Our series, #MASKED, has always been about inspiring, kickass women who always seem to be breaking boundaries and stereotypes. Our guest for today is the perfect fit for this series. Aashti Sindhu, a pilot, an entrepreneur, a vegan and a spokesperson for animal rights. Seems like the sky is not the limit for her! We had the privilege of meeting her on the 30th of July, once the lockdown restrictions were eased. Aashti being the generous and thoughtful soul that she is, got us all a bountiful serving of her legendary Green Ninja smoothie made of Pineapple, Banana, Spinach, Moringa powder and more. How blessed are we?!
We finally got to talking and had loads of questions to ask her, given her expertise in such diverse fields.
Q: Hi Aashti! To start, could you tell us about yourself?
I was born in Bombay and my parents moved to Pune when I was about 10 years old. Most of my growing up was done in a boarding school where I spent 8 years of my childhood years. As far as ambitions go- I was always pretty clear. I knew I wanted to be a pilot since the age of 5. I worked at it and thankfully realised my dream at the age of 22.
Q: You are a Pilot, Entrepreneur, Vegan, and championing Animal Rights as a cause. What motivates you the most as an individual?
I have been flying for almost 14 years now and turned vegan in 2016. For me, my biggest motivator has always been animals. I hope we can one day live in a world where animals are not exploited for their flesh and skin and people realise that our pets at home are no different from the animals on our plates
Q: What was the turning moment in your life that prompted you to turn vegan?
I was a hard-core meat eater for about 30 years of my life. I even made fun of vegetarians because I thought they were missing out in life. On the other hand, I called myself an animal lover. I always thought I shared a special bond with animals. What I didn’t realise was that while I was calling myself an animal lover, I was enjoying their dead flesh every time I sat down to eat. I was quite unaware of my hypocrisy until a friend pointed it out and that’s when my journey began. The fact that I was paying to have these animals tortured and killed (albeit unconsciously) didn’t sit right with my conscience and I decided to try quitting. Initially, I quit red meat and dairy-as I identified most with cows, goats and pigs. I realised they were just like my dog at home. With time, I learned about the nutritional aspect and was shocked to learn that most chronic diseases today can be prevented and reversed on a whole food plant-based diet. I also watched an eye-opening documentary on Netflix called 'Cowspiracy' which highlighted the environmental impacts of our diet and I think that was the last straw. However, it didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t call myself vegan, until about 6 months into the journey. I was scared to fail, but what I learned was that it’s a journey.
No one is 100% vegan because exploiting animals is so ingrained in our society, but leaving them off our plates is a big step towards a more compassionate world.
Q: In a fast-paced world, people struggle to cook food let alone eat healthy food. Do you have some tricks or tips to make that perfect, healthy, zero waste tiffin idea?
Eating healthy and keeping it zero waste can be quite a task sometimes. I have learnt that it's best to plan or prep your meals and that’s what helps me maintain a healthy diet and reduce my plastic waste. I am a huge proponent of eating local and believe that our Indian cuisine is loaded with nutrition and taste. On a typical flying day, I normally carry fruits or overnight oats in my reusable steel containers or a simple dal, rice and salad.
Q: How do you practice living mindfully?
I believe that living mindfully is a practice that needs to be incorporated into our daily lifestyles. It’s easy to get caught in petty issues especially since we live in the age of constant distractions from social media and other sources. I try my best to practice gratitude every single day. Just making a mental note of five to ten things I am grateful for on that day or even writing it down. Besides practising gratitude, I also believe that food is medicine and “we are what we eat”. I have noticed that my mood is a reflection of my food. When I am anxious or upset, the first thing I crave is something sugar-loaded or a deep-fried snack. With time, I’ve consciously tried to make the better choice of fruit or nuts and I’ve noticed a difference in my mind. It’s no surprise though since 90% of our serotonin (the happy hormone) is produced in the gut.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your new venture Bella’s Bowls and why you started it?
Bella’s Bowls is a tribute to my dog Grace, who passed away last year. After I turned vegan, I did a few nutrition courses and became certified as a Holistic Nutritionist. The intent behind Bella’s Bowls is to provide people with healthy food while giving back to the animals. We plan to donate all profits to farmed animals like cows, goats, pigs and chickens. I guess it’s a small way of giving back to the animals I once ate. I hope to open a sanctuary one day, where we take in rescued farmed animals and give them the life they truly deserve.
Q: Could you share with us your views on how our eating habits can impact the environment?
To put it shortly and succinctly, I would say that our eating habits play an extremely large role in the environment.
The few facts that stood out to me when I was doing my research was that animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation industry combined. That is more than trains, cars, planes, ships combined!
Did you know that according to the Water Footprint Network, it takes just
- 322 litres of water to produce 1 kilogram of vegetables
- 1,020 litres of water to produce 1 litre of cows’ milk
- 3,265 litres of water to produce 1 kilogram of eggs
- 15,415 litres of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef
- And 1 kg of meat is equivalent to 75 baths!
And when it comes to plastic in the oceans George Leonard, chief scientist at the Ocean Conservancy stated, “At least half [ocean plastic waste] is not consumer plastics, which are central to much of the current debate, but fishing gear.”
Fishing nets lost, abandoned or discarded at sea – also known as “ghost nets” – can continue killing, entangling or suffocating countless fish, sharks, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, etc. If we care about the problem of plastic in the oceans, we need to address the issue of fishing gear.
As quoted by Brian Henning, an environmental Professor: “The mass consumption of animals is a primary reason why humans are hungry, fat, or sick and is a leading cause of the depletion and pollution of waterways, the degradation and deforestation of the land, the extinction of species, and the warming of the planet.”
Once we connect the dots on global warming, deforestation, rise in lifestyle diseases, and species extinction- we can realise that human health and planetary health are interlinked. After all, we have two homes, our planet and our bodies, it’s about time we take care of both of them.
We were all extremely grateful to Aashti for taking the time out for us, what with flying internationally and managing a business, and educating us on the importance of eating healthier and of course, giving us a taste of Bella's Bowls' delicious smoothies!
Credits: Aashti Sindhu - https://www.instagram.com/thatveganpilot/
Bella's bowls - https://www.instagram.com/itsbellasbowls/