In 2003, when adopting a vegan lifestyle was perhaps unheard of in the country, Bangalore-based Susmitha Subbaraju and her husband had already developed a keen interest in it. The Subbarajus, who were vegetarian from the beginning, were taken in by the novelty of being vegan and found that as a concept and philosophy it didn’t steer away too much from their strictly vegetarian diet. “We could have never imagined life without diary products, but this friend of ours introduced us to the horrors of the dairy industry and what we humans do to extract a glass of milk from a cow,” says Susmitha.
Nine years into having a dairy-free diet, Susmitha has extended the vegan concept to her hobby and passion — jewellery making. The designer offers earrings, pendants, finger rings, necklaces and bracelets in pure silver, copper and clay. “I don’t use raw materials derived from animals like leather, bone, pearls and shells,” she says, adding, “If I want to use pearls, I use swarovski glass pearls as a substitute.”
A self-taught jewellery designer, Susmitha also designs a line of jewellery for die-hard vegans, in which she uses a special hand stamping technique on copper and silver and hammers in steel letters onto it that reads out inspirational lines like “Vegan for Life” or “Give Peace a Chance”. “I use pure metals since mixed metals tend to give you an allergy. I also work with different mediums and mostly do a lot of earthy, chunky organic shapes,” says Susmitha, who also does tarot card reading and practices reiki.
The line of jewellery is also sold online through etsy.com and itshandmade.in. Susmitha feels that though the market for vegan jewellery has saturated abroad, in India she has found takers, especially from the small community of likeminded vegans who she meets up regularly as part of the Vegan Bengaluru Club. She feels that more and more people are adopting veganism as a lifestyle and extending it beyond just their diets. “Nine years ago, soon after turning vegan I moved to New York City for a couple of years, where it was easier for me to stick to my lifestyle, but now it is pretty easy here too. The South Indian diet is actually quite similar to the vegan diet with the exception of ghee and curd,” she tells us, adding, “We really don’t need a glass of milk for strength or survival as has been proved by research. We are not built to consume animal products as part of nature.”
And does she not miss out on the simple joys of eating ice cream or enjoying a cup of coffee? “It’s just a mindset actually. There are a lot of tastier alternatives to diary products. For instance, you can have coffee with coconut milk, almond milk, ice cream with soya milk and tea tastes really good with cashew milk,” she says. And in case you think making vegan food is really tough, Susmitha offers help in the form of her blog veganbengaluru.wordpress.com, where she regularly shares vegan recipes.
Look for Susmitha’s designs on facebook.com/artbysusmitha. Price vary from
`1,000 to `6,000.