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Silicon Veggie

Some People Get a Head-Start

By Elisa Camahort

I WENT VEGETARIAN when I was 25. It was a cold turkey thing. I had a lifetime of eating habits to ignore—not just habits, but mental messages about eating. Summer does not equal barbecue. Thanksgiving does not equal turkey. An indulgent breakfast does not equal bacon. Comfort does not equal (don't ask me why) the Swanson's Pot Pies I ate as a child. I came late to the vegetarian game, and it would have been easier if I hadn't.

Recently, via this column, I came in contact with a teenage reader who has been a vegetarian literally all his life. Ranjani Sukumaran lives in Fremont and is a dedicated vegetarian who recently went vegan. It seems like his being raised in a vegetarian home has made it a much simpler effort: no family pressure about whether you're really meeting your nutritional needs, no meat to miss, and a religious view that puts humans and animals on equal footing and promotes nonviolence.

Whereas I occasionally smell a steak on a grill and feel wistful, Ranjani never had meat in his house, so he has "never even had the slightest idea of wanting meat."

And while I've tried to go vegan several times and found myself giving up (despite knowing it was what I wanted to do), Ranjani, already a life-time vegetarian, went vegan this December and found that remembering "the torture you are inflicting on thousands of poor, helpless, defenseless animals" was enough incentive for him.

What Ranjani and I share, however, is a desire to set a good example for others. I make it a point to let people know that we don't have to go to special restaurants for me. I want to make being a vegetarian seem totally carefree. Ranjani says he would like to "show that being vegan doesn't require any extreme willpower or austerity, as people may believe. All it requires is compassion and dedication for all living beings."

We also share a desire to reach out to others who share our beliefs. For example, Ranjani wants to form an animal-rights club—or just find other people in Fremont who are interested in animal rights. (He's finding it tough, so let me know if you're interested, and I'd be happy to play Fremont vegetarian matchmaker.)

Ranjani has gotten a 25-year head-start on good health and a 25-year head-start on being an advocate for animals and the environment. Lucky guy.

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From the May 25-31, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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