Ramila Chauhan image

Ramila Chauhan

Leicester, UK; business woman and Bhumi UK Co-ordinator

For many years I’ve been going about my life just like everyone else: getting married, having children and running a family business. Where is the time to stop and think about the environment? We are just swept away with all the general demands of culture and commercialism.

I was born in Mombasa, Kenya, and I come from a working class family. My father was the sole provider for nine of us. We had enough but not plenty. When we came to Leicester in the late ‘60s, things were still very simple and wholesome. There were not the vast choices we see today in our shops and supermarkets and no ready meals packed in plastic. As our buying power increased and we had three boys, the large shopping trolley was always full, just in case we ran out. There was a great deal of waste, I have to admit. But now I shop little and often, planning my meals and buying only what I need. I’m also conscious of my food miles and try to buy local produce where possible.

As part of Hindu culture we treat our guests as God, so whenever we have guests or events, we make lots of dishes. The mantra was always, ‘doesn’t matter if we have leftovers, but we must not run out’. It was about status and prestige, but I’ve come to realise that we spend too much time cooking rather than enjoying the precious family time.

My children have been my inspiration and role models. They have educated me about air pollution, plastics and waste. They choose not to fly, follow a vegan diet and they walk wherever possible.

A Hindu marriage lasts over five days with various festivities and family gatherings involving many meals, which are usually served in single-use plastic plates. For my sons’ wedding we made sure that we only used compostable plates made from sustainable resources. We also used plants for decorations, rented from the local nursery, rather than cut flowers or plastics that would have ended up in landfill.

We have made small changes within our daily life. Being vegetarians, meat is not a problem in our family. Some members of the family still eat it but generally when they go out, it’s not a major issue. We have a composting bin and any food waste is composted. We try to grow some vegetables: potatoes, onions, carrots, courgettes, tomatoes, and my grandson’s favourite: strawberries.

Many Hindus believe Hinduism is a way of life, and I’m just beginning to understand its true meaning. Hinduism teaches us that God is in everything, the Earth is our mother (Dharti Ma). The trees are our life source taking away the carbon dioxide and giving us oxygen. Dharma, our main principle, is generally translated as ‘duty’. If God is in every living thing then it’s our duty to care and respect it.

My work with the Bhumi Project gives me the opportunity to help other Hindus to reconnect with their faith and become a little more conscious of our effects on the environment.

What are others doing?