Sunday, July 17, 2011


A long long time ago, in Dec 2009, after I quit my Marketing Research job, my superstar friend Sharmila and I went on a pilgrimage to Haridwar, one of the holiest cities in India, to bathe in the Ganges River and cleanse our sins.

In India unfortunately, 'holy'  is also directly proportionate to 'dirty' because of the sheer number of pilgrims that flock to these places. Therefore, while the accepted level of coliform bacteria present in water in the third world should be below 50 units for drinking purposes, less than 500 for bathing and below 5000 for agricultural use, the present level of coliform in Ganga at Haridwar has reached 5500. (So methinks that Hinduism has the same idea of 'penance as repentance for sin' as in Christianity.)

So after I dipped my fingers in the river (because the only sinner in me are my fingers), I filled tiny alcohol bottles with Ganges water for my enemies so that their sins can be cleansed too. Then Sharmila and I went further up the mountains to Rishikesh, which is the yoga capital of India. Here we spent two days eating Italian - Indian spaghetti and French - Indian crepes and freezing our brains out because it was freakin' cold and we were ill equipped for it.

Now to make a long and branched out story short and linear, I am gonna put it in bullet points.
  • We walked around the whole of Rishikesh because it was a loser of a place with nothing to do, and we had to validate travelling thousands of miles in the dead of winter to this place. So we walked. 
  • And then we walked some more.
  • Then I chanced upon a poster for a yoga class and further walked about 3 miles to go find the centre. 
  • The teacher, a really handsome Belgian man told me that I was destined to do this course. (At least, that is what I understood from what he said. He was too good looking for me to actually listen to him.)
  • And that is how I started obsessing about Agama Yoga and 'my destiny' there.
  • I continued obsessing about this for the next six months and pretty much had their syllabus for Level 1 by heart.
  • In May, I set out again for the Himalayas, this time to Dharamsala because there is no way I was going to Rishikesh again if I had a say in this matter, and that's how I came to be in McLeod Ganj, living among rocks and trees for a month, and learning yoga at the Dharamsala centre of Agama Yoga. 
There is so so so much I can write about my month there.

I saw the Dalai Lama at one of his events at the monastery in McLeod Ganj where he lives and listened to him talk, after which me and a hundred of his disciples ate a meal on a plate of leaves. He said things that I did not understand, but mostly because the speech was in Tibetan. I met the Karmappa, the second in command to the Dalai Lama, and he gave me a pretty white scarf that he had blessed for me. I got a blue braid in my hair and didn't do my eyebrows for a month. I did the complete headstand precisely two times. I ate a lot of Bhagsu cake, which is a specialty of the place. I took walks in the woods almost everyday and got followed by wolf like dogs who think they are your guardian angels.

The 'Original' Bhagsu Cake
Each day was an experience in wonder and delight and goodness and gratitude and truth and beauty and magic. Each day was sublime. There are so many experiences that I had there that I still haven't wholly processed; still haven't figured out the reason, effect and takeout for. And maybe I never will. And maybe that's the point of all - the lesson that experience can only be subjective and that it continues to be subjective in space and time. 

Forgive my digressions, but the point of this post is something else entirely. 

I have always been such an avid meat eater that my favourite food would probably be roast beef wrapped in ham sprinkled with bacon bits and shredded lamb. No meal of mine is complete without a meat component, including for breakfast and tea. 

So when I was doing the yoga course, I paid no heed to the multitude of vegetarian yoga practitioners around me and the disapproving looks that they'd give me when I'd order a Spaghetti Bolognese. So all was well until one day, we had a class on Ahimsa (or Non Violence). And the lecture was about vegetarianism. 

Now you can all imagine what would have been part of the lecture. Monika detailed out why meat was bad for health and how cruelly animals are treated all their lives and how much pain they are forced to undergo and how meat is all filled with insecticides and pesticides and how when animals die, there are a lot of fear hormones circulating in their body and when we eat it, we get our own fill of these fear hormones and so on and so forth.

It was an amazing lecture and totally not like how I made it sound, and by the end of the class, Brandon (who was the only other non vegetarian in the class) and I probably looked ashen and flushed all at the same time. It was the first time in my life that I asked myself whether I should be not eating meat. 

And then they showed us a documentary called 'Earthlings' and I can truly tell you that no other film that I have ever seen has moved me and continues to touch my life the way that this film has. It grips you like a vice and never lets go, that movie!

Joaquin Phoenix, who did the narration for it, said, "Of all the films I have ever made, this is the one that gets people talking the most. For every one person who sees Earthlings, they will tell three." Peter Singer, best known for his book Animal Liberation states, "If I could make everyone in the world see one film, I'd make them see Earthlings" and Tom Regan, "For those who watch Earthlings, the world will never be the same."

And I couldn't agree with any of them more. So I can only tell you this - Watch this documentary. It will change your world in such a good way and you will never be the same again.

And if you feel sad or guilty or grossed out in the first 5 minutes and want to stop watching it, I can only tell you what Monica told us. "If you have made the choice to eat meat or wear leather or fur or use cosmetics that have been animal tested, you must be brave enough to know all the aspects and perspectives that contribute to and are a result of that choice. The decision must be well informed. You must at least be able to watch this movie." 

Now at the risk of being called a huge hypocrite, I have to say that I am not a vegetarian. I am far from it. I was, a while back, but I am not anymore, for multiple reasons, none of which actually justify my decision. But I can honestly that I have cut down my meat consumption into about a tenth of what I used to eat and I am constantly trying to be more environment friendly and that is solely because of the class and this documentary.

I am kind of going against the whole idea of 'practice what you preach', but if at least one person is positively influenced by this documentary or this post, and even stops eating a meal of meat or buying a fur coat or baby lamb leather shoes, I would say that it is wholly worth being called a hypocrite for.

I have embedded the whole documentary here below and you can see the whole thing, or you can go to the Earthlings website and watch it.

All you need to do is push play and not stop until you're done.

And if you do get through to then end (or even if you don't), please do tell me what you think.


EARTHLINGS from Nation Earth on Vimeo.


  1. Thanks for coming to my blog! :) And what a cool post and experience! I haven't heard of that documentary before, I'll definitely have to see it!

  2. And thank YOU for coming to my blog!:) I do hope you see the documentary. It really did change my life.

  3. interesting post! esp the bhagsu! i will watch the documentary soon :) hope i get some answers to the nagging questions in my life...

  4. :) I'm wondering what your nagging questions are! :)

    Please let me know what you think about the doc ok?


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