criticism, but I can’t help but feel that the criticism against Muslims is one that feeds into the stereotype of Muslims as being inherently cruel. In other cases, the traditions (Easter, Thanksgiving) are separated from the people.
Simultaneously being vegan and Muslim can be frustrating
The reality is that it can feel alienating to belong to two groups that seem to be opposed to each other.
It’s annoying when Muslims say it’s un-Islamic to be vegan. And it’s as annoying when vegans say Muslims are barbaric. It’s 2021 and other people’s narrow perspectives shouldn’t bother anyone. But the reality is that it can feel alienating to belong to two groups that seem to be opposed to each other. Asking for vegan food at a community iftar (breaking the fast during Ramadan) could lead to criticism. And so could “outing” yourself as a Muslim in a vegan group.
But at times like these, it’s important to remember that we are not vegan for ourselves or for other people’s opinions. We are vegan for the animals who deserve to live a life without cruelty.
Also read: Guardian: Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history
Many dishes served at religious Muslim holidays are accidentally vegan or can be customized
İmambayıldı (eggplant in olive oil stuffed with onions, garlic, and tomatoes) is one of my all-time favorite dishes ever since I was a child – and it’s traditionally always vegan.
On my journey as a vegan Muslim, I’ve realized that there are several accidentally vegan dishes in different Muslim cultures and religious holidays. For example, desserts like lokum (Turkish delight, a sweet confection made of starch, sugar and often nuts) and helva (a confection made with semolina or tahini) are usually vegan, although it’s always best to double-check due to the many different varieties and recipes. Even something as indulgent as kadıngöbeği (doughnuts) is often vegan or can easily be veganized.
In terms of savory dishes that I grew up with, sarma (stuffed grape or cabbage leaves) and other types of dolma (stuffed vegetables) have vegan varieties, even though for holidays, people often focus on the meat versions (meatless sarma is often known as “fake” sarma).
One of my all-time favorite dishes ever since I was a child is İmambayıldı (eggplant in olive oil stuffed with onions, garlic, and tomatoes) – it’s traditionally always vegan. As is the hearty white bean soup my father used to make.
Also read: Lemons and Luggage: 30 Amazing Vegan Ramadan Recipes from the Muslim World
There might be a connection between Sufism and veganism
“I have existence and I value it so much
So have all the beings on earth and they too, try to preserve it
Then, how can I kill even the tiniest creature
Just to satiate my palate?”
~ Mevlana, aka Rumi
I recently happened to watch a video on Emperor Akbar, and it mentioned that he tried to go vegetarian. He described vegetarian food as “Sufi food.”
Curious, I looked into this a little bit and found a few sites talking about how many Sufis are vegetarian and that during retreats, veganism is often encouraged. There’s an account of Rabia (a Sufi mystic) being surrounded by animals, all of who left when another Sufi appeared. When asked why they stay with her and flee from him, Rabia asked him what he had eaten. Upon hearing that he had eaten onions fried in fat, she replied that it was normal for the animals to flee from someone who eats their fat.
Rumi’s words, ‘Ye’k dez charinda-ul-insaan rish’h’aaz’ (Look at all animals as you look at humans), fill my heart with happiness, especially as I’ve been looking more deeply into Sufism since the pandemic.
Also read: Things I Wish I Knew Before I Turned Vegan
It’s heartening to see that many Muslims are choosing the vegan path
Even people like me, who never thought they could go vegan, can end up transitioning eventually!
Showing empathy to other living beings should not be restricted to any particular faith or lack thereof. It’s no surprise then that the world is changing and becoming more vegan – and so are Muslims!
To be honest, it still surprises me that it took me so many years to go vegan, when the final switch was so easy. But maybe it means that the right time can come very unexpectedly, and even people like me, who never thought they could go vegan, can end up transitioning eventually!
If you’re on the fence, here are some resources worth checking out:
Have you considered turning vegan? How do you think your religion supports or challenges it?
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About the guest author:
Nina is a travel content creator who has travelled to more than 20 countries on three continents. Born and raised in Germany but currently living in Greece, she loves exploring the world through vegan food. She is the voice behind Lemons and Luggage, a travel blog dedicated to vegan and responsible travel. You can follow Nina on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.
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If you’re thinking of taking up archery, it’s vital you have the right equipment. If you don’t have good quality equipment before you start, you might struggle to grasp certain fundamentals.
Here’s our guide to the archery equipment every beginner needs to hit the ground running with their training.
Ensuring you have the right bow is the most obvious – and essential – place to start.
When it comes to finding the right bow as a beginner, there’s no right or wrong approach. You just need to find the one that you feel suits you best.
The best thing to do is to go to a store that sells archery equipment (if you Google ‘archery equipment store near me’ you should get loads of relevant results) and try as many bows as you can. Try and get a feel for them and see which one makes you feel comfortable. Ideally, the bow should be within two inches of your height and it’s okay if your bow is taller than you.
If you’re looking for a bow that’s easy to set up so you can start shooting immediately, then a recurve bow is the best option. This recurve bow from Samick Archery would be a great choice for beginners and is available at a reasonable price.
Arrows can be quite difficult to buy when you’re a beginner. You need to know your draw length in order to buy the right arrows, so it’s vital that you visit a store. There, you’ll be able to get your wingspan measured and use this measurement to calculate your draw length.
As a beginner, you don’t want to spend loads of time building your own arrows, so don’t be afraid to spend a little money for some pre-built arrows. It’ll pay off in the long run.
Using a glove is a good idea when you start out. Not only can a glove help to protect your hand, but it can also aid you with your release. It’s also one of the better options if you decide to start with a recurve bow (there are more details of other options below).
Gloves also add a level of comfort and they can last a long time. This Bearpaw summer glove is a great place to start and it isn’t too expensive.
If you’re not a fan of the idea of wearing a glove, then using a finger tab is a great alternative. The tab covers the palm on your draw hand and is a good choice for people who find wearing a glove too constrictive.
Much like gloves, finger tabs are easy to find online and don’t cost too much money. This platform tab from A&F is a good choice for beginners and it’s available in a range of sizes.
Naturally, as an archer, you’ll need something to help you carry your arrows. This is where a back or hip quiver comes in handy.
Whether you choose a hip or back quiver depends on what you’re most comfortable with. A hip quiver will keep your arrows facing out in front of you so you can grab them from your side. Back quivers, on the other hand, keep your arrows behind your head, so you’ll have to reach behind you to grab your next arrow.
Whichever option you choose, there are plenty of stylish options out there. This Easton hip quiver is available in a range of different colours and is made of a woven fabric that makes it very comfortable. If you’d prefer a back quiver, though, then this more traditional quiver from Neet is a great option and is made of high-quality leather.
Specialist archery insurance from Gunplan
Once you have all the equipment you need, it’s important that you get the right insurance. Without it, you could end up having to pay out if you damage your new equipment or if you damage equipment that belongs to a fellow archer.
The post The Essential Guide to Archery Equipment For Beginners appeared first on Gunplan Blog.
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The Shooting Star Diaries is a new series to reflect on the month that was, share stories Iâve enjoyed writing, recommend offbeat books and films, showcase new eco-friendly / vegan-friendly findsâ¦ and check in on you! Welcome to the June 2021 edition.
As I write this post, Iâm mentally preparing myself to move to our eighth rental since March 2020.
You read that right. Weâve moved eight times over the last 15 months â in the midst of a goddamn pandemic!
Admittedly a couple of these moves were out of choice. Like in June last year, when my partner and I â stuck in different corners of the universe â decided to move to Goa, the only Indian state that would take us in back then. Or in March this year, when life finally seemed to be normalizing, we took a leap of faith to move to the middle of nowhere in the Garhwal Himalayas.
But in between, we found ourselves living in what we jokingly called âthe jail,â got chased out by inconsiderate owners, and lived in a place where the wash basin was inconspicuously missing from the bathroom! And donât even get me started about rentals with mouldy walls, dated furniture and design so unaesthetic, it hurts the eye. Hopefully, itâs a case of eighth time lucky.
Iâve long believed that weâre a product of our choices.
I, for one, chose freedom over the stability of a long lease or ownership, and flexibility over the security of a full-time job â and was secretly proud of my choices. But when the pandemic hit, these choices became the bane of my nomadic existence!
In my story on The Dark Reality of Not Having a Home During the Pandemic on Journeys, I delve into all the unexpected challenges and deep introspection that have plagued my life over the past 15 months.
Other stories I loved writing
When I first began working full time and earning a sizeable salary, I experienced a constant urge to buy the next great thing to feel fulfilled. On the road, I slowly learnt to fight and block out that urge.
But the absence of travelling has created a void in my life, and my mind has begun to find other tangible ways to fill it.
During my solo land voyage from Thailand to India via Myanmar, I unexpectedly found myself on a different kind of journey â searching for a long lost family member in Yangon!
When things get better (and they will!), escape to these idyllic getaways in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh for a workation, hike or detox.
In Iran, I came to realize that what I felt within me was a deep ache of being separated from a people, land, culture and identity that felt part of my own. As though I wasnât an outsider at all. I was merely coming homeâ¦
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Books and films I recommend
Iâve heard much about the British-led exploitation of Uttarakhandâs forests, but never knew the history or extent of it. Through the life story of âPahari Wilson,â a runaway Englishman who married two Garhwali women and settled in Harsil, investigative journalist Robert Hutchison recreates life in Garhwal in the 1800s. A delightful read, if somewhat painful to think of the wilderness weâve lost.
A fascinating book about the Tarahumara, an obscure indigenous tribe in Mexico, considered the worldâs greatest ultra-runners! At a time of no travel, this book by Christopher McDougall took me virtually to the most inaccessible reaches of Chihuahua, a state I had eyed longingly on the map while in Mexico.
A charming Hinglish film based on the young son of a Hindu-Muslim couple who quit their high-flying jobs and moved home to India to chase the dream of making a film. Available on Netflix.
A bizarre, bizarre film based on a true story that played out multiple times in fast food chains across the US. Available on Prime Video.
The true story of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsberg and her early battles for gender equality. Gives me hope that one person (supported by others) indeed has the power to change an entire system! Available on Prime Video.
Stuff Iâm loving
Turns out, weâve been eating chocolate all wrong! Nitin and Poonam Chordia â Indiaâs first certified âchocolate tastersâ (yes that certification exists!) â have developed vegan-friendly dark chocolates with Indian cacao that are a sensory experience.
They include a cute note on how to taste it (a bit like wine) â and instead of the regular packaging, the chocolate comes in a wrapper made of upcycled cotton and cacao husk, in a thick aluminum foil that can be reused. They also do a lot more in a bid to be sustainable â see my Conscious Vibes video about it.
Assav Organics â A zero waste store in Dehradun, finally!
Every time I visit my folks in Dehradun, Iâm so excited to see how the valleyâs evolving despite being plagued by traffic and chaotic construction. The latest jewel in its crown is a zero waste store set up by ex-armyman Colonel Arvind, that sells certified organic groceries sourced from across India. Take your own containers or get them in paper bags.
From founder Pardita Mascarenhasâ kitchen, Break of Dawn delivers fresh homemade vegan feta cheese and almond milk (Iâm mad about the rose flavor) at doorsteps across Mumbai â at the break of dawn! Over almost six years of being vegan, Iâve tried many vegan milks and cheeses â and Parditaâs raise all benchmarks. Lucky you, Mumbai.
My latest video
For World Environment Day 2021, I imagined that our Planet Earth is calling us humansâ¦ my latest video is an interpretation of her message.
Howâre you doing 15 months into the pandemic? What kept you busy in June? What stories, books, films, videos and finds did you enjoy during the month?
The post The Shooting Star Diaries: The Dark Side of Being a Digital Nomad During a Pandemic. appeared first on The Shooting Star.
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A few months ago, I embarked on an unexpected journey to explore rural India. I walked precariously on a centuries-old hanging wooden bridge (only 5 remain to this day!) that connect the most remote villages of Ladakhâs Zanskar Valley. Witnessed the intimate love stories of four generations of women in a remote Uttarakhand village. Joined the ancient tradition of worshipping wild tigers in rural Maharashtra. Walked several kilometers in Keralaâs Wayanad district with a 63-year-old âwalking libraryâ who delivers books to those who love to read but have no access. Learnt how the tribal culture in Meghalayaâs South Garo Hills is helping preserve local biodiversity. And tried lost ancient superfoods with a 70+ year old Himachali coupleâ¦
All without stepping out!
Can we really explore rural India without leaving home?
Exactly a year ago, I was pacing up and down my terrace in Dehradun, feeling deeply concerned about how Indiaâs tourism industry â especially community based tourism in India â was going to survive the pandemic-induced lockdown. I longingly recalled many heartwarming moments I had shared with homestay hosts, guides, dhaba owners, craftspeople, natural medicine practitioners, musicians, local environmentalists and others over the past decade, on my quest to explore India beyond the beaten path.
Even though my income as a travel writer had dropped to zero, I had the privilege to dip into my savings and pivot into new digital opportunities, while sheltering at home. On the other hand, despite growing access to smartphones and the internet, the lack of digital skills and tailored opportunities in rural areas in India held people back.
This context sparked the idea of Voices of Rural India.
Voices of Rural India: Leveraging community based tourism in India to upgrade digital storytelling skills among rural communities
In August 2020, I joined hands with Malika Virdi, sarpanch of the Sarmoli Jainti Van Panchayat in Uttarakhand, and Osama Manzar, founder of the Digital Empowerment Foundation, to launch a not-for-profit digital initiative: Voices of Rural India.
Weâve been working towards revolutionizing digital storytelling in India by bringing stories from rural storytellers across the country â from Spiti to Kerala â in their own voices.
In the short-term, Voices of Rural India is creating a revenue stream for remote communities through digital journalism. In the long run, it aims to develop digital storytelling skills at the grassroots level, along with becoming a repository of local culture and knowledge, documented in local voices.
For the rest of us stuck at home, this is a chance to explore remote corners of India virtually, through the words, photos and videos of the very people we travel to meet. Personally, it has grown my post-covid bucket list to include some inspiring, amazing villages in India!
Our team has grown to include Namrata Shah, a travel buff who quit the corporate world to explore new avenues, and many passionate volunteers to support us with editing, publishing, social media, SEO, creating training materials, managing our whatsapp group and more.
If youâd like to volunteer with Voices of Rural India, please see current opportunities here.
A successor of @VoicesofMunsiari: Indiaâs first Instagram channel to be run entirely by a village community
Back in 2016, when I spent a month in Sarmoli, I was surprised to discover that this remote village in Uttarakhand comes together every summer to go birdwatching, practice yoga and run high altitude marathons! Thatâs when the idea of @voicesofmunsiari came about â an Instagram channel that would be run collectively by the village folk, sharing their everyday lives with the outside world. In subsequent years, we organized a smartphone collection drive through my blog, as well as a photography and Instagram workshop in Sarmoli village.
@voicesofmunsiari, which was purely driven by the passion of local creators, convinced us of the untapped talent and the need to create more digital storytelling opportunities.
When it gradually became obvious that rural tourism is unlikely to recover in the foreseeable future, Voices of Rural India was born â more ambitious in scope, with funding from the Digital Empowerment Foundation to pay storytellers directly in their bank account for every story published.
Now, as the second wave rages across the country, this time not even sparing remote places in India, the threat to lives and livelihoods feels even more real than before, compelling us to continue our mission with renewed fervor.
Missing rural tourism in India? Experience village life in India, virtually
Voices of Rural India is currently working with rural communities in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya and Gujarat, through on-ground community-based tourism organisations: Global Himalayan Expedition, Spiti Ecosphere, Himalayan Ecotourism, Kabani, Himalayan Ark, Grassroutes Journeys and Cherish Expeditions â all glowing examples of rural tourism in India.
The storytellers are typically guides, homestay hosts, people involved in tourism, and youth and women from the community â and through our intensive storytelling process, we hope they can come to proudly own their heritage, traditions, culture, food and connection with nature.
Popular stories on Voices of Rural India
Over 40 stories so far, the themes on Voices of Rural India span everything from the age-old traditions, to the architecture of old village houses in India, to women empowerment in rural India, to lost Himalayan superfoods, to the challenges of conservation and development in rural India, to how Indian village life has changed over the decades.
Weâre humbled to see Voices of Rural India featured on The Times of India, The Hindu, Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveller, FirstPost, Outlook Traveller, YourStory, Homegrown and other publications. And immensely grateful for all your support.
Stay home, stay safe and continue to explore rural Indiaâ¦ virtually.
Have you met inspiring storytellers on your travels in rural India?
PS: Hope you and your loved ones around the world are safe and well. If youâre battling Indiaâs second wave, Iâve found Twitter to be immensely helpful in supporting people looking for oxygen, beds, plasma etc. If your appeal needs amplification, please tag / DM me on Twitter @shivya.
Stay safe, stay sane, and know that weâll get through this.
The post Explore Rural India and Meet Inspiring Storytellersâ¦ Without Leaving Home! appeared first on The Shooting Star.
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Sustainable luxury travel sounds like an oxymoron, but it doesn’t have to be. One sustainable luxury hotel in Kerala is showing the way.
As a travel writer, I’ve had the chance to sample many high-end accommodations and luxury wildlife lodges. Despite the comfort and pampering, I’ve often left feeling conflicted about their enormous environmental footprint.
Those cards floating about in the rooms, saying they care about the environment and wouldn’t want to wash sheets and towels everyday, that’s mostly greenwashing.
What is sustainable luxury travel anyway?
Simply put, it is the idea that high-end comfort can coexist with eco-friendly, socially-conscious, low-impact tourism practices.
Is luxury travel in India sustainable?
Unfortunately, most luxury hotels in India tend to generate huge amounts of single-use plastic trash through bottled water and toiletries. Many don’t bother to segregate their waste, contributing to landfill and ocean dumps. And the carbon emissions generated by their indiscriminate use of electricity, air-conditioned rooms and food imported from around the world are significant. Sustainable tourism examples in the luxury space are only a handful.
As someone who tends to gravitate towards small, eco-friendly homestays, I suppose I’ve often looked at luxury travel in India – and elsewhere – with a critical eye. But that changed when I visited Spice Village in Thekkady last year. Here’s why:
The cozy huts at Spice Village are thatched and cooled naturally with dried elephant grass
Grown and harvested with the support of the forest department. It helps create a fire line to control the spread of forest fires.
Located just across the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Thekkady
Perfect for an early morning walk in the forest with a local guide and ranger. We saw a tiger kill on ours
The art of natural cooling was once practiced by the local Mannan tribe – but nearly forgotten
Until Spice Village decided to recreate their traditional architecture, eliminating the need for an air conditioner even on hot, sunny days! The thatch has to be replaced every alternate year, creating employment and continued practice for local tribesmen who have unfortunately replaced their own thatched roofs with concrete.
Nearly 75% of all electricity at Spice Village comes from solar energy
Used for powering the rooms and huge boilers for hot water. Instead of storing the excess energy in batteries, it is channeled to the grid for debit at night and in the monsoon months.
After estimating that the resort discards 45,000 plastic mineral water bottles annually, they installed their own RO filtration and bottling plant
Filtration is done via reverse osmosis, then bio dynamization adds mineral back to the water. Drinking water is now served only in glass bottles – perhaps the first hotel of this size in India to do so!
Instead of single-use plastic, toiletries are available in cute, reusable ceramic jars, along with paper-wrapped handmade soaps
All waste is segregated and sent for recycling, composted for manure or made into biogas for cooking
According to an estimate by Spice Village, 250-400 kg of food waste is composted annually, using vermi composting and micro organism composting. Do other big hotels send that much or more unsegregated waste into landfills?
Rainwater harvesting and a well on site supports almost all water needs
All sewage generated by the resort is recycled, converted into odorless waste water and used to irrigate the organic garden
Building a circular system from rainwater to waste water to organic produce to compost for manure and biogas for cooking.
Old newspapers and magazines are recycled in-house into handmade paper, and used for stationary
I was blown away by the handmade paper unit, where travellers can try their hand at making recycled paper! This handmade paper is used for guest registration, scribble pads in the rooms and the outer layer of pens (though the refill is still plastic).
Much of the furniture is handcrafted from recycled pine wood
Over 50% of staff is employed locally, from the towns and villages of Idukki district
Photographed here is Baby with his wife, who oversees sourcing from local entrepreneurs.
And many everyday supplies are sourced from rural entrepreneurs
I was lucky enough to go behind the scenes and meet some entrepreneurs who supply reusable cloth bags, dustbin liners, paapad (poppadum) and candles. Hearing about their journey, from joining Kerala’s Responsible Tourism Mission training, to setting up their own small business, to supplying in bulk to Spice Village and gradually scaling up, was incredibly inspiring.
One of the two restaurants at Spice Village serves seasonal food sourced ONLY within 50 miles!
The in-house organic farm grows all kinds of herbs and leafy greens, while women in nearby villages supply pesticide-free veggies from their kitchen gardens. The chefs actually climb trees in the backyard for truly farm-to-table meals! I only wish there was a greater focus on vegan food, given the high footprint of meat, seafood and dairy.
After the lockdown, Spice Village has been reopening slowly – 40 out of 52 rooms are now open with serious covid-safety measures in place
Spread out over 12 acres of forest and spice plantation, the huts are naturally geared towards social distancing. Rooms are thoroughly sanitized and the staff encouraged to wear masks indoors. Safety protocols laid out by WHO, industry experts and the government are being followed closely.
While international travel remains a distant dream, so many incredible, less-explored, eco-friendly, socially-inclusive gems await in our own backyard in India…
Tourism – whether its family luxury travel or solo luxury travel – if done right, can help protect the local way of life, create respectable employment opportunities and positively impact the environment. Spice Village is showing the way!
Have you experienced sustainable luxury travel in India or elsewhere? Is Spice Village on your bucket list?
*Note: I was hosted by CGH Earth at Spice Village. Lucky me!
For more sustainable ways to travel, sustainable luxury hotels, sustainable adventure travel and other sustainable travel ideas, check out this collection.
The post Can Luxury Travel be Sustainable? What I Learnt Staying at Spice Village, Thekkady. appeared first on The Shooting Star.
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Meet the Indian Solo Traveller Who Quit His Job Set Out for His Dream Trip in 2020 and Got Locked Down in Colombia!
While browsing through my Instagram DMs a few months ago, there was one that really jumped out at me. The world had been catapulted into a global pandemic and borders were shut, and Saurabh Gupta aka @anindiantraveler – a solo backpacker from Mumbai – found himself stuck on the other side of the globe, in Colombia!
In February 2020, after working, saving up and quitting his job of many years, he finally embarked on his dream solo trip to South America. But just a month into his travels, he found himself locked down indefinitely at a hostel in Medellin, far far away from the familiarity of home – an adventure no one could’ve anticipated.
I got chatting at length with Saurabh about his decision to quit his full time job, his past travels, what took him to South America and how he spent 6 months locked down in Colombia. Gear up for a fascinating, inspiring story.
An introvert banker turns full time solo traveller
“World cinema introduced me to so many different cultures, people, languages, regions and landscapes. At one point I wanted to experience them in real life. So I decided to travel solo.” ~ Saurabh Gupta
For much of his life, Saurabh had felt stuck in a loop. Work, office, home, repeat. As an introvert, he found refuge in world cinema, especially films by the likes of Krzysztof Kieślowski and Satyajit Ray, which induced in him a desire to explore the world out there.
Like many fellow Indians, he was in awe of the western world, but when he travelled to Western Europe and the US, he felt a bit underwhelmed. It was in Central Asia that he hitchhiked for the first time, and felt a strong draw to the unique culture and hospitality of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
This trip gradually nudged him to quit his banking work of more than a decade, sell the outsourcing sales agency he ran with his older brother, and travel and write full time. As a budget traveller, Saurabh says he tries to hitchhike, couch-surf, volunteer and cook whenever possible. His savings and investments pay for his basic costs.
After he quit in late 2019, he spent two months exploring East Africa – seeking out mountain gorillas and hiking to a crater lake in Rwanda, exploring the beaches and wildlife of Kenya, and volunteering at a coffee farm and reforestation project in Uganda. His travels then took him to Northeast India, where he trekked in the Dzukou valley and explored Manipur and Mizoram among the other seven sisters.
Gradually, he began dreaming of travelling without a set itinerary, without a return date. Little did he know that the future was going to offer literally that.
Setting out on his dream trip to South America… in late Feb 2020!
“I wanted to travel extensively across South America for atleast a year. It was supposed to be my longest trip… which it still is, but under completely different circumstances!” ~ Saurabh Gupta
Saurabh had put off travelling to South America for a long time, constrained by time and finances. After much planning, he finally boarded a flight to Colombia on 19th Feb 2020. He dreamt of journeying from the northernmost to the southernmost point of South America, going with the flow along the way to let people and places mold his plans.
But 2020 of course, had its own agenda…
Getting locked down in Colombia for 6 months
“I had travelled solo to four continents but never lived in a foreign country, nor did I intend to. But the universe had different plans for me.” ~ Saurabh Gupta
Saurabh explored northern Colombia for about a month, where he attended the Barranquilla’s Carnival – the second largest in the world, travelled to Punta Gallinas – the nothernmost point of South America, saw sand dunes along the stunning beaches etc. Then he took an overnight bus from Cartagena to Medellin. As he began exploring the city, he noticed that many attractions were closing down. It was mid-March and most people were not taking the coronavirus news too seriously.
After a few days in Medellin though, news suddenly broke out that almost the entire world was going into lockdown – Medellin, Colombia, South America, India. Saurabh anticipated that it would be a short term state of affairs, and decided to stay on in Medellin to avoid buying a highly overpriced ticket back to India. In the meantime, airports, schools, colleges, offices, shops, malls, transportation, everything shut – and Medellin went quiet.
During the initial lockdown, he could only step out twice in 10 days to stock up on groceries or use the ATM, monitored by the last digit of the cedula (the Colombian National ID card) or the passport number. He was staying in a budget hostel at the time, and rather enjoyed the experience of hanging out and cooking with travellers from across the continent.
But as he lost hope of returning home or travelling again, frustration gradually set in. To keep his spirits up, he decided to change hostels and neighborhoods.
Discovering slow travel and creative pursuits
“I used to think and laugh about the fact that I quit my work of so many years because I didn’t want to be stuck in one place for my whole life. But ironically, I felt stuck again even though I was travelling.” ~ Saurabh Gupta
Colombia had one of the world’s longest lockdowns – 6 entire months! Over the course of this time, Saurabh moved 3 hostels, 2 Airbnb rentals and undertook a 3-week stint volunteering in exchange for stay and food. He lived in several different neighborhoods in Medellin, of which his favorite was Envigado, quiet and close to the mountains, waterfalls, nature walks and parks. The houses and infrastructure there reminded him of his childhood in Panchkula.
Once he set his mind to spending his energy on positive pursuits, he immersed himself in learning Spanish, which he could practice everyday with native speakers. He got better at cooking, practiced salsa, took to Spanish music and signed up for an online writing course. When the restrictions eased up a bit, he would go out on long walks, bicycle rides and hikes, often covering 15-20km a day, sometimes solo and sometimes with resident friends. He met many new people and shared meals, cooking recipes, dance steps, music and long conversations – and perhaps that’s what kept him going in dismal times.
During the fifth month of his lockdown life in Medellin, Saurabh even got invited to a local radio show, where the RJ quizzed him about Medellin, India and his time in lockdown!
Also read: The Joy of Slow Travel
The end of the lockdown, finally
“I don’t feel disheartened now. I’m glad I had the experience of living in a foreign country under strange circumstances – something I won’t forget for the rest of my life.” ~ Saurabh Gupta
Saurabh had been in touch with the Indian embassy all this while, and at some point, was seriously contemplating returning back to India. The evacuation flights however, were priced rather high, and he had also begun to feel a sense of belonging in Medellin.
By now, he would walk several hours everyday, listening to Spanish music, discovering different parts of the city. On one such walk, he recalls, he went to La Sierra – labelled one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods of Medellin. There, he met a guy who instantly recognized that he was from India and invited him home for a cup of coffee and oblea (a local sweet). Having worked in the Middle East and made Indian friends, he was delighted to see Saurabh in his neighborhood.
Despite having an Indian passport, Saurabh’s US tourist visa allowed him to stay in Colombia for upto 6 months – and the Colombian government eased up visa restrictions during the lockdown too.
When the lockdown finally ended in Colombia in September 2020, he explored a bit more of the country. A couple of weeks ago, in February 2021, he eventually boarded a flight from Mexico to India – one whole year after his departure.
Words of wisdom for those whose travel dreams were shattered by the pandemic
Saurabh: “After I started travelling full time, strange things have happened with me again and again. I went to Kashmir with my brother and had to return early because of the suspension of Article 370. Then during my solo trip to East Africa, I had to return early to India to attend to an urgent family matter. When I travelled solo to Northeast India, I wanted to explore all states but had to cut my trip short due to the CAA/NRC protests. And now the lockdown during my Colombia trip…
2020 has been really challenging for most of us, but it has taught me that with an adventurous mindset and a positive attitude towards people and life, we can make the most of even such unpredictable times. My lockdown story is an apt example!”
All photos in this post belong to Saurabh, used with permission.
What’s your lockdown story, and how did this time affect your travel dreams? What have you learnt from it?
This post is part of my “Solo Travellers from Asia” Series – which aims to shed the spotlight on courageous souls who are challenging conventions in their own fierce ways, yet are typically underrepresented in the travel space.
If you’ve met inspiring solo travellers from Asia who I could consider featuring in this series, please connect us!
Other posts from this solo travel series
Meet the Indian Solo Traveller Who Quit His Job, Set Out for His Dream Trip in 2020 and Got Locked Down in Colombia! published first on https://airriflelab.tumblr.com
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When it comes to finding a new rifle for hunting deer, it can be quite a daunting task. You need to consider a lot of factors before you pick the rifle that suits you best. We’ve looked into these factors and selected the best rifles for deer hunting. Read below for a lowdown on each rifle and what makes them unique.
A few things to consider
Here are some of the things you need to think about when choosing a rifle for deer hunting.
Setting a budget
Before you start looking through the range of rifles, you should take a moment to decide how much you are willing to spend. Rifles can range from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand pounds, so there are plenty of options available to suit your budget.
Straight pull or turn bolt action?
Think about what kind of action you are looking for in a rifle. Remember that this can affect your hunting efficiency. For example, straight pull has a faster action, so it is more suited for hunters who need to be able to move quickly.
Buying second-hand is worth exploring
Buying a brand new rifle can be quite expensive, so looking for second-hand models is definitely worth your time. This is something that has grown online quite quickly over the last few years, so finding the model that you want at a more reasonable second=hand price should not be too difficult.
What are the best rifles for deer hunting?
This rifle is, versatile, well-built, and has increased in popularity over the last few years. It’s considered to be a more traditional rifle, but it comes with a range of modern functionalities that make it very reliable and accurate when you are out in the field.
It is one of the more pricey rifles available on the market, but this is reflected in its overall quality. And it is designed to remain at a high quality for years.
The Highland model is one of the most iconic provided by Rigby. Since they started to go back into production in 2014, they become instantly popular with experienced shooters. Much like the Sauer 202, the Stalker combines both tradition and modernity in a way that makes the rifle aesthetically pleasing.
This is a handy rifle when it comes to long-range shooting. The 22-inch long barrel and slow taper are welcome additions when it comes to assisting with accuracy. This makes the Highland Stalker an ideal choice for novice shooters.
If you are looking for a rifle that is a little more affordable without sacrificing too much on the quality, then this rifle is a perfect choice. Available for less than £1,000, the Steyr Mannlicher Pro Hunter is particularly popular among hunters who spend a lot of time in dense woodland.
This rifle carries a decent amount of weight, making it comfortable to handle for long periods. You can also adjust the trigger through a screw in the trigger blade, so then you can give the pull the right amount of weight for you. Given its price and general practicality, this is another good rifle for a novice shooter.
This is a great choice of rifle for someone who wants to purchase something that they feel is uniquely their own. The Remington 700 can include a wide range of modifications and accessories, meaning you can essentially design the rifle around what you want and the way you hunt.
While many feel that the Remington 700 has become outdated since more modern rifles have become available on the market, it still has a classic feel and reliability that makes it one of the best rifles available. For both beginners and seasoned hunters, this remains one of the more reliable and best rifles for deer hunting.
Specialist shooting insurance from Gunplan
Once you have chosen the rifle you feel suits you best, it’s vital that you have the right insurance before you start your next deer stalking trip. With our specialist shooting insurance, you can insure your new rifle against theft, loss, and damage. Complete an online quote within minutes today.
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There are plenty of generic lists of things to do in Fort Kochi out there. But you could look beyond popular places to visit in Fort Kochi and instead, connect with locals over music, poetry and cleaning up Fort Kochi beach, spot humpback dolphins, try yoga, discover traditional food and unique cafes in Fort Kochi, and more!
This post is part of my series to discover India and the world more mindfully in the new “normal”. Please see my detailed safety tips while travelling and recommendations for socially distanced hideouts.
It wasn’t love at first sight when I first visited Fort Kochi some 8 years ago. Merely passing through the city, perhaps the riot of sights, sounds and smells overwhelmed my senses.
But on a trip at the beginning of last year, I took it slow, discovered many unusual things to do in Fort Kochi and overcame the initial sensory overload. Indulging my taste buds in the fusion of hipster cafes and traditional thalis, cycling along the quaint by-lanes and aroma-filled streets of Mattancherry, and connecting with locals over music, poetry and art, I felt my every sense indulged.
I must admit though, that the more I went beyond the regular places to see in Fort Kochi checklists, the more I felt an ache about the city’s lost potential. If some streets were turned into walking-only streets, the old houses of Jew town better preserved and all Fort Kochi hotels compelled to build in the heritage architectural style, we could have a most unique living heritage destination!
Nonetheless, nostalgic tales from the days of the city’s ancient trading past continue to live on here, and we must wade through many layers to find them.
Meaningful things to do in Fort Kochi
Behold, some of my favorite discoveries, unique places to eat in Fort Kochi and Fort Kochi attractions beyond the beaten path:
In this post:
Try plant-based food and yoga at Loving Earth Cafe – one of the best cafes in Fort Kochi
There are plenty of Fort Kochi cafes to choose from, but after nearly a month of living in a stunning little village in Tamil Nadu, I wanted creative, clean, healthy food to pamper my taste buds. Just an hour after arriving, even before I began to explore Fort Kochi, I found my way to Loving Earth Cafe – a gorgeous space with a tropical decor, warm vibe and innovative plant-based menu that immediately lured me in.
The refreshing “Mint my day” smoothie, yum-hum (hummus and home-baked focaccia) toasts and the fudgy chocolate chunk brownies were just the comfort food I needed.
At a time when ethical, environmental and health concerns are making many people reconsider their dietary choices, indulging in a meal at Loving Earth is testimony to the fact that food without animal products doesn’t have to be boring! Infact, I found the food so much more creative than other cafes in the vicinity (especially the popular Kashi Art Cafe Fort Kochi), that I went back multiple times.
Our search for yoga classes in Fort Kochi even led us to their cozy little upstairs studio for an afternoon of intense yet rejuvenating hatha yoga.
Cruise on a boat made in the original Brunton boatyard – and if you’re lucky, you might spot Indian Humpback Dolphins in Fort Kochi!
Back when Fort Kochi was a bustling trading settlement, it was home to a heritage boat building site called Brunton Boatyard. CGH Earth – which now runs one of the most unique hotels at Fort Kochi on this site – managed to get back a boat built there nearly 81 years ago, retired from service in the Lakshadweep islands, and refurbished it for a sunset cruise!
On board this historic vessel, we set sail on the Arabian Sea, where a school of wild Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphins swam just metres away from our boat, as the golden light of the setting sun danced on the waves. Threatened by overfishing and habitat changes, the numbers of these gentle giants have dwindled over the years, so spotting them in the waters off Fort Kochi gave us a glimpse of what we stand to lose.
As we drifted along small coastal villages, Brahmini Kites spread their massive wings above and swerved in the breeze. The iconic (and now symbolic) fishing nets of Fort Kochi made me feel like I was in a time warp.
Help clean up Fort Kochi beach every Saturday
Some four years ago, local residents, including Fort Kochi hotel and homestay owners, came together to clean up their beach. They gradually established the Clean Fort Kochi Foundation, and clean-ups happen every Saturday now.
Joining a beach cleanup drive might not feature on a regular traveller’s agenda during a stay in Fort Kochi, but given that we’re definitely going to relish a sunset or three on the beach, it definitely should be. It’s a great way to learn about the city’s ecosystem, connect with locals and question our own consumption.
Indulge in a true blue organic Kerala thali at The Village – one of the best restaurants in Fort Kochi
I might never have stumbled upon The Village, given the wide (and confusing) variety of places to eat in Fort Kochi, had it not been recommended by a newfound friend, Krithika – who moved to Fort Kochi a while ago and runs a boutique travel company called The Wander Bug.
Run by two friendly Malayali brothers, this rustic eatery serves up the most delicious, wholesome, organic Kerala thalis, whipped up with locally sourced ingredients and traditional family recipes. Many delights on offer can be customized without animal products, and there’s usually even a daily special vegan dessert on offer. What better way to support a local business while delighting your taste buds?
Go cycling in Fort Kochi under the moonlit sky
I can still sniff the humid sea air and see the moon peeping out from behind the clouds in the vast skies above. On quiet nights, instead of wondering what to do in Fort Kochi, we borrowed bicycles from our hotel, zoomed into a map of Fort Kochi and cycled under the spectacular umbrella-like canopies of ancient rain trees.
Past colorful little cafes and boutique shops we rode, along the coast we rode, to the empty beaches with the moonlight crashing into the waves. What a feeling!
Keep an evening for open mic poetry, music, art and clay oven pizzas at David Hall Fort Kochi
There are plenty of art galleries and old structures all around, but at David Hall, the history of Fort Kochi seems to come alive. Tucked away amid the rain trees, this 17th century Dutch bungalow has been restored into an art gallery that showcases the work of both local artists and international art inspired by Kerala. We were lucky to catch a block painting art exhibition, beautifully depicting local life in the city and the pace at which it’s changing.
David Hall is one of the few places in Fort Kochi where every evening, local and visiting musicians and poets gather together for an open mic – a cosy venue for some creative inspiration and intimate culture swap, worth ditching other bars in Fort Kochi for! And while you’re at it, give their clay oven-baked cashew cheese vegan pizza a try – DELICIOUS.
Stay in a time warp at Brunton Boatyard – possibly the best hotel in Fort Kochi
When I first arrived at Brunton Boatyard, I was convinced it was atleast a 100 years old. The intricate wooden ceilings with Dutch and Portuguese influences. The “pankhas” – once manually worked by a “pankhawala” to keep it cool. The tea lounge reminiscent of the British era. The arched walls and windows. The old school switchboards. It felt stuck in time…
Much to my surprise, it turned out that it was built only about twenty years ago, by a Swiss architect who specializes in the old architecture of Fort Kochi. It is located on the site of the original Brunton boatyard though!
Besides being an ode to the local architecture, Brunton Boatyard practices rainwater harvesting and is a single use plastic-free zone. They have their own bottling plant to serve up drinking water in glass bottles and offer natural toiletries in ceramic bottles. The eco-friendly practices clubbed with a laidback luxurious experience makes it one of the best places to stay in Fort Kochi. Now open with limited inventory in the new “normal”, they seem to be exercising every safety caution to host travellers.
For Fort Kochi attractions beyond the beaten path, explore little-known villages and backwaters with a local
I sorely wish I had planned to spend atleast one more day in Fort Kochi, for the idea of cycling beyond the beaten path caught my fancy. As part of the Art of Bicycle Trips, a Kerala local offers a half day trip exploring the coastal villages, rice paddies, organic farms and pristine backwaters just beyond.
Having explored the outskirts of Bangalore on one of their cycling trips, I imagine this one too would’ve taken me to a palm-fringed, traffic-free, tourist-free side of Kochi. Atleast I have an excuse to return.
Also read: God’s Own Island by the Kasaragod Backwaters
Your questions about Fort Kochi
Best time to visit Fort Kochi
I visited Fort Kochi in the second half of February, and even though the afternoons were hot and sultry, the early mornings and evenings were wonderfully cool. The winter months from November to February are ideal for exploring this tropical nook of Kerala.
Avoid the busy Kochi-Muziris Biennale (an international art festival) dates – which attract big crowds and a hike in accommodation prices – unless of course you’re an art aficionado.
Best place to stay in Fort Kochi
When deciding where to stay in Fort Kochi, think about the experience you’re after – and your budget of course. On my first trip, I was strapped for cash and stayed at a low budget homestay. On a work assignment this time, I was lucky to be hosted by CGH Earth. I hope to discover and share more eco-conscious hideouts on future trips.
Best restaurant in Fort Kochi
There’s no dearth of good restaurants in Fort Kochi, but some of my favourites are:
I hope to try the food at Veda Wellness and Aruvi Nature Life on my next trip!
Shopping in Fort Kochi
As someone who aspires to minimalism, I rarely shop on my travels, but I was delighted to stumble upon Kalpa – an organic health store that stocks local grains, artisan chocolates, all kinds of superfoods, handmade soaps and more. It’s located right next to The Village restaurant.
Jew Street also has a treasure trove of stores with unique antiques from the times gone by.
Things to do in Fort Kochi at night
Other unique places to visit in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry
I need to plan a third trip to leisurely explore the wonders of Jew Town. If the Fort Kochi synagogue is anything to go by, four centuries of history linger beyond the off-putting traffic and sellers that now line its streets. I’ve heard of some restoration initiatives in the area, and sure hope some of Kerala’s unique heritage can be salvaged before it’s too late.
Getting to and around Fort Kochi
Bike rental in Fort Kochi
Most hotels and accommodations offer a bike rent in Fort Kochi – and even if they don’t have their own bikes, they can definitely arrange one for you. Ask ahead of time.
You can also get in touch with BLive to do one of their e-bike trips.
Fort Kochi ferry
For the price of a few rupees, you can hop on to the Fort Kochi ferry to Ernakulam, Vyleen or Willingdon Island – a great budget way to experience the water and the local life around.
Airport to Fort Kochi / Ernakulam to Fort Kochi
Last I heard, multiple air-conditioned buses now ply from Kochi Airport to Fort Kochi. It’s best to arrive during the day and ask at the information desk. It’s also possible to take the ferry part of the way to cut down the travel time.
Cherai Beach to Fort Kochi
On my first trip to Fort Kochi, we did the long drive on a scooter to Cherai Beach, to be somewhat disappointed by our destination. I hear it’s a lot more popular now, and don’t particularly recommend it.
What are some interesting things to do in Fort Kochi you’ve discovered on your trip? What are you most looking forward to?
*Note: I travelled to Fort Kochi on assignment for CGH Earth. As you know, opinions on this blog are always my own.
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Physical Educator and sports coach from 6 years , with degree in sports science and physical education from RLT University in US. Coach of football, skating, hockey and rugby teams. Now working as Sports development officer in Perth city.