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The Survival of a Vegetarian This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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One issue that has existed for me since birth was vegetarianism. Living in a meat-eating society, my dietary diversity has been a constant struggle. However, over the past 17 years, I have learned to accept my faith as a Jain and become a strong vegetarian.

I grew up very uncomfortable with myself. I felt I had three strikes against me: being an Indian in an all-white school, being a vegetarian, and consequently being a person with no self-confidence. This made me feel alienated from my peers.

In school, I dreaded lunch the most. I hated having to pry open my lime-green lunch box to eat my rotli and shack (a typical Indian lunch of tortilla and spiced masala vegetables) while my classmates had lunch trays loaded with steak, chicken, and other meats. People asked why I ate what I did, and I never knew what to answer. Often my peers made rude comments like, “What can she eat? How does she live? What a weirdo!” People judged me by what I ate.

Then, in third grade, my mom enrolled me in Sunday school, where I learned more about my religion and its practices. Jainism is an Eastern faith based on one main principle: nonviolence which consequently advocates vegetarianism (since killing animals is a violent act). There, I was surrounded by others who faced the same prejudice I did. In Sunday school we learned that vegetarianism is not just a rule to follow, but a way of life. Surrounded by the right influences, I gained inner strength and realized that vegetarianism is indeed the right path to my life.

As my belief in vegetarianism strengthened, so did my self-confidence. I started to look forward to people asking questions about my religion and diet; I wanted to tell the whole world that I was a vegetarian and proud. The more I told people about my beliefs, the more they respected me as an individual.

I even became an officer of my youth group, ultimately serving as president. I wanted people like me to know it's okay to be uncomfortable and to have questions about your faith, but surrounding yourself with the right individuals will help you respond to these questions and build stronger character.

The summer of my sophomore year I was invited to attend a national religious convention in Connecticut and without a second thought accepted. Those four days were life-changing. I bonded with important leaders in my religious community and learned how to become one myself.

My ultimate message to young vegetarians like myself is, “It's okay to be uncomfortable, just find out who you are.” Once I found out where my true roots lay, I became a much stronger individual. Next summer I will be a speaker at the convention that influenced me so much. I hope I will impact others too.

Now when someone asks what I'm eating when I open my lunch box, I say, “Rotli and shack. I am a vegetarian and proud.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

VeganKelly said...
Oct. 9, 2009 at 9:26 pm
Halo Bonita
 
VeganKelly replied...
Oct. 9, 2009 at 9:28 pm
I found out about your faith, Jainism, from my favorite television station, Supreme Master Television (www.SupremeMasterTelevision.com) Every day they have a fantastic vegan cooking show at www.SupremeMasterTelevision.com/veg that you can watch or download for free. I have seen a few ones on Jain cooking that explain the philosophy behind the vegetarian lifestyle. You can find them by just typing “Jain” into the search engine on the page. It’s a wonderful religion – somet... (more »)
 
Veg Girl said...
Oct. 9, 2009 at 1:09 pm
Hi Bonita, Thanks so much for sharing. I have had a similar experience, having chosen to become a vegetarian, though it was not in my family background. I found the more that I could explain to people why vegetarianism was good from so many points of view: our health, respecting the life of the beautiful animals, and of course, now, in saving our Earth from the effects of global warming by decreasing the greenhouse gas emissions that are caused by raising animals for meat, the more interestesd p... (more »)
 
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