Yeh Diwali. Ethical Wali.
Yeh Diwali. Ethical Wali.
Before we talk about what we’re doing for this Diwali, let’s talk about the Silver Varak you see everywhere during Diwali. And what the fixing it needs.
Diwali. The biggest Indian festival. And perhaps the world’s biggest celebration of good over evil.
And if there’s one food item that’s symbolic of this festival, it’s the humble Barfi. Topped with Chandi (Silver) Varak of course.
I don’t know about you, but as a kid, I could devour an entire box of that silver-lined Kaju Katli, before my parents could say pataka.
And unlike other days, when my mom would scold me for stuffing my face and getting fat, on Diwali this behavior was absolutely acceptable. Encouraged, rather.
After all, Lord Rama had just returned to Ayodhya. After 14 years, good had finally prevailed over evil. What were 14 Barfis in comparison!?
Well, they were >100gms of refined sugar, for starters.
I didn’t know it back then, but one Indian Barfi can have anywhere between 12–15gms of Sugar in a 30gm slice. A kid eating 10 of those, is a kid drinking 3 bottles of Cola straight up! No wonder I used to be so happy on festival days.
Not that mom would’ve stopped me even if she knew this shocking sugar-stat. In our country, you don’t count the ‘meetha’ in ‘mithai’. Not on Diwali.
But maybe, she would’ve stopped me, had she known how the Silver Varak on the Barfis I was gulping, was made.
All that glitters ain’t Silver
Our traditions are rich with science.
The reason why silver leaf is used extensively on our festive sweets is not just because it looks grand and opulent, but also because silver has anti-microbial properties and can increase the shelf life of food products.
But one gets those benefits if one is eating real silver.
Unfortunately, a large part of ‘silver varak’ available in the market today, is actually aluminum. Or is heavily contaminated with other poisonous metals like nickel, lead and cadmium.
One easy way to check, is to rub some silver leaf between the palms of your hand. If it is pure silver, it will disappear. If it’s adulterated with aluminium, it will become a small ball.
Another way, is to wipe the silver leaf on top of the sweets with your fingers. If the residue sticks to the fingers, it is adulterated with aluminium.
Thankfully, finding real silver, if you’re willing to pay the price, isn’t that tough. What’s tough, is finding ethical, 100% veg silver.
No Silver Lining
Ever wondered how these wafer thin sheets of silver are made?
The answer is so horrific, that I can’t even get myself to type it. Here’s an excerpt from this free press journal article — explaining how varak is made.
On condition of anonymity, a manufacturer explained that those making the “chandi ka vark” buy the intestines as soon as the animal is slaughtered as old intestines stiffen and cannot be used.
They remove blood and cut the intestines into pieces, putting them together like a booklet. One silver sheet is put between each such booklet and hammered hard till the metal sheets turn into thin wafers.
Yes, a large amount of Chandi Varak found in the market today is made inside animal intestines.
A few years ago, the food regulator FSSAI took cognizance of this archaic practice and put a ban on it. But the uproar from the labor communities who’s livelihoods depended on this — made them take it back.
It’s tough to take sides on matters that impact livelihoods. Yes, there are machines that can make silver leaf sheets, but they’re expensive. Many poor laborers who earn their living from making Varak, just can’t afford them.
Also, one can argue that the animals weren’t slaughtered for the silver. They were dying anyway, and the Varak industry just helped sell them for parts.
One can also argue, that just because the silver is beaten inside animal intestines, doesn’t make it non-veg. And so staunch vegetarians who’re buying these mithais shouldn’t be complaining.
These are complicated questions, and I can’t pretend that I know what’s right. What I do know, is that when my team at The Whole Truth discovered this practice, it made us all gag. And we wanted to do something about it.
More specifically, we felt that people who shared our feelings, who cared about the ethics of what they put inside their (and their kids’) bodies — deserved a healthy, ethical, Diwali mithai option.
So we made it.
Introducing Protein Bar-Fi
Made with 100% veg, ethically sourced Silver Varak.
If there’s one good thing about capitalism, is that it gives you options. Options that allow you to make choices. And choices that allow you say— ‘This is who I am. And this is what I stand for.”
So, we decided to create for our consumers, a 100% natural, 100% clean, 100% veg, ethical Diwali barfi. We call ’em Protein Bar-Fis!
Each Bar-Fi is actually a mini protein bar, filled with dry-fruits like cashews, almonds, dates & berries (which are the source of all the natural sugar in it. no added sugar).
And each Bar-Fi is topped with pure, ethically sourced silver — for that festive, Diwali feeling!
Oh, and they’re as tasty as your local barfi! (for me, personally, they even do the job of Kaju Katli…since more than 40% of these Bar-Fis is just cashews!)
So, go ahead, let yourself and your kids indulge this Diwali. And do it with your conscience at ease.
Because good won, once again. And your choice made all the difference.
An important note on where we source our Silver Varak from. An FSSAI approved and ISO 9001:2015 certified MSME called Classic Waraq Company. We would have ideally linked them had they had an online presence, but you can check out this image to know more about them