In The News



by Siddharth Kak March 27 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 9 mins, 9 secs

There was a time when I would jokingly respond to the standard question by the host replying, ”No. I am a strict non-vegetarian”, writes Siddharth Kak in his second edition of ZAIKAK.

Kashmiri Pandits from the valley have a delectable non-vegetarian cuisine but with some degree of vegetarian accompaniments. All these years that is what vegetarian cuisine has been for me. An accompaniment to a non-vegetarian meal. Earlier when my daughter‘s friend, the vivacious Preeta Sinha, visited from the United States, I vaguely noted that she was vegan. Vegan to me just meant that she was vegetarian by choice, someone who skipped the non-vegetarian section in the menu and respected animal life, all life. Veganism appeared to be another passing social fad. Nonetheless, I had read Preeta‘s popular vegetarian cookbooks, observed with admiration her growing website, One Green Planet, and realised that for her it was far from a passing fad. Therefore this time when she visited from the United States I was respectful. I wanted to know more.

Preeta opened my eyes to a beautiful new world. “Veganism, is for me to live life abundantly,“ she told me enthusiastically. “As a child, I would hug trees, love animals on the road, every bird in the sky. Veganism was a natural outcome for me. Far from being restrictive, it was liberating. I found my life’s purpose. I began living life according to myself.”  

Not surprisingly, Preeta Sinha is one of the first Indians to be a leading name in the sustainability media space in the United States. She enjoys living a conscious and purposeful life, is passionate about public health initiatives, and in empowering women and underrepresented communities. Preeta is articulate. 

“One Green Planet” (OGP ) coined the term "lifestyle activism" to describe the belief that our way of life, the businesses we support, the causes we advocate, and the products and food we consume impact the environment, animal welfare, and human health,“ declares Preeta eloquently. “We encourage individuals to adopt a plant-based lifestyle, support eco-friendly businesses, take action on pressing issues, and make conscious consumer choices.” 

She adds, “OGP provides articles, recipes, news, petitions, videos, and expert insights. We aim to create a global community of like-minded individuals who are passionate about creating positive change.“  

In 20 years, American born Preeta has created a successful template for a sustainable vegan career. Despite the challenges of COVID and the difficulties of forging a career in the United States, for an Indian woman entrepreneur, she actively founded and built One Green Planet into  a trailblazing lifestyle activism brand, which redefines what it means to live “consciously” and sustainably in the modern world.  

Preeta is also the creator of the popular Food Monster App, the largest plant-based recipe app in the market today. Most recently she launched Tiny Rescue, a social-impact focused sustainable fashion brand. She is currently working on her next venture called Wild Watchers, which is set to launch in 2024. 

Having accomplished the far more difficult task of establishing herself in America, she is now setting up a base in India, where her family lives. Her parents have returned to India. Her uncle is the iconic actor and politician, Shatrughan Sinha, her cousin, the well-known actress Sonakshi Sinha. They are not vegans but they are eager to understand and support a way of life healthy not only for themselves but for the world, right here in India. 

Where does this strapping 5’10” young athletic woman get her energy? What does she do to keep healthy? What does she like to eat? I was struck by her passion and sensed that the lifestyle she had adopted for herself was indeed worth exploring. As she put it smilingly,  she was living life abundantly. I was tempted to take part in this abundance and experience it for myself. 

Preeta took me to her favourite vegan restaurant in Mumbai, the Earth Cafe. Founded by enterprising Vicky Khatwani, Earth Cafe has an international ambience and has quickly developed a reputation for delicious, conscious vegan cuisine. I visited their smart new outlet at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), not far from the Diamond Bourse where Vicky himself was once a diamantaire. He has already set up two other Earth Cafes in Juhu and Bandra. His most recent outlet in BKC,  has already broken even in a few months. I was astonished. Vicky is not a Chef. His is a passion project, and  he is searching for other passionate vegan entrepreneurs, who will join him in  developing  a franchise across India. He is a self-made man, even financing his own overseas recces and vegan studies in Singapore and America where he experienced his Eureka moment. 

For someone not a Chef, Vicky has mastered the art of flavours through painstaking research and by creating one of the finest vegan culinary teams in India. He has ridden through his worst career crisis during COVID when all restaurants closed down. However, he never wavered in his belief and did not let go a single member of his team during the long months of lockdown. He kept them on the payroll. To begin with, to keep the kitchen running, his staff made pizzas every day for their twelve watchmen in the morning and evening. One day he got lucky. He stumbled upon the idea of  a new clientele of senior citizens and began delivering safe, hygienically packed Vegan meals in and around Bandra. From ten orders a day, they gradually climbed to a couple of hundred and finally when an American NGO with Sunny Leone as its Brand Ambassador stepped in, they began delivering a few thousand meals. There was no looking back.

Today celebrities like Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma, very particular about their diet, often order their favourite dishes from Earth Cafe. Its clean international decor is conducive for business meetings, lunches and discussions 24/7 over large mugs of masala chai, or a variety of delightful salads and smoothies, like Berry Love, which keep the restaurant ticking over, from the time it opens to late at night.

Whenever Preeta visits India, this is her favourite destination for a meal. She guided me through her favourite items, the prime one being Paneer Tikka Wrap. It is a delicious textured concoction baked with onions and spices and served in a  beetroot and wheat wrap

I loved the inspired Better Chicken (mind you, not butter chicken) served in a wheat wrap. Needless to say this is not chicken, but I would not have known if I had not been told. I think it is not important to know how the tastes and textures have been replicated but simply the feeling of being in tune with the universe when you sit down to eat is as satisfying as the food. The honesty and earnestness of the staff serving the delectable desserts on offer like the banana cake with crunchy walnuts or the chocolate orange cake with decadent chocolate dressing, created without milk or cream is refreshing. The pastas, Aglio Olio and Funghi Stroganoff, and the Almond Greek Feta Salad with water chestnuts, lettuce and apples, garnished with almond feta cheese and almond shavings, are guaranteed to pause the conversation till they are consumed. 

I only write about what I taste, but judging from the sophistication of the menu, another visit is an order to sample the avocado bruschetta, the pizza margarita, the mushroom soup and the walnut and fig smoothie with a hummus platter offering classic walnuts pesto with beet hummus served with gluten free pita. 

Vicky’s inspirational business enterprise is the Taj Hotel. He grew up next to it, near Radio Club in Colaba. He is full of admiration for its business philosophy, its emphasis on human dignity, and its insistence on quality, ethics  and excellence. I know what he’s talking about. I began my earlier career in the Taj, even before the new Taj Intercontinental was a reality. I see Vicky’s commitment reflected in every dish and every aspect of service at Earth Cafe. He has  poured his being into the perfect taste of the almond feta salad, the crisp pizzas, loaded with greens, the creamy pastas and the delectable desserts? It is not a simple dish. You are partaking of his soul. 

Preeta had never ordered a soup at Earth Cafe. I am a soup fanatic and will go to any lengths to have one. I asked for a broccoli green pea soup and relished the goodness with every spoonful, allowing only one spoonful for Preeta to taste. I believe she will order a bowlful herself next time or bring her father, a soup addict like myself, to taste for himself.

Soon the BKC Diamond Bourse opposite Earth Cafe will be connected with the Surat Diamond Bourse in Gujarat through a bullet train, with the station just opposite at BKC. Vicky joyfully exclaims, “Someone will then be able to come from Surat to Mumbai for  a business meeting and go back after lunch”. Naturally lunch will be at the Earth Cafe. By that time there will be a chain of Earth Cafes across India.

Like-minded individuals flock together. Preeta is planning something big for India soon. Given her networking skills, it will likely be a trailblazing activity.  I hope cuisine such as I experienced thanks to her at Earth Café, will feature. 

Interestingly, Preeta is not eager to be identified as a vegan or assertive activist. She has pioneered an activism lifestyle and is one of the first Indians to be a leading name in the sustainability media space in the United States. She is eager to live a life close to nature, mindful of all living things and exploring the abundance of natural things and organic cuisine.  “My wish is not to preach or force, but rather allow the world to discover the value of conscious living in their own way and find identity with the green world in fruitful and fulfilling ways,” Preeta says seriously. 

Preeta is a crusader. For her  it is never too late to experience the flavours of this brave new green world that she has created and the joy of living a life overflowing with abundance. I have glimpsed this abundance and its relevance for today’s world. You and I must partake of it to make a better world. Not by following any ‘ism’. Just by living the life abundantly. 

Zaikak says, “What is not, is. What is, is not”/“That thou art . You are what you eat.”/“You are the abundance. Tat tvam asi“ 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.