Getting your vegan fix in the city of Bangalore

vegan

India is famous for its vegetarian traditions. Vegetarianism finds a place for itself in the historical as well as the modern spheres of India. In fact, some reports go so far as to claim that our country has more vegetarians than the rest of the world put together. And yet, we weren’t among the first nations to promote the now globally popular philosophy of veganism. Be that as it may, several Indians are now opening their doors to a lifestyle that is completely free from the consumption of any form of animal product, and the restaurant market is catching up with them, as it is bound to.

Some people go vegan for health reasons while others are motivated by the desire to live a “cruelty-free lifestyle”. Whatever the case, one can’t deny the increasing demand for the cuisine. Unfortunately, while Bangalore does not have too many vegan-only restaurants yet, there are several vegetarian restaurants offering vegan options that are nothing short of delectable. Here’s my pick of the best places in the city to fulfill your vegan cravings. Whether you are already a hard-core vegan or you just want to experiment with the idea, you should give these places a try.

Carrots

Possibly the first all-out vegan restaurant in the city, Carrots is a breath of fresh air in the midst of all the bars and barbecues in Koramangala. It was where I first tried vegan food, and I’m glad I did because more often than not, the right introduction sets the tone for the way anything is perceived later. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing drink, a quick snack, a meal of several courses or even a rich, creamy dessert, Carrots is up for any vegan challenge that you put before it! My pick from their menu is the Kurkur Bhindi Chaat, although I’ve heard great things about their soups and salads as well!

Find them on Zomato here: https://www.zomato.com/bangalore/carrots-koramangala-6th-block

Green theory

What I remember liking the most about Green Theory was where it was located. If you aren’t careful, you might almost miss it, but the hunt for the quiet spot on Convent Road – off Residency Road – is well worth it for the peace and calm it offers. Whether you want to go as a group and play a bunch of fun board games before your meal arrives, or you want to enjoy a healthy date outdoors among the plants, or you just want to relax by yourself with a book from the collection they have at the restaurant, Green Theory is certainly something for everyone. Most of their dishes are available in vegan-friendly versions; just make sure you specify your preferences. You could also check out their other restaurant – Little Green Café on Church Street – which is also rumored to have good vegan options.

Find them here: https://www.zomato.com/bangalore/green-theory-residency-road

JustBe Café

Calling itself the first plant-based whole foods restaurant in Bangalore, this place in Sadashivnagar has consciously-created, locally-sourced options for vegetarians as well as vegans. JustBe Café is a brainchild of Nidhi Sogani Nahata, a pioneer in the vegetarian and vegan movements in Bangalore, as well as a leader of the initiatives of the NGO Sharan, that seeks to achieve disease reversal through proper diets. I remember being particularly inspired by her ideas as a panelist in a discussion on conscious living recently conducted in the city. So head on over to JustBe Café and kick-start your vegan living in style.

Find them here: https://www.zomato.com/justbecafe

Vegan Heat

While Vegan Heat is a delivery-only outlet based out of Koramangala, most of their customers find their service exceptionally good. Their menu stands out for its unique options, such as the Tempeh Quinoa/Millet Masala Dosa, the Quinoa Cumin Crackers with Beetroot Hummus, or their probiotic burgers and pizzas among others. If you aren’t up to experimenting yet though, you can always go for something you recognize. An added bonus is that they seem to be very responsive to feedback, so if you want to give them your opinions or suggestions, just leave them a comment on their Zomato page and they’re sure to get back to you.

Find them here: https://www.zomato.com/bangalore/vegan-heat-koramangala-1st-block

Jumping Beans

If you’re a vegan complaining about the lack of Indian – specifically North Indian – options in the vegan scene in Bangalore, head on over to Jumping Beans on Old Madras Road. While the travel is a bit of a downer especially if you’re put up in South Bangalore like me, the effort is well worth it for the number of options on the menu. The restaurant specializes in “mock chicken” dishes, so be sure to give that a try whether you’re vegetarian or not. Just be sure to specify your vegan preferences because while the place is vegetarian only, the menu has several non-vegan items. Oh, and the icing on the cake? It’s a pet-friendly place! So get out there with your buddy and give yourselves a well-deserved treat!

Find them here: https://www.zomato.com/bangalore/jumping-beans-old-madras-road

Hwealth Café

With two outlets in Koramangala and HSR, Hwealth is fast gaining popularity not just as a place for healthy food, but also as one with several vegan offerings. The place is also ideal for you if you’re the only vegan in your group because it has enough (healthy) non-vegetarian options to satisfy your friends’ meat cravings while you lose yourself in that Veggie/Fruit Detox Juice or Tabbouleh Salad. The best part is that the food tastes so good, you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything by choosing a salad over a bucket of deep-fried chicken. It’s definitely the place to start if you’re trying to ease your way into a healthier lifestyle.

Find them here: https://www.zomato.com/bangalore/hwealthcafe-koramangala-5th-block

Enerjuvate Studio and Café

Enerjuvate is loved by its patrons not just for the food that lacks for nothing, but also for its décor and its fun vibe. With a new outlet in Koramangala apart from the original in Jayanagar, Enerjuvate is clearly becoming a favorite with many! Much like the décor, the menu itself is eclectic and quirky offering enough and more in various cuisines. Whether it is the Coco Mojito (coconut water with pineapple and mint) or the vegan “ice cream” in the flavor of the day, Enerjuvate is going to leave the vegan in you asking to come back the very next day! The food is always cooked fresh and is naturally flavored with no added preservatives, leaving you light and energetic true to the café’s name. So gather your friends and head on over to Enerjuvate for an afternoon of board games and a guilt-free indulgence!

Find them here: https://www.zomato.com/bangalore/enerjuvate-studio-cafe-koramangala-4th-block

Do let us know where you like to get your vegan fix in the comments below!

 

Going Green in a World of Grey

If you really get down to it, almost every one of us has the innate desire to do something for our environment and for our health- often, the two go hand in hand. Living in a city, however, comes with its fair share of environmentally unsustainable practices – from buying packaged food at supermarkets to driving on congested roads – and doing your bit for the planet might seem like a rather unattainable idea. Fortunately for those of us in Bangalore, there are some hardworking citizens out there who have created innovative and fun-filled platforms for us to go and engage in discussions and activities that promise to make our urban lifestyles more responsible. Here is a list of some regular environmentally-oriented events that happen in Bangalore.

Earth Friendly Choices

This is an event conducted once every month – usually on the first Saturday – by Aikyam Community for Sustainable Living. It is a space for anyone who wants to know more and do more about reorienting our urban lives in a sustainable manner. Every session sees a few experts from different areas of sustainable action, be it waste segregation, fair trade, tree plantation, lake restoration etc. come in and share their stories with the rest of the audience. This is then followed by an interactive session where everybody present can ask questions, clear doubts or share their own experiences and information.

The objective of the event is implied in its name- it is all about getting citizens to make more responsible choices because ultimately, it is each individual’s choices that have the potential to reshape the future of our planet. Whether you want to further engage in environmental volunteer work, or listen to success stories directly from the mouths of the people who created them, Earth Friendly Choices is the place to be for you.

You can follow the Aikyam community and find out more about their activities here: https://www.facebook.com/AikyamCommunity/

Sustainability Drinks Bangalore

With nine editions to their name so far, Sustainability Drinks Bangalore is conducted by Ecofolk on a monthly basis at The Humming Tree in Indiranagar and is another platform for exploring innovative ideas in the field of sustainability. Just like Earth Friendly Choices, it is a space where you can listen to and interact with interesting speakers and learn all about how we can, as a community, create a cleaner and greener future for the city and the planet.

The aim of Ecofolk is to generate more awareness around conscious consumption among people. If you’re interested in more of what they do, you can find them here: http://www.facebook.com/ecofolk.in

Organic Terrace Gardening Workshops

The idea of growing by yourself the food that you consume is an extremely appealing one; when you grow your own food, you can be sure of what goes into it and you can keep all those harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers away. That said, in a busy and rather congested city like Bangalore, most of us live in matchbox-sized apartments with just one balcony in the name of outdoor space and maybe a terrace if we’re lucky. And so, most of us are living under the assumption that fruits and vegetables can only be grown in a nice big garden or backyard.

The team at My Dream Garden is here to dispel that myth and show you how you can grow a significant portion of the food you eat in your own house. Their workshops happen about once a month, and they also provide you with a terrace gardening starter kit. My Dream Garden can also assist you in setting up your own terrace/balcony garden and can provide you with all the material that you would require, including seeds, potting soil, organic fertilizer and pesticide as well as innovative space-saving planters. So start small, but get those green thumbs working!

Find out more about My Dream Garden here: https://www.facebook.com/itsmydreamgarden/

Oota from your Thota

If you’re still convinced that you don’t have the space to grow your own food or if you aren’t able to grow everything you want but still want to consume healthy, sustainable and fair priced produce, go to an Oota From Your Thota event. Literally translating to ‘food from your garden’, OFYT is basically the urban environmentalist’s version of shopping festivals like Soul Sante and other flea markets.

OFYT happens once every few months and offers everything that you would want to lead a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, including organic fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, oils as well as seeds and home gardening solutions. Often, there are also composting and gardening workshops for children and adults alike, as well as numerous food stalls selling some delectable sustainable cuisine. It is also a space for organic terrace gardeners from all over Bangalore to come together and exchange their surplus produce.

So be on the lookout for an OFYT announcement, take a Sunday off and come celebrate an organic lifestyle with the rest of the community!

You can find them here: https://www.facebook.com/Oota-From-Your-Thota-1403570923190949/

The Ugly Indian Spot fixes

With more than one event every week, the spot-fixes organised under the banner of The Ugly Indian are one of the most popular events in the city that bring together people of all age groups and from all walks of life for a good cause – to clean up the garbage that is mindlessly scattered all over the city and to make its nooks and corners cleaner and more beautiful with every session.

The main principles that The Ugly Indian operates under are anonymity and the act of actually “doing”. They are all about going out there and just getting the work done without wasting time and effort on technicalities. They also emphasize not looking for personal rewards for your actions. The impact created by The Ugly Indian is visible all over the city- they clean and restore black spots, pavements, underpasses, flyovers and practically any other space that could use restoration. The work done in their name is a clear testament to the responsibility and power that individual citizens have in making their city a better place. So go get your hands dirty, explore your painting skills and help eliminate Bangalore’s garbage problem- one spot-fix at a time.

You can check out some of The Ugly Indian’s wonderful success stories as well as find out about upcoming spot-fixes here: https://www.facebook.com/theugl.yindian/

Whether you want to pick up a shovel and dig up some soil or clear out some garbage, there are actually innumerable ways in which you can contribute to making this planet more habitable for future generations as well as for your own, even with your busy city lifestyle. The important thing is to actually take that first step. So go out there, talk to others who can help you get better at being environmentally responsible and start living a better life today!

If you know of other events in the city that operate along the same lines, let us know in your comments.

 

Meeting a troupe of romantics

Qawwali performance by Ustad Ateeq Hussain Khan Bandanawazi and his troupe, Bandanawazi Qawwal

On the evening of November 17th, stories of Laila-Majnu, and the words of Kabir and Amir Khusrow came out to play at the auditorium in IIMB campus on Bannerghatta Road through a Qawwali performance by Ustad Ateeq Hussain Khan Bandanawazi and his troupe, Bandanawazi Qawwal.

The troupe, having previously performed at events like the Delhi Commonwealth Games and the International Sufi Festival at Turkey, took the audience through a two-hour long carnival of emotions with their music- frivolous one moment, and sombre the next. Of course, while the music may have been enjoyable in its own right, the conversational tones it took on so often, coupled with the wit and humour of their lyrics made one realise just how much beauty words can create if you just string them in the right order- much like pearls fit for a queen.

The couplets – designed to delight – were mainly in Hindi and Urdu, with a little bit of Persian. As each rhyme neared its end, you would wait for the punch line, because you knew that it was coming and that it was going to be good. The singers also doled out bits of information every now and then about Sufi culture in general, enabling one to appreciate the art all the more. Another interesting fact about this troupe was that while Sufism might be Islamic in its origins, they also sang songs of Krishna, lending a rather secular image to the group.

The singer and his troupe of wise romantics, as I like to call them, seemed to have created their own world and were letting us, the audience, into it for one elusive evening. As he sang, he was in turn a devotee, a preacher, a romantic, a wise guy and a broken heart. And while they may have been sitting on the floor, they sang with their whole bodies; if their words were saying something, their hands, tablas and harmoniums were echoing the very same message.

That passion, perhaps, was what was most prominent that evening. Music may be described in several ways- but if I had to pick, instead of referring to intricacy or finesse, I would call the performance one of raw emotion. And as a member of the audience, their energy, their fun and their state of ecstasy was absolutely contagious; even if you were sitting still to begin with, you were inevitably moving to the patterns, rhythms and repetitions by the end. It was as if a game was being played between the singers and their audience, each one passing the baton to the other with their responses. Every time the music was accentuated by a jubilant exclamation or a carefree laugh, the audience rejoiced alongside and every time their voices soared towards the end of a couplet, you felt your spirits soar with them.

The ensemble was rather minimalistic in terms of instruments, with the harmoniums and tablas being their only accompaniments. However, coupled with the consistent clapping by the performers and audience alike, it was the perfect complement to the chorus of voices, while the weight of the performance was borne in essence, by the words and their content.

The tabla had its moment of glory towards the end of the performance when all other voices and instruments went silent to let its commanding beats echo off the walls of the auditorium. The troupe performed several crowd favourites as well, including lines from Chaap Tilak (of Coke Studio fame) and Mast Qalandar. Even Bollywood found a place for itself that evening in the form of an authentic Qawwali rendition of Khwaja Mere Khwaja.

All the revelations about life and love that emerged that evening made the whole affair feel like a light-hearted conversation about weightier issues over a steaming cup of Suleimani chai. And while their words and expressions may have made the troupe seem like observers of and commentators on life, it felt as if ultimately, all they were trying to say was, don’t take life too seriously; make music of it instead.

Out and About on a Sunday Morning in Bangalore

By Nirupama Rajan

Come Sunday, and the first thing most of us look forward to is a late rouse. Wake up the early afternoon with a hangover that threatens to stay forever, make an omelette and call it brunch, and spend the rest of the day parked in front of the TV catching the Sunday afternoon blockbuster that you would never otherwise deign to watch voluntarily. And yet, while you are bang in the middle of your most interesting dreams at 7 or 8 in the morning, there is an entire city outside your door, painted in colors that you’ve never seen it in before.

Yes, sleeping late is an art that must not be dismissed. But perhaps once every now and then, you could let that alarm clock ring on one more day of the week so you can have the chance to witness this city in a completely different light, quite literally.

Here are some things that I like to do on Sunday mornings in Bangalore; perhaps with time, you may come up with a different list of your own?

On wheels at dawn

Before anything further on the subject, I will say this: be careful, wear a helmet and if you’re cycling make sure you’re carrying sufficient fluids. That said, riding the streets of Bangalore and its outskirts early in the morning is probably my top pick from this list. Our city is quite infamous for its traffic jams, but riding early in the morning, you wouldn’t think it’s the same roads that trap you for hours in the later periods of the day. Even the air feels refreshingly cleaner and clearer at this time. In fact, I’ve long since come to the conclusion that early morning riding is far more pleasurable than night rides. The sights keep changing every few minutes- first the early morning tea stalls open, then you’ll see hawkers slowly amble about with their baskets of flowers that can overwhelm you with their morning fragrance, then the cleaning of thresholds and streets is underway while vegetable sellers steer their carts through the dense residential areas and so on. If you’re lucky, you might even find yourself riding along a lake as the sun rises and believe me, you’ll come back for that experience.

Many people also enjoy the ride to Nandi Hills for the sunrise view and the highway breakfasts, so you could try that as well, although the hilltop tends to get quite crowded on weekends.

cycling wheels bangalore

Park yourself at Cubbon

This one is a crowd favourite. In fact, Cubbon Park is one of the few places that you’ll find packed on Sunday mornings regardless of how early you are. While Sunday may be a day off from exercise for many, several others get to don their running shoes only on the weekends and what better place to sweat it out than Cubbon? While there, make sure you visit the dog park; it is only active on Sundays and is a star attraction, with good reason! You could also buy fresh produce and juices from the HOPCOMS stalls or simply get lost wandering under the ancient trees inside the park. Cubbon Park is also often the location for several events on Sunday mornings ranging from yoga to photography and you could sign up for one of these through Facebook or other platforms.

Of course being the garden city, you can’t ignore the other parks (like Lal Bagh, for instance) that have their fair claim to fame, but Cubbon Park is by far, my favourite.

cubbon park

Go meet some birds

Whether you like identifying, photographing or simply watching birds, Bangalore is surprisingly home to several avian species despite the increasing crowds and concrete of recent years. Go on over to any of the many lakes in the city- some favourites are Jakkasandra lake, Puttenahalli lake, Madiwala lake etc. Quite a few lakes have actually been restored recently by active citizens and you have them to thank for being able to enjoy a peaceful morning by the now cleaner water. Look for bird-watching groups on Facebook; they usually hold events on Sunday mornings and you could sign up for one of these, especially if you want someone to show you the ropes.

Idly-dosa and some legends

Vidyarthi Bhavan Menu

Vidyarthi Bhavan, MTR, Veena Stores… the list can go on for a while yet. You’ve probably heard these names being dropped even outside Bangalore and it is probably because these age-old South Indian eateries actually live up to their reputation. Most of them, such as Vidyarthi Bhavan, Veena Stores, and CTR are located in older, more quaint localities such as Malleshwaram and Basavanagudi (on a side note, did you know that these two places were R.K Narayan’s favourites in the city, thus giving him the idea for Malgudi?) while MTR, for instance, has several modern-looking outlets across the city for those unable to find room in their original restaurant at Lal Bagh. So go enjoy a hearty meal of masala dosa and vada at any or all of these eateries- they have been the haunts of several legends in the past!

Or maybe you prefer pancakes?

Bangalore is as cosmopolitan as a city gets and it has something for everyone, whether it is activities and events or breakfast choices. So if you’re in the mood for a fancy morning meal and scrambled egg-toast at home just won’t cut it, fret not for there are more than a few restaurants willing to whip up their fluffiest pancakes and omelettes for you with your choice of toppings. While the list seems to be growing every day, my picks would be The Hole in the Wall Café, A Hole Lotta Love Café and DYU Art Café (the hot chocolate here is a must). If you get out a little later in the morning, there are some great brunch options like Bangalore Brew Works and Three Dots and a Dash.

Walk through history and heritage

You might have traveled to Hampi, Gokarna, Badami or any of the numerous historical sites in Karnataka. But what do you know of the history and heritage of your own city? If you enjoy walking and good stories, then exploring the older neighborhoods of the city would be the best way for you to spend your Sunday mornings. Even better, there are several organizations including Bengaluru by Foot, Bangalore Walks, and INTACH that conduct these weekend walks, covering some of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods and historical sites such as Bangalore Fort, Basavangudi etc. Rumour has it they even stop to sample some fantastic local cuisine en route!

bangalore fort

Feed the bookworm in you

What better way to let the bright morning slowly morph into the lazy haze of noon than with a well-loved book in your hand? Bangalore is home to some very iconic bookstores as I’m sure most of you would know. My top choices would be Blossom Book House (I prefer the old one, although the new building is also definitely worth visiting) and Goobe’s Book Republic; you’re very likely to lose track of time wandering the musty aisles of these stores with books of every age towering over you on either side. The staff is very friendly and you might even find yourself a rare novel at a bargain price in these well-stocked stores.

If you don’t want to buy books per se, you could also drop by Atta Galatta in Koramangala and settle down with a book from their reading library over a steaming cup of lemon tea.

books

Contribute to your city and the world beyond

If you’re looking for something productive to do on the weekend, then this is probably it. Several good Samaritans get out of bed on weekend mornings to spread awareness of how we can make our world a better place to live in and you can join the effort by attending seminars and workshops or participating in their events. Aikyam Community for Sustainable Living, for instance, conducts discussions titled ‘Earth Friendly Choices’ where you can learn much about the environment and ways to restore it from experts and activists in the field. Some others like Kaulige Foods and HappyHealthyMe conduct workshops on healthy and sustainable cooking choices. My Dream Garden regularly conducts organic terrace gardening workshops and almost every weekend sees a clean-up operation under the banner of The Ugly Indian, so these are good options too.

So what are you waiting for? Get out of bed and gift yourself all these experiences and several more that are waiting out there for you to come discover them!