Sadhana Forest Community Value: Veganism

Veganism is the idea that every living thing deserves to not only live, but to live a peaceful life. Vegans do not eat any products from living or dead animals or use any products that were tested on animals or use animal byproducts. Vegans are trying to live as peaceful, cooperative, and non-violent a life as possible, which also means being peaceful towards animals.

 The animal product industry is incredibly violent, not just because it can directly result in an animal’s death, but also in the harvesting of animal byproducts.  In order for people to eat eggs, we use the female hen but guess what happens to the male? Have you ever though about how violent it is to get milk from a cow? The cow has to have a child in order to produce milk for it’s offspring, so the cow has to be forcefully impregnated, over and over again, and then the calf has to be separated from it’s mother. This is stressful for baby cow and it’s mother, not to mention violent for people who work in this industry and have to separate mom from child or kill animals.

 All mammals drink milk from their mothers when they are young. Human milk is made for humans. Cow milk is made for calves. No species other than humans drink milk past their infancy stage, or drink the milk of another animal. That’s not what it’s there for.

 I recognize that not everyone in the world has the ability to be vegan. In some cultures and climates food choices are limited to what is available. But if you have the choice, why not be vegan? 

Vegan Food Photo Essay

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Vegan Food is Amazing! 

First row: Solitude Farms thali plate made entirely from food grown on Solitude Farms/ Varagu cake with chocolate sauce and pomegranates

Second row: Savory corn-cakes with eggplant gravy, salad with tahini dressing and sweet banana pancakes with chocolate sauce/ A meal designed by me and Lark: lemon rice, beans with tomatoes and garlic, steamed greens from our garden, and thai salad (with spicy peanut dressing)

Third row: Vegan macchiato with cashew milk/ Papaya-banana-greens smoothie with guava, coconut and pineapple/ Raw carrot-date-nut cake with lime frosting 

Fourth row: Sweet porridge with jaggery, fruits, and pancakes with Yasmine’s amazing pesto spread/ Me eating my ninth (?!?!?) pancake with pesto/ Edwina’s dal, sauerkraut, red rice, and spicy corn salad

Human Unity at Sadhana Forest

Human Unity is the idea that together we are stronger than we are when segregated. Just like an ecosystem is stronger the more diverse it is, so are we as a community stronger because of our differences. As individuals we can share our skills, talents, compassion, empathy, listening, stories, ideas, and love. Too many times in developed and Western countries people are segregated. We are segregated by age and ability in the school system. We are segregated by age in nursing and old age homes. We are segregated by socio-economical class in our jobs and neighborhoods. If we are to learn from each other, support each other, and understand each other, we need to be together. 

Human Unity is the idea that together we are stronger than we are when segregated. Just like an ecosystem is stronger the more diverse it is, so are we as a community stronger because of our differences. As individuals we can share our skills, talents, compassion, empathy, listening, stories, ideas, and love. Too many times in developed and Western countries people are segregated. We are segregated by age and ability in the school system. We are segregated by age in nursing and old age homes. We are segregated by socio-economical class in our jobs and neighborhoods. If we are to learn from each other, support each other, and understand each other, we need to be together. 

Quiet Healing Center and Guest House

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Being a Project Director is hard work. And living in India has exposed my body to bacteria it is not used to. Even with my 70%-effective typhoid vaccine, I got typhoid fever. It lasted for 4 weeks, each week being a different stage, bringing on intermittent fevers, tiredness, weakness, and a host of other symptoms. I couldn’t be the effective Project Director I wanted to be. Unfortunately, living where you work and eat and sleep makes it difficult to rest. So I took a vacation to the Quiet Healing Center and Guest House on the beach in Auroville. Upon entering the winding roads decorated with stone patterns, hearing the waves wash upon the shore, and seeing the quiet little rooms with individual patios overlooking the ocean, I was smitten. For $57 per night I was able to have a beach-facing room, 2 beds (one for my friend Celeste), 3 vegan (and I think organic) meals per day, laundry, and a hot shower. For an additional $17 I could get an hour and a half massage. I got a massage every day I was there. So Celeste and I would wake up and walk along the beach, which was super peaceful until we realized that it’s where the locals come to poo in the morning. So we stopped doing that. Then we’d eat a delicious breakfast buffet and go back to our room to sit on the patio or in our window seat to draw, paint, color, and listen to music with the sounds of waves crashing in the background. After lunch we’d lay in hammocks on the sand, and before dinner we’d have tea in the gardens. For 3 days and 2 nights we lived in bliss- just enough to heal my body and soul and get me ready to give 150% again. 

Formidable Vegetable Sound System in da house!

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Formidable Vegetable Sound System in da house! 

We were fortunate to have Charlie of the Formidable Vegetable Sound System, a permaculture rockabily band from Australia perform for us in the main hut. It was a packed house! Each song taught about the different stages of permaculture and had choruses we could sing along to. People came from all around Auroville and Pondicherry to take part in the festivities. It was so amazing to have this happen in my living room :-) 

A Puja for the Vehicles!

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A Puja for the Vehicles! 

One day, our friend and local taxi driver Arumugam, came and said it was time for a puja for the vehicles. A puja (poo-jah) is a Hindu ritual celebration to the gods with food offerings and blessings. We decorated the vehicles of Sadhana Forest, left offerings of puffed rice, spices, fruits and tools at each vehicle, and then burned some camphor that was stuck in fruit and walked around each vehicle to bless it. Then we celebrated by eating the offerings. A good time was had by all. 

Thali Time

Thali Time   
  Just before leaving Thiruvannamalai, where three of us went to relax for my friend’s birthday, we decided to have one big thali before getting on the 3-hour bus ride. Thali is a traditional South Indian lunch consisting of unlimited rice, dal (lentils), subjee (cooked, mixed vegetables), sambar (spicy, very traditional soupy sauce), and other salads and vegetable dishes. We stopped in a juice shop and asked the waiter to recommend a good “pure veg” restaurant for thalis. He said something like, “Take a right and go a bit, then you’ll see it on your left.” He finished it with an Indian headshake, which could mean just about anything so we took our chances and followed his directions. We came upon a pure veg restaurant and excitedly went in and sat down. The following is the exchange we had with the waiter:  
  Us: We’ll have three thalis, please.   
  Waiter: No thali.   
  Us: It’s lunch time. Do you have thalis for lunch?   
  Waiter: No thali. Dosa, idly. (Other Indian foods that are delicious but not what we were looking for).   
  Us: No dosa. No idly. Lunch time! Thali time.   
  Waiter: No thali.   
  Us: Do you have rice?   
  Waiter: Yes.   
  Us: Do you have dal?   
  Waiter: Yes  
  Us. Do you have subjee?  
  Waiter: Yes  
  Us: Do you have sambar?   
  Waiter: Yes  
  Us: Then you have thali!   
  Waiter: You want thali, you sit here.   
     At this time the waiter points to the table next to us. We look at each other, get up, move to the next table, and a full thali comes. It’s huge, unlimited, and delicious and the waiters are hovering over us serving us more and more food, and confused that we are eating like Indians and know the names of the dishes they are serving us. They keep asking where we’re from but we don’t want to get started in a conversation as we have a bus to catch and our bellies to fill.  

  As we finish eating we take time to laugh about the ridiculocity (we’ve been making up words… this is a good one, right?) of a restaurant serving some dishes on one side of the room and other dishes on the other side. And then two of us start uncontrollably crying as though we’ve been hit with tear gas. We can’t figure out what is going on and we have to use the toilet and we don’t want to pay for the toilet at the bus station so we go to the toilet in the restaurant. It’s upstairs, and as we wait to use the facilities, we notice two women sitting on the floor with a pile of onions almost as tall as them, peeling them, while onion fumes gently ooze down the vents that were directly over our table. We burst out laughing, pee, and then hop on the bus home.

Thali Time

Just before leaving Thiruvannamalai, where three of us went to relax for my friend’s birthday, we decided to have one big thali before getting on the 3-hour bus ride. Thali is a traditional South Indian lunch consisting of unlimited rice, dal (lentils), subjee (cooked, mixed vegetables), sambar (spicy, very traditional soupy sauce), and other salads and vegetable dishes. We stopped in a juice shop and asked the waiter to recommend a good “pure veg” restaurant for thalis. He said something like, “Take a right and go a bit, then you’ll see it on your left.” He finished it with an Indian headshake, which could mean just about anything so we took our chances and followed his directions. We came upon a pure veg restaurant and excitedly went in and sat down. The following is the exchange we had with the waiter:

Us: We’ll have three thalis, please.

Waiter: No thali.

Us: It’s lunch time. Do you have thalis for lunch?

Waiter: No thali. Dosa, idly. (Other Indian foods that are delicious but not what we were looking for).

Us: No dosa. No idly. Lunch time! Thali time.

Waiter: No thali.

Us: Do you have rice?

Waiter: Yes.

Us: Do you have dal?

Waiter: Yes

Us. Do you have subjee?

Waiter: Yes

Us: Do you have sambar?

Waiter: Yes

Us: Then you have thali!

Waiter: You want thali, you sit here.

 At this time the waiter points to the table next to us. We look at each other, get up, move to the next table, and a full thali comes. It’s huge, unlimited, and delicious and the waiters are hovering over us serving us more and more food, and confused that we are eating like Indians and know the names of the dishes they are serving us. They keep asking where we’re from but we don’t want to get started in a conversation as we have a bus to catch and our bellies to fill.

As we finish eating we take time to laugh about the ridiculocity (we’ve been making up words… this is a good one, right?) of a restaurant serving some dishes on one side of the room and other dishes on the other side. And then two of us start uncontrollably crying as though we’ve been hit with tear gas. We can’t figure out what is going on and we have to use the toilet and we don’t want to pay for the toilet at the bus station so we go to the toilet in the restaurant. It’s upstairs, and as we wait to use the facilities, we notice two women sitting on the floor with a pile of onions almost as tall as them, peeling them, while onion fumes gently ooze down the vents that were directly over our table. We burst out laughing, pee, and then hop on the bus home.

Sacred Grove Community

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Sacred Grove Community

One weekend we visited the Sacred Grove community in Auroville. It’s similar to Sadhana in it’s eco-friendly way of life that also requires seva (service) of the community members in exchange for accommodations. Sacred Grove hosted a day of art and music and we got a tour of their incredible community including the ladder hut, new dorm, recycling center, and furniture-making out of tetra packs. Super cool. 

There is an acute shortage of affordable housing in Auroville which deters many good people from joining the community… The project is designed to be a model of ecological community living using ecologically sensitive construction methods. We hope this model can be replicated in high density urban areas in India and elsewhere." 

http://sacredgroves.in/

Cooking with Friends

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Cooking with Friends 

Once a week we meet at Guarav’s and cook up a feast. In these photos we made Korean pancakes with spring onions and pumpkin and a spicy sesame soy sauce, and a brunch of pancakes with cashew butter, dried strawberries, bananas, sun-dried coconut and dark chocolate. My friends are super considerate and always make a separate batch of gluten free for me! :-) PS- Check out the amazing graffiti outside Guarav’s apartment…

Art Break!

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Art Break! 

Last year when I was here in India I met Guarav, an incredibly talented artist- videographer, graphic designer, coordinator of communal art events. We kept in touch through Facebook across the year and I was delighted to find out he still lives here and is becoming an Aurovillian (like citizenship to an ideal community). He invited us all to Art Break, an event at the center of Auroville, at the Dreamer’s Café (one of my favorite coffee spots). He informed us that this was an art event happening all over the world at the same time. Each city or place that wants to participate receives approximately $500 US in art supplies (paper, paint, markers) in preparation for this event. Needless to say I was super excited and planned to spend the day there. When we arrived there were homemade signs and banners leading up to the café and surrounding it, with every café table filled with a different set of art tools so there were paint tables and marker tables, etc. Clotheslines were set up from tree to tree creating hanging walls of art that surrounded us. My friends all sat together at a table. I found a group of kids and joined them. We drew and chatted and got to know each other. We tried each other’s drawing techniques and I learned that the three girls I sat with were from Nordic countries but had grown up mostly in Auroville. They went a local somewhat progressive school and left me after about an hour for their circus arts class. I loved hearing them chat with each other, crossing between a variety of languages, looking and sounding like tween girls from anywhere in the world.

More Info on Art Break: http://www.artismovingnow.com/artbreakday.html

Article about the Art Break event I attended: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/breaking-new-ground-in-art/article6386106.ece

The Wedding

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The Wedding

Sadhana Forest’s (and my) great friend, Raja, whose family runs the local taxi business, came to visit one day and invited all of the long term volunteers as well as the founding family to his sister’s wedding. I noted to myself that his sister is in high school and wondered if that was a traditional time to get married. I asked him about it and he laughed at me and said, “Kate, all of my cousins are my brothers and sisters. My cousin is getting married and she’s 28.” Alright, I’m learning more about South Indian culture. Well a week later we attended the wedding and I’m going to do my best to describe it to you. First some background: It was an arranged marriage. The bride’s and groom’s families met one month earlier, then began planning the wedding. Then the bride and groom met. Please note when you see them in pictures that they have only known each other for a few weeks, and not well at all. (Marriages for love here are rare, but steadily growing).

About 12 of us filed into a van and Raja drove us to the wedding. Actually it was the party. The ceremony took place that morning at daybreak. The party lasted all day. We arrived at the hall in Pondicherry and could hear the music from across the 6-lane street. As soon as we got up the long staircase we could see a huge, colorful, adorned alter that was more like a Lady Gaga stage. Inside were the bride and groom, sitting on gold gilded thrones, and room for about 20 other people next to them. Directly in front of them were the photographer and videographer. Next to the stage was a live 6-piece band belting out traditional Tamil songs. The entire rest of the room was filled with slightly organized folding chairs all facing the stage. I could not figure out what was happening. And I was starving and didn’t see any food. Jayme, long term volunteer who’s been at Sadhana for 5 years, saw my befuddlement and began yelling over the music into my ear about what was going on. And here it is: You sit. You wait. You show respect. You line up. You stand next to the bride and groom on stage. The photographer takes a few pictures. The videographer films you standing there as your smile fades. You hand the groom an unmarked envelope, no card, and sit back down. Then you go upstairs to a room filled with narrow parallel tables the length of the room. You only sit on one side of the table so that all of the people sitting are facing the middle. Can you picture it? There are banana leaves set up with food (thali style- rice and a bunch of side dishes). There are men walking around with more food, serving as you eat. And there’s a vat the size of a small car filled with rice that an amma (mom) is stirring and using to refill the serving buckets.

The food was amazing! You sit wherever you’d like, as people are coming and going all day. Probably over 500, and that’s small. I sat right in the middle so I was the first row facing the other half of the room. A boy about 6 years old sat across from me and we played hide-and-seek with our food and banana leaves and the table as I stuffed my face. Then, in totally foreign, un-Indian style, we found a white walled corner and did our own little photo shoot. Enjoy!

Adventures in Ladu-Making

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Adventures in Ladu-Making

Every Friday Sadhana Forest hosts a tour of the community and forest followed by our Eco Film Club and delicious vegan dinner. We invite members from surrounding communities to join us for the entire afternoon and evening from 4:30-9:30pm. Part of this event includes homemade ladus, which are spherical dessert bites usually containing dates, jaggery (unrefined brown sugar), coconut, and crushed nuts. Since these are expensive ingredients we usually make them with a combination of toasted ragi and dal flours, jaggery and fresh coconut. They are still a treat despite these somewhat bland, everyday ingredients. This week I took on the role of ladu-maker and decided to search out some luscious ingredients. My super amazing friend Lark (who is also our founder’s assistant and the liaison between all three Sadhanas) took me on a ride to Pour Tous, a local market that sells ingredients in bulk and at close to cost. We were overcome with ideas and ended up purchasing cashews, black sesame seeds, toasted coconut, puffed rice, and a huge bar of dark chocolate. We were running late so we also got powdered jaggery (so we wouldn’t have to melt the giant chunks we have at home). As soon as we arrived back at Sadhana we set to work, grating the chocolate, and melting it with the jaggery. Then we pulsed in our food processor the cashews, puffed rice, and some puffed dal from our food cabinet. We mixed it altogether and realized it was too wet to roll into little ladu balls. So we quickly ran to pulse more puffed dal and we saved the batch. It made over 100 ladus to treat our visitors and fellow community members. By the end of the evening we were all walking around with chocolaty fingers and smudges on our faces. Super happy night. We are now ready for an Eco Film and dinner!

Cooking My First Meal for 45 People!

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Cooking My First Meal for 45 People! 

Yesterday I was trained in cooking for the community. We are about 45 people and I needed to make lunch. There are set guidelines for each meal such as breakfast always has a fruit and a porridge/rice. Lunch always has a starch (rice or potatoes), dal (lentils) for protein, cooked vegetables and a raw salad.  I learned how to keep the fires going so that we don’t need to keep lighting matches (which is difficult in wet weather) and how to figure out the right proportions for this size community. I made a mixture of brown and red rice, a mix of lentils with some ginger, garlic, cumin, and coriander, cooked veggies (onion, eggplant, okra, and chow chow (an Indian veggie that’s kind of like a cross between cucumber and zucchini) with smoked paprika, and my salad was cabbage and cucumber with a lemon-cilantro dressing. It came out delicious! (In case you are wondering, the trick to cooking here is to think of something simple and delicious and creative with what’s available- meaning in season and in our kitchen J).