Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode.
This week, OZiva Be Bettr Video Podcast is excited to welcome Meher Malik. Meher Malik is a dancer and the foremost name when it comes to belly-dancing in India. She has changed the definition of freedom within the art form of dance. The founder of Banjara School of Dance, Meher rose to fame after her performance on India’s Got Talent. She has spent more than 17 years perfecting the dance form and recently converted to Veganism. She is a proponent of a sustainable lifestyle and uses her growing influence to spread information about feminism, pro-body choice, breastfeeding and veganism.
Our host for this episode is Nishi Joshi. She is a licenced Queer affirmative Psychotherapist with her expertise in Body-based/Movement Psychotherapy. She has pursued her training from Goldsmiths, University of London. Nishi is also the Founder of the organisation The Safe Space, and currently offers online mental health support and Psychotherapy services to individuals of all ages and mental health-related issues. Nishi works with children with special needs, adults as well as the older population. Nishi is a vegan and an active animal enthusiast has two adopted indie dogs and feels deeply against animal cruelty and the environment.
Listen to the entire audio podcast here:
To understand veganism in 3 minutes, click HERE.
Questions asked during the conversation:
1. What does it mean to be vegan? What are the dos and don’ts?
2. What is the biggest myth that you’ve burst on veganism?
3. Is a vegan diet sufficient for the protein and nutrition requirements of women?
Know more about Meher Malik:
Meher on Instagram: https://instagram.com/meherbanjaran?igshid=bdcdz92qfpls
Studio Banjara on Instagram: https://instagram.com/studiobanjara?igshid=1qbddxx4jnu8v
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Host: Hello my health community, the OZiva Be Bettr Video Podcast welcomes you all to take charge of your health and take the first step towards a healthier, better tomorrow.
Vahi puraani kahaani, buzorgon ki zubaani- “Tan changa, man change, toh sab changa” aaj kal kayi baar humari window pe knock karne aata hai. Ab inn lockdown days mein, aur kisi cheez ka toh patah nahi, par hum apni health pe check aur control toh zaroor rakh sakte hain. So join me, Nishi, your host and dost on this wonderful new health journey.
Now, let’s promise to Be Bettr, shall we? So just a little disclaimer, I am a Vegan. And no, there is nothing to be worried about, I quite enjoy it. In fact, turning vegan has been one of the best decisions of my life. Haan ab yahan teacher ki class nahi dene aayi main, promise. I am just here as a masihah of information. Toh chalo, kuch naya seekh hi lete hain!
People often ask me, ki aap vegan ho, aap bahar ka khaana kaise khaate ho or how do you survive without dairy products, and all those questions? So, to answer to all these questions, I welcome you all today for today’s podcast, where we bust all myths and silence the hullabaloo surrounding veganism and what it entails. Veganism is actually a way of life and practising vegans do not consume animal-derived products like dairy items jaise ki ghee, butter, cheese and meats. And, fun fact. Today, India, which is known as the vegetarian capital of the world, has approximately 5 million people who embrace veganism.
As a practising vegan, there is no end to the number of questions I am asked about my diet and I know no questions are silly, but slowly and steadily the tables are turning and the plant-based foods industry is really growing.
Well, enough about me and my vegan wagon. I thought who best to shed light on veganism, this wonderful topic, than our very own Banjaran – Meher Malik. Arre taaliyan bajado yaar!
Meher Malik is a name we all know by heart. She runs a beautiful school- the Banjara School of Dance. She’s the one who’s changed the definition of freedom within the art of dance. Mehar can be described as a straightforward and determined person who lives her life fully and passionately.
Host: Hi Meher, we welcome you to our brand new show, the OZiva Be Bettr Video Podcast.
Meher: Hi ji
Host: Hi. So, shuruaat se shuru kartein hain. Toh, since we are talking about veganism, I really want to know and I want the audience to know ki aapki veganism ki journey kahan se shuru hui? What prompted you to become vegan?
Meher: Umm, I have been vegan now for almost four years and I always knew about veganism. Mujhe humesha se pata tha ki veganism kya hai. What the idea of veganism is, I had always known. Umm, but what I think eventually led me to a place to finally convert from vegetarianism to veganism was umm, having these very severe gastro attacks coupled with migraines. I think in a country like India we don’t take food allergies very seriously. I think unless the allergy results in swollen lips and itchy skin, till then we don’t really realise that allergies can be of different types- type 1, type 2, type 3. And I think that it is so ingrained in us that dahi, dooth… it’s such an, it’s such an ingrained thing you don’t really think about much and it’s just part of your culture and you’re just consuming things that you don’t necessarily even know that don’t suit your body.
So umm, all my life, ever since I was a young girl, I’ve had these migraine and gastro attacks and people would say the silliest things like “Nazar lag jaati hai” and that was their answer to me getting these attacks, vomiting bouts of hours and hours of hours. Umm and, I always knew that there was something more to it.
So, I was led on by a nutritionist who told me to get this German allergy test done which is available in India and that’s when I actually got to know that I was allergic to a bunch of different food items, dairy being the highest allergy source in my life. Umm, and that’s where things changed. I just stopped consuming dairy completely and I never got those attacks ever again.
Host: Wow. Thank you for sharing that. And, I really echo a lot of that. I’ve also been a practicing vegan now for three years and the gastro issue is real. It’s horrible and it’s real and it only changes once you become vegan. Now, that brings me to the second question Meher, which is, what does it mean for you to be vegan and what are the dos and don’ts?
Meher: So, so one of the things I think in the journey of all like when I was a young girl, probably about eight or nine, I remember we lived in the Middle East and in the Middle East being away from me just pretty difficult because the culture is all about eating meat. But I remember when you know I were going on grocery shopping one day and I saw this chicken shop and they were beheading the chickens and I told my parents that I am never going to eat animals.
And so, becoming a vegetarian was something that was my own choice. Nobody asked me to be vegetarian. It was something that I felt already because I did not want to eat a dead animal. I knew that as a very young girl. I knew that as a teenager. I knew that as an adult. But I think, as I got…as I became more aware about veganism, as I became more aware as an adult, as a thinking adult, umm I realized that there’s more to it than just eating the animal dead.
You know, cows are almost raped in the industry and that’s how you are receiving. You know, babies are separated from the mother. Cows are given injections and you know antibiotics and all kinds of medication that’s entering your body, which is not meant for the human body. And I realised there was much more to it than just eating a dead animal. There was torture, you know. There was so much pain. And, you know, you’re consuming this pain. Whether you’re consuming it as milk or you’re consuming it as meat or you’re consuming it as fur or you’re consuming it as anything, anything that you’re wearing on your body or a product that you’re using.
So, for me now what is become very important is (a) to understand and to realize that what I’m consuming doesn’t come from cruelty. So that’s super important to me. Now, whether that’s food or whether that’s what I’m wearing, I have stopped buying silk sarees or wearing clothes. I’m not doing this just for my health anymore. Now, it goes much beyond that. It’s now an ethical issue in my life and not just got to do with my health. Of course, I would suggest it to people to reverse any kind of health issues. And I know people like Lewis Hamilton, who’s the Formula One racer, and has also reversed his dogs’ health with veganism. So for me, umm I just feel like it has much more to it than health. And when it comes to the dos and don’ts, I would say figure out where your cosmetics are coming from. Umm you know, are they being tested on animals? You know, the food products, do they have…sometimes you don’t even know that your food product has, you know some kind of animal based product in it. You know, for example, there are coconut water out there in the market that you would assume that coconut water is a plant based product. But the minute you bottle it, you have to add a sauce to it that’s actually animal based. So that plant based product actually packaged becomes a not plant based product. So I would say, do your research, read the labels, understand where your products are coming from.
It’s easy. The information is out there. If you really care, you can get the information. And of course, definitely abstain from leather, fur, silk, you know anything that’s actually coming from an animal. And I’m learning this every day. So every day I get to know that there is a product that I have probably been using in the past that I realize that this is not coming ethically. This is not coming at me at all.
So it’s…it’s an ever going you know, it’s an ongoing process. And you really have to build that awareness on an everyday basis. So if you are attracted to veganism or to for whatever reason, whether it’s health, whether it’s the environment, whether it’s, you know, not being cold towards animals, I would suggest to your research and keep learning on an everyday basis, because you being a practicing vegan, you will still realize that so many things you don’t know. Umm, so ya. It’s about research, it’s about understanding what is it that you’re consuming and not just blindly consuming something because it’s something that your family has been doing forever, you know.
So, I would suggest really doing your research.
Host: Absolutely, wow! That was such a great, you know list of things we should be doing/shouldn’t be doing. And you know Meher, there is also that sense of unlearning. Hume bachpan se hi doodh de diya jaata hai. Hume bachpan se hi itna food items de diya jaata hai which is in fact not healthy and might not suit our bodies. So, I think as you rightly said and put that it is like an ongoing learning journey and..
Meher: And you know, let me add something here. I recently did, you know they say that as a breastfeeding mother you should keep checking your D3 levels, B12 levels, calcium serum. So I, all the time that I have been vegetarian, people ask me this question all the time like are… do you think you’re getting your nutrition? Like, do you think you know, you’re getting your supplementation? So, one of the reason which people don’t know is that dairy products can lead too a lot of malabsorption in the body. SO, what you should be absorbing from the food source, you don’t end up. So, all this time that i was vegetarian and did not know that I was allergic to dairy, I always had low D3 and low B12. Always! And I just did my these tests three days back, four days back. I’m vegan, I’m breastfeeding and my D3 and my B12 and my calcium serum have never been better. Ever!
Host: Love that. Love that!
Meher: Ya’ so it’s, it’s definitely something people should read up. They should do their research. It’s very important.
Host: Absolutely! Thank you for sharing that with us and I think that’s where the knowledge really grows and then it’s an ongoing journey.
Okay. So the next set of questions are going to be slightly more quicker. So, humne rapid fire tayaar kiya hai aapke liye. So, it’s gonna be a Q&A which is vegan themed. And ya, do you feel ready?
Host: Should we go on?
Host: Okay great! So, biggest myths to bust about veganism
Meher: That it’s expensive
Host: Hmm. Three sources of vegan food.
Meher: Oh wow! Green leaves, or any kind of green leaves. Umm fruits, (laughs).
Meher: And umm rice(laughs)
Host: Yes (laughs too). Okay, so, biggest hesitation for you before you turned vegan, if there was any.
Meher: I think the one that normally people have is- Will I be able to get enough protein and will I be able to get enough B12. I think these are the major questions. But, these are all possible.
Host: hmm..Amazing! Three celebrities or public figures that you might know who have recently turned vegan
Meher: Recently I don’t know but I do know some people. I mean Virat Kohli is Vegan. Lewis Hamilton is vegan. Okay see I don’t know chic right. That’s the great problem. Why don’t I know what’s chic? I know people who are trying veganism. I know that Miley Cyrus was vegan but then suddenly said that she needed omegas. So yeah I guess that partially counts.
Host: Top three favorite vegan dishes
Meher: Rajma chawal
Meher: Coconut curry
Meher: And, plant-based milk that we make at home that we get from coconut, walnut or pumpkin seeds
Host: Wow! That sounds really good
Meher:…with oat cereal
Host: Ya, I can see the body dance. Ya, absolutely.
Meher: My favorite!
Host: Ya, sounds great! What does being vegan mean to you in word or a line?
Meher: I think being vegan is being introspective and just understanding and kind of being aware of how you’re living your life. Otherwise you’re just following chic mentality. But, I think being vegan is really questioning things and you’re aware and so you’re always in introspection mode
Host: Hmm..ya! What are you craving for right now?
Meher: Ooooh! Mum has sent us home-cooked khao suey which I haven’t eaten yet so I’m waiting for khao suey.
Host: Okay, and uhmm the last you know question for rapid-fire. Recommend one vegan dish to a beginner who is trying to go vegan. What would it be?
Meher: I think a buddha bowl. A buddha bowl is basically a combination of having carbs, protein healthy fat and your other minerals from fruits, veggies mostly veggies. So I think something like a side dish of like greens and tomatoes maybe some hempseed. Rice and maybe rajma or rice and chana. You know something like that is perfect.
Host: Amazing, thank you for that rapid fire. Also you know I’m gonna take this moment to add that O’ziva has a delicious range of plant-based products and an extensive range of vegan-friendly products that are actually quite nice. So, I would encourage you Meher to try their immunity booster which is really really nice.
Meher: Actually that’s one of the things on my to-do list and I would really suggest to you know women. Super women everywhere, we’re doing so much you know. Our bodies are constantly doing so much. As a mother, I know. And I feel like if you can try out an alternative that is plant-based that supplements you that gives a boost to your health you should definitely definitely give it a try
Host: Yep, Thank you so much for that and just before we finish the last finale question for you is- What is your fitness mantra? For your body, for your mind.
Meher: So, for me I think my fitness mantra is focused on healing and really looking at it as- What do I need today? Which can be really different for everybody on an everyday basis. Just constantly running on a treadmill or jogging on an everyday basis. This is not what the body needs on an everyday basis. So, your fitness mantra should be asking yourself- What does my body need today?
Host: Wow, that is the last line. I’m just taking a breath to sort of digest that. How amazing! And being a body-based psychotherapist and mental health practitioner myself. I think that’s something we start with- listening to the body! sort of And just arriving into the body and checking with our body and you’ve put it so well. Well that’s…we’ve come towards the end Meher and thank you so so much for joining…
Meher: Thank you…
Host: joining us and taking the time out to be with us and with the O’Ziva video podcast today.
Meher: Thank you so much!
Host: Toh mere doston. I do hope you’re inspired to be better. After our delightful conversation with Meher malik. And don’t you worry about how and where to start our vegan journey. O’Ziva has got you covered! Visit O’Ziva.in to view all our clean, plant-based products to make your health journey better. I will see you next week with another podcast and another special guest in our health story. Take care, be safe and be better. This is Nishi, your host, signing off!