February 2019

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YOUNG MINDS A MAGAZINE FOR YOUNG JAINS

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contents February 2019

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR ... 4 LETTER FROM THE CO-CHAIRS ... 5 GOING TO THE TEMPLE ... 6-7 RECIPES: DESSERTS ... 8-11 PRAYER ... 25 INTERVIEW: SUJATA JAIN ... 12-13 INTERVIEW: VINITA JAIN ... 14-19 INTERVIEW: FOOD FIGHT GROCERY ... 30-33 FROM DOUBTFUL TO DETERMINED: THE STORY OF A QUEEN ... 20-24 LIFTED WHEN I COULDN’T EVEN LIFT ... 26-29

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Letter from the Editor

In this issue, you’ll find:

Dear readers, Jai Jinendra! Over the past two months, we’ve focused on doit-yourself. In December, do-ityourself focused on finding your own way to do something and being comfortable with paving your own path. In January, doit-yourself focused on achieving your own goals from the resources you have around you. This month, we combine these two definitions to focus on doit-yourself in a comprehensive context. To achieve our goals, we more often than not draw on the people and places around us. In other words, do-it-yourself draws upon doing it together.

An interview with Sujata Jain, a journalist, on creating value in your life through your career. An interview with Vinita Jain, a visual artist, on how her work is inspired by forces of nature. An interview with Food Fight Grocery, on their journey and growth as a small business. “From Doubtful to Determined: The Story of a Queen” by Prachi Shah, a reflection on how a pageant led her to a realization that “no matter what happens, as long as I work hard, have fun, and believe in myself, good things will come my way.” “Lifted When I Couldn’t Even Lift” by Darshi Shah, about how giving happiness is always worth it. With #yjalove, Rachna Shah youngminds@yja.org

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Letter from the Co-Chairs On January 25-27th, our board members got together in Austin, TX for our second board meeting of the term. Comparing quesos (#teamKerbey vs. #teamTorchys) and munching on tacos, we had an opportunity to reset our motivation for our YJA work and utilize time together for crosscollaborations and long-term goal setting. We talk about what we wanted to do as a board to make the most of our year together and to make the best impact for our members like you!

With February almost over (and how is it going by so fast??), we are looking forward to our retreats! After months of late-night planning calls and numerous spreadsheets, our Regional Coordinators (RCs) and Director of Events have poured enormous amounts of time into making each attendee have the best retreat experience they can imagine, and to share the passion for YJA that we all have.

We hope to see you all at your regional retreat, and we challenge you to bring something new to the discussion. Your retreat is more than just a social event; it is an opportunity to build relationships with others and strengthen faith within yourself. Push yourself to open up a little more, talk to someone you wouldn’t normally reach out to, and see yourself from a different perspective. Achal, Akshay, Janvi, Juhi, Kaivan, Ketan and Simmi, we could not be prouder of all the dedication you all have put into this retreat season. We are honored to have such amazing RCs and Director of Events on our YJA Board term as co-chairs and we wish you the best of luck with each of your retreats!

With #yjalove, Monika Jain and Charmi Vakharia 4


Going to Temple For centuries, Jains have gathered at buildings called derasars, or temples in English. In some cases basic constructions and in other cases elaborately carved out of marble, with high domes meant to uplift one’s soul, these buildings offer a central location for Jains to practice certain rituals and increase the bonds of community. Often, many of us are not fully aware of what we are supposed to be doing at the temple, or may do rituals without knowing the full significance. Whether you are a Shvetambar Murtipujak Jain and typically perform everything described below, or a Sthanakvasi Jain and do not engage in some of these rituals, it can be impactful to learn the intended significance of Jain rituals at temple, since many Jains outside of India go to temple not only for worship but also to engage with the Jain community, regardless of sect. In general, a trip to the temple can involve some of the following steps: Pranam (Salutation): This involves bowing down to the idols of Tirthankars and occurs on three occasions: - Saying “Namo Jinänam” when first seeing either the flag of the temple (dhwaja) or the murtis (idols) inside the temples - Folding the hands and bowing when entering the area where the idols are located (Gabhäro) - Doing Khamäsamanu (touching 5


the ground with both knees, both hands, and the forehead) three times before Chaitya-vandan Nissihi (Renunciation): This word is said (mentally or verbally) three times: - When entering the temple - When entering the Gabhäro (inner temple area) - After finishing dravya puja (such as incense, flame, etc) and before starting Chaitya-vandan In general, Nissihi means “I renounce worldly, or materialistic, thoughts” and acts as a vow to remain focused on spirituality while in the temple. This level of spiritual mindfulness is much harder to practice than it seems, so saying Nissihi multiple times serves as an active reminder to keep our thoughts focused.

“When departing the temple, Jains say “Avasahi”, which means something along the lines of “Though I am leaving, I will remain focused on Jainism in my daily life.’” Darshan: Focused worship of idols (murtis) representing Tirthankars, completed in silence and with careful focus on the idols. Pradakshina (Circumambulation): Walking around the Jain idols three times, once for each of the three jewels (right faith,

right knowledge and right conduct). Puja-worship of the Tirthankars. o Puja comes in two main types: dravya puja (with physical substances, such as incense or rice) and bhava puja (with devotional thought and contemplation), which encompasses Chaitya-vandan. Many trips to temple also involve a small donation by putting money in a box (“bhandar”) to support the temple’s maintenance and resources we have used.

In summary, a trip to a Jain derasar can involve many actions, each with its own symbolic significance. These steps provide us with many opportunities for worship of idols of the Tirthankars and quiet contemplation of the ways we can emulate their qualities. Worship of the Tirthankars is done not for material gain, but as an aid to self- reflection and to advance our spiritual progression. By practicing tranquility and non-attachment while at the temple, we can begin to apply the Jain principles given by the the Tirthankars with the ultimate aim of eliminating our karma and material attachments.

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CHERRY PIE: 5 WAYS YummyVegan

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TO MAKE THE CRUST, combine 1 cup whole grain flour, ½ cup oat flour, ¼ cup corn flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon allspice in a large bowl. IN A SMALLER BOWL, mix 1 medium sized banana mashed, 4 tablespoons ground flaxseed, 2 tablespoons agave nectar, and 2 tablespoons canola oil together very well. Add to dry ingredients and using your hands, mix until a firm dough forms. Wrap in cling foil and chill for 30-60 minutes. TO PREPARE THE FILLING, add 4 cups cherries to a large pot together with ½ cup agave nectar and a pinch of ground vanilla. Bring to a boil and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes. Add ¼ cup cornstarch dissolved in a bit of water and mix in very well. Bring to a boil once more and take off the heat. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Grease a 9-inch pie dish. Between two sheets of parchment paper roll out 2/3 of the dough to fit the pie dish, about 1/8 inch thick. Stab several times with a fork and pre-bake for 10 minutes. While the bottom crust is prebaking, ROLL OUT the remaining dough and cut into your desired shapes to make the top crust. Remove pie dish from oven, spread the bottom crust with cherry filling and create top crust.

CHOPPED ALMONDS OR PECANS

TOP WITH SUGAR

REDUCE FLOUR TO ¾ CUP AND ADD ¾ CUP OATMEAL TO THE MIXTURE

ADD 2 TEASPOONS GROUND CINNAMON TO FILLING

TOP WITH SHREDDED COCONUT

BAKE for 15 minutes. Then turn down the heat to 350°F and cover the pie with aluminum foil. Continue baking for 30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and finish baking the pie for 5 more minutes. 8


S’mores Molten Lava Cake Total Time 5 mins Servings: 2 servings Author: Sophia DeSantis Mix chocolate sauce ingredients (2 tsbp chocolate chips, 2 tsp milk, ¼ tsp tomato paste, pinch of sea salt) in a microwave safe bowl, microwave for 30 seconds. Mix well and set aside. Mix all cake ingredients (3 tbsp cocoa powder, 3 tbsp chocolate chips, 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tbsp almond butter, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 2 tsp milk, ¼ tsp baking powder) in a microwave safe bowl or jar. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Top with mini vegan marshmallows. Microwave 30 more seconds. Top with crushed graham crackers and chocolate sauce.

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Lemon Rosemary Bars Total Time 1 hr, 45 minutes Servings: 9 bars Author: Sweet Simple Vegan Soak 1 cup raw cashews overnight in room temperature water. Prepare the flax egg by combining 1 tbsp flaxseed meal with 3 tbsp water in a small bowl and set aside for 15 minutes to thicken.

Blend on high until smooth, stopping to mix if needed. Once the crust had cooled, pour in the filling and spread it out evenly using a silicone spatula. Tap it on the counter or a flat surface to remove any air bubbles. Place the pan back into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges dry out a bit and the mixture has set and is no longer liquidy. Remove from the oven and cool for 20 minutes.

Transfer the dish to the refrigerator (uncovered) to cool completely, at Preheat the oven to 350°F and line least 3 hours. Remove the pan from the a square (8×8”) baking dish with oven once cooled and transfer the bars parchment paper. Set aside. In a (along with the parchment paper) to a food processor, add 1 cup rolled oats, ½ cup raw almonds, ¼ cup co- cutting board. Slice into your desired conut shreds, 1 tbsp rosemary, and sizes. ¼ tsp sea salt. Process on high until a fine meal is reached. Add in ¾ cup Medjool packed dates and process until broken down and uniform. Add in the flax egg and 4 tbsp of melted coconut oil to start, and process. The mixture should be a bit moist and should be able to form a dough when squeezed between two fingers. If it crumbles or is too dry, add the last tablespoon of coconut oil. Pour the dough into the lined baking dish and spread it out evenly. Press the dough down using your fingers or a spatula until it is packed in and even throughout. Place the crust in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 15 minutes. Once the cashews have soaked, drain them thoroughly and add them into a high-speed blender along with the remaining ingredients. 10


An Interview with Sujata Jain Who was the most influential person to you as a child? The most influential people in my life continue to be my parents. Through the years they have been my North Star, guiding me in virtually every significant decision I have made in my life. How did your college experience prepare you for your career? I studied Biology and French as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and was a high school science teacher for several years. However, my passion for constantly learning led me to become a journalist. It is a privilege to inform the public about the stories that shape our day-today lives. How has your career created value in your life? I have always considered myself to be an open-minded and tolerant individual, however, working in news and meeting people from all walks of life, covering their stories, have taught me a deeper level of acceptance and ap11

preciation for different lifestyles and value systems. Who is someone you admire, and why? I admire my husband, Jacob. He is a television meteorologist in Springfield and Boston, Massachusetts. He has the most wonderful sense of humor and outlook on life. His ability to stay positive regardless of the circumstances has made me a better person. I am blessed to raise our daughter, Francesca, with such a loving and devoted man. What’s a typical day like for you? It is typically a whirlwind given we have no idea where the news will take us on any given day. For the last several years, I have worked the overnight shift (3 a.m.-11 a.m.), so breaking news is very likely. I do multiple live shots a day and turn stories on very tight deadlines, but I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. I love what I do.


What are some causes you care about? I care about homelessness and those who are food insecure. In a nation of such wealth, I struggle with the idea of anyone going hungry, especially children.

Sujata Jain is a reporter who can be seen weekday mornings and evenings on NBC Connecticut. Twitter: @sujatatv Facebook: @sujatanews 12


‘Staying motivated and inspired, overcoming inertia, and not judging or being a critic of my own work.’ An Interview with VINITA JAIN Vinita Jain is a visual artist who works primarily with pastel and acrylic mediums. She is inspired by the tension between forms, shapes and movement in the natural world, and aspires to capture this conflict and movement towards harmony through her work.

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Choose a particular day in your life, and walk us through your day. My typical day starts with going to the gym, doing yoga or meditation in the morning. After a light breakfast, I go to my studio and spend 2-3 hours there mostly working on ongoing paintings or starting with some new work. After that, I take a short break, do other errands like checking mail and then go to pick my daughter from school. After we are home, around 5 pm, I go back to my studio to work for another couple of hours. The best time of my day is when I am in the studio and I am able to connect and dig deeper in my work. From then onwards, it is prepping dinner, spending time with my family and getting ready for the next day. Evenings are relaxing, and I enjoy spending time and playing games with my daughter.

When did you know that this was what you wanted to do with your life? How did you get started? Since childhood, I did art and drawing and knew I wanted to pursue it as my career. After college, I took a little deviation and got into Graphic Design. After coming to the United States,

I started my education again in the field of design. In 2002, after my daughter was born, I decided to become a full-time Fine Artist. I set up my studio at home and that really helped me to balance studio time with family.

How have you developed your career? I feel that the development of career for an artist runs parallel to the development and evolution of the artists’ work. I do not think that I have reached my career goals yet, but there have been many happy events and occurrences that have kept me going. I am a member of The Pastel Society of America and have exhibited and won awards at both solo and group shows. My work has been published in magazines and art books along with my work in corporate collections. All these achievements have taken me a step closer to my goals and given me the stimulus to keep working.

What was the biggest opposing force that you encountered on your creative journey? One of them is obviously managing time between family commitments and my work. Other opposing forces are within the artists themselves. Staying

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motivated and inspired, overcoming inertia, and not judging or being a critic of my own work has been challenging. Not giving up and to continue to produce work from your heart and soul even on days when not everything seems perfect is difficult.

Walk us through one of your most recent series of artwork. My ongoing series started around 3 years ago. I have been working on three different kinds of paintings. One of them is abstract from imagination and these are derived from small ink drawings that I make in my sketchbook. My second series is portraits and I use photographs as a reference to make them. Sometimes, I do ink studies of portraits as well. My third series is abstract images in black and white and I use charcoal, ink, pastel, mixed media, acrylics, and even oils.

What does your work aim to say? My work is inspired from forces in nature, and I work with push/ pull of forms to create lines and movement. It is contemplative, inwards looking, portrays human experiences and complexity through abstract elements. There is a tension between the forms, shapes, and the movement and I aspire to capture this conflict towards harmony through the work.

Why do you create artwork? I create my work because through this process I can connect to my deeper self. I can clear my mind, let it all out and it works like a meditation for me. It also gives happiness, makes me excited and keeps me going.

What about the creative process excites you the most? I get really excited during the initial phases of my work. As I start a new painting, the first couple of hours I try to work fast and spontaneously. It is at this stage that I can see the potential and the possibilities of it becoming a strong and beautiful work. Of course, if the work progresses to something more meaningful and surprises me, that is also very exciting towards the end.

How do you overcome creative blocks? I read a lot of art books about the creative process and the artists themselves. Of late I have also started to watch videos of demos and interviews of other artists to stay inspired. At least once a year, I take a workshop by a renowned artist to learn new methods, techniques and this gives me the stimulus to experiment, try new things and overcome stumbling blocks.

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What project are you working on now? Currently, I am working on a few projects and I shuffle between to stay afresh and inspired. These are large scale abstracts, portraits and black and white paintings.

Who or what are your biggest influences? Throughout my career, I have been influenced by many artists. When I came to the United States and started working, I was influenced by impressionists like Van Gogh, Degas and Monet. Of late, I have been loving the work of more modern and contemporary artists working in an abstract expressionist style. Some of them are Wolf Kahn, Emily Mason, and Joan Mitchell.

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From Doubtful to Determined: The Story of a Queen PRACHI SHAH Fear. Nervousness. Apprehension. Legs shaking. Heart fluttering. Breath shortening. Anytime I had to put myself out there, these were my physical and emotional reactions.

following my sister’s pageants, the role “pageant mom” was her favorite. Dressing up her girls and seeing them rule the stage had always brought a sparkle in her eye.

My first answer to my mother was “No way. I can’t do it! Maybe Before my first pageant in Demy sister can handle this stuff, cember 2017, I struggled with but not me!” My mother still tried my self-esteem, self-worth, and to convince me and gave me two emotional strength. Although I weeks to think about it. Over the had a strong support system of next couple of days, I thought to family, friends, and YJA peers, I myself, “Maybe I’ll just sign up. wasn’t able to believe in myself I mean, it’s not like I’ll win the the way they believed in me. I competition anyways. Plus, it’ll would always pick apart my flaws give me a reason to work out.” and agonize over them. So, after two weeks, my mother finally got the answer she wantSo why did I sign up for the pag- ed from me, “Fine, I guess I’ll do eant life? Truth is, I didn’t want it.” to at first. After an interview and photoOne relaxing Sunday at the end shoot, I received a phone call of August, my mother received a that I had been selected to repphone call from the former pag- resent Connecticut in the Miss eant director of the Miss India India USA pageant. I was the Connecticut pageant. As soon as new Miss India Connecticut she picked up the phone, I knew 2017. “Great,” I thought, “Now I what it was about, and I held actually have to do this thing.” my breath. Following my sister’s success in the CT and USA pag- I spent the next three months dieants for Miss India, the director eting, working out, getting walk knew there was another daugh- training from my sister, and perter in the house and wanted to fecting my talent. Those things encourage me to sign up this are easy, those are skills you year. My mother obviously was can build. But what I couldn’t on board in a heartbeat; she had practice was my emotional and always been a dance mom, but mental strength. However, the 20


dresses, jewelry, makeup, and hairstyles had distracted me for the time being.

“I decided that I had stressed over this pageant enough. I was just going to go out there, give it my 100%, and have a fun time.�

girls were true gems.

The night before the first round of the pageant, I was lying in bed, When it came time to unable to sleep. When pageant weekend, I I finally saw the clock thought I was ready. read 4am, I decided Get on stage, walk, say that I had stressed over your lines, and smile. this pageant enough. I Easy, right? I was so was just going to go out wrong. Before the pag- there, give it my 100%, eant there was two and and have a fun time. I a half days of training knew I wasn’t going to for all the girls. I spent place or win any title, more than 8 hours a but at least I would get day wearing 7 inch some awesome pictures heels while learning in- from it, it was time to tricate walk choreogra- update my Facebook phy. The only thing that profile picture anyways. got me through those The first day of the days were the other girls in the competition. pageant flew by. First Through watching mov- round: evening wear? ies and TV shows, I was Easy. Just had to walk up, turn, and walk back. under the impression No speaking involved, that these girls would so no chance of messbe judgmental, make ing up. Second round: snarky comments, or talent? Super easy. My try to put each other alter-ego, prachonadown, but I was in for a pleasant surprise. All cho the rapper, had it covered. I had tons of the girls ended up becoming friends over our fun and even scored an shared anxieties of the introduction with a record label from it. stage, pain from walking in heels, and panic that we must have for- The second day was the toughest. The first gotten to pack something. I will never forget round was ethnic wear and introductions. We the moment when one all had to walk up and of the girls gave me a pep talk before my first talk about ourselves for 30 seconds. Finally, round on stage, when I was the most anxious when they announced I had ever been. These my name, my legs were 21


shaking as I tried to walk up to the ramp. “Smile. Keep your chin up. Push your shoulders back. Make eye contact with the judges. Remember that you represent your state.” I kept repeating all these statements and more as I made my way down the runway. I was so focused on my lines that during my walk, I did the one thing that all pageant girls dread: I tripped. Now, I didn’t fall, I just stumbled for a quick second, but it was noticeable enough that I heard a few audience members gasp. I continued walking, and as I grabbed the microphone, a voice in my head said “Well, you’ve already lost at this point, so let’s just have a fun time.” I threw all my fears away in an instant. I had nothing to fear for anymore, it’s not like I’m still “competing” for the title. I had basically disqualified myself with that atrocious stumble, right? So I turned my diva-mode “on” and said my lines: “Good evening judges, friends, and family. My name is Prachi and I

am honored to represent the Constitution State, Connecticut! I am a strong feminist and I hope to brighten the future of America by receiving my Master’s in Education in the next two years. My favorite quote is “You can be the King, but watch the Queen conquer.” I almost wanted to “mic-drop” at that point and “peace out,” but I remembered my manners and gracefully put the microphone away and walked back to my spot. It felt amazing to finally be free of the mental and emotional pressures I had put on myself. Soon, the emcee walked on stage and started reading the names of girls that had made it to the Top 10. I wasn’t even paying attention till the girl next to me hugged me out of nowhere and said “Congratulations! Now go, walk up there!” Top 10, wow, that was out of nowhere. Guess stumbles and falls don’t matter when you have confidence in your voice. The top 10 girls had to re-perform their talent, so I knew

“I threw all my fears away in an instant. I had nothing to fear anymore, it’s not like I’m still “competing” for the title. I had basically disqualified myself with that atrocious stumble, right?”

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that I still had time to have fun with my favorite girl, prachonacho. Soon after the talent, the Top 5 girls were announced. When my name was announced again, I had a moment of realization. This whole time, I was letting my fears come in my way. But the moments when I shed my fears and let my confidence, passion, and fun take over, I succeeded in a way I never thought I could. By the end of the night, I was crowned First Runner Up of Miss India USA, and although I was shocked, I was also relieved that I had finally found the key to unlocking my fears and anxiety. I realized that no matter what happens, as long as I work hard, have fun, and believe in myself, good things will come my way. This newfound revelation has lead me in making huge strides today. I have made appearances at public events, I am more confident in my job interviews, and I have signed up for another pageant, and I have even decided to physically get out of my comfort zone by moving to Philadelphia for a year. Now, with my new title of Miss New England North America, as I compete for Miss North America in June 2019, I am no longer scared or anxious. I’m excited and driven. Confidence. Determination. Strength. Legs steady. Heart 23

emboldened. Deep breaths. Anytime I now put myself out there, these are my new physical and emotional reactions.


Universal Peace Prayer Upsargäh Kshayam yänti

All problems resolve,

Chhidhyante Vighna vallayah

All obstacles remove,

Manah prasanna tämeti

The mind and heart become full of joy, Pujya mähne jineshware. For who has got in touch with the inner higher self. Shivmastu Sarva Jagatah

May the entire universe be blessed;

Par hit niratä bhavantu bhutaganäha

May all beings engage in each other’s well being.

Doshäha Prayantu Näsham

May all weakness, sickness and faults diminish;

Sarvatra Sukhi bhavatu lokah

May everyone and everywhere be healthy, peaceful and blissful.

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Lifted When I Couldn’t Even Lif

DARSHI SHAH

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ift

AH

“I accidentally glimpsed at an old lady in her mid-70s walking up the stairs with her head down, with her body abnormally bent. “ It was around 7:00 pm when I was coming back from 42nd Street in New York City back home on Christmas Eve. While taking the stairs up to get out of the subway station, I accidentally glimpsed at an old lady in her mid-70s walking up the stairs with her head down, with her body abnormally bent.

same street before turning in different directions to get to our respective homes. She was carrying two full bags in two hands, which visually did not seem too heavy for a normal healthy person. However, I convinced her to let me assist. While I lifted the bag, the weight seemed fine for the first five seconds.

Due to my habit of carrying the entire house in my backpack or purse, I was carrying a heavy-weight purse that had my laptop, reading books, etc. The old lady’s abnormally bent body concerned me, and within a fraction of a second, I approached her and asked if she needed help. Atypical of the human nature, she said no, affirming that she would be okay. However, I knew she definitely needed help, so I asked where she was heading.

After that, while climbing up the slope of the streets, I was really struggling, especially with a heavy purse that I was carrying. I could only imagine how the old lady was carrying the other bag. With my very limited lifting capabilities, I asked how she was doing while carrying the other bag.

Coincidentally, we were both walking up the

“This bag is even heavier - please don’t worry about it,” said the lady and that is actually what made me worry more, and thereby I exchanged the bags with her and started carrying the heavier bag up the slope. 26


While walking up the slope, I asked her if the bags contained all of her Christmas shopping. “No, it is all the juice bottles, fruits, and groceries for my grandson, who is 10 years old,” replied the women with happiness.

“Just because all the goods in the bag were for her grandson, the lady did not mind carrying the bags even when it cost her unnecessary physical strain.”

With awestruck expressions on my face, I asked, “How did you carry this much weight the whole time?” “I carried this all the way from Manhattan, on the streets, into the subway and outside as well.” “Wow!” I was astonished at her resilience. Just because all the goods in the bag were for her grandson, the lady did not mind carrying the bags even when it cost her unnecessary physical strain. She probably did not have a car or could not drive a car, the reasoning remains unknown. Regardless, that moment helped me realize the true definition of love, especially the unconditional love that

our family showers us with that we often leave unrecognized. This made me more conscious of my own realities – the realities that almost all of us share together. Most of our parents are immigrants who struggled for years, sacrificed their interests, hobbies, and lifestyle, just so that they could provide us with a better future in the land that was once unknown to them for a long time. When it was time for me to continue walking straight to get to my house and take a left turn for her to reach her place, the lady really insisted giving her bag back since we were parting ways. I was starving after standing in line in the cold to see the classic Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center. I had no idea where her apartment was – all I knew was that I had to make a left turn instead of continuing to walk straight. However, in reminiscence, how far her house was the least of my concern, with dropping 27


the bags at her doorstep being the priority. Mid-way up the steep street, I started feeling the pain in my biceps, but the lady herself was my source of inspiration. If she could carry two heavy bags all the way from Manhattan, on the streets and on the subway just for her grandson, I had no reason to not carry one bag up the street and couple of blocks down, despite my very limited arm strength.

All I remember is that we took a left turn and walked straight, nonetheless I still remember her face and will always remember the lessons she taught me about love and the happiness derived from giving beloved one happiness.

I walked to her apartment, waited until her grandson buzzed her into the building and went up to the elevator, dropped the bag and left. Her words - “May God Bless You”, “You did not have to do this” - were buzzing in my ears. We really do not HAVE to do anything in life; all we do ever is out of personal choice and because of our morals, principles, and character (part of which can be attributed to nurture, but partly it is also because of our own standards for ourselves).

Going back to our parents who were first generation immigrants in this country, may be someone random helped them back when they initially moved, whether it be with overcoming the language barrier or giving them a ride or helping them with directions, and in those moments, that small help would have meant a lot to them.

Today, I have no memory of the exact location where the lady lives since it was dark and cold on Christmas Eve.

She taught me that giving happiness - in this case, making her grandson happy by buying him goods - might not always be easy, but it is definitely worth it!

“We really do not HAVE to do anything in life; all we do ever is out of personal choice and because of our morals, principles, and character.”

So, help whenever, whoever, and however, because you never know when it will come back at you in the most random form, without you anticipating it, when you need it the most.

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An Interview With:

FOOD FIGHT GROCERY Choose a particular day in your life, and walk us through it. Some days I’m going in and working a shift. Some days I’m running errands for the stores. Some days I’m on the computer working on the schedule or emailing folks like you! But a regular day working in the store would have me checking my email first thing in the morning. Getting to work and checking in if anyone else is there before me. Seeing how they’re doing, and if they need anything. Ask them how the store has been before I got there, and if there’s anything I need to do or help them with. I’ll ring customers up. Clean the store a little. Do some daily tasks. Post something to social media to keep people interested. That’s a day without any incidents, emergencies, or issues to address.

Sometimes I work with other staff members. Sometimes I work solo. What gives me enjoyment workwise now is being able to use the resources and platform we’ve built through the years to support others. I love being able to give folks a place for their pop-ups or up-an-coming businesses, and being able to give organizations support through our fundraising and social media exposure. I love being able to give folks a platform for their work, especially when they’re folks from historically marginalized communities. To be able to support Black and POC folks and help them navigate this white, Euro-centric vegan world gives me a lot of joy and satisfaction.

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What was your journey like to get where you are? It was pretty rough in the beginning. Right after we opened I had sudden kidney failure, and I went into the hospital and had to go on dialysis right away. So, I had to focus on my health for the first year doing dialysis and trying to heal from the trauma. Luckily running the store was a lot easier then, so we were able to keep it all together, juggling the new business and life challenges. The first 5 years were pretty mellow because veganism was still an underground movement that was based in ethics and animal liberation, so most of the people who came in were like-minded folks who you knew shared similar values. Then we outgrew our original space, and the vegan trend started growing.

“When we first had the idea to open, we had a vegan person tell us we shouldn’t call our store “Vegan Grocery” because people weren’t ready for stuff to say “vegan” yet. He thought it would affect our business negatively.”

At the same time, Portland started becoming a tourist destination and living destination, so all of a sudden a lot of people were coming into the newer location. And then veganism blew up into a massive mainstream monster, so we had a pretty good surge in business. But we with the mainstreaming of veganism, we suddenly saw a decline in everyday sales as people were able to find products we sell at mainstream big grocery 31


stores chains. And now, we’re really feeling the backlash of the popularity of vegan food that way. I think that coupled with more folks moving to Portland who aren’t coming with the same ethic to support small business like the town used to have when we first moved here in 2002.

our store “Vegan Grocery” because people weren’t ready for stuff to say “vegan,” yet. He thought it would affect our business negatively. We get resistance often, usually when I post something political. For some reason people still think folks shouldn’t mix business with politics. They’re foolish because we started our busiTell me about an interestness through our politics, and ing experience or encounter that’s what runs it. Now that you’ve had recently. veganism has gone mainstream there are a lot of vegans who I recently had this person come don’t share the same values in saying they own a meat jerky with us like the old days, so we store, and wanted to know have some terrible people who more about what vegan jerky are resistant to our more social was best because they have ve- justice-related stances. gans come in that are looking for vegan jerky at a meat jerky What lessons have you store. learned since you started?

Have you experienced any resistance to your ideas?

Nothing gold can stay.

Yes. When we first had the idea to open, we had a vegan person tell us we shouldn’t call 32