“While making decisions you can never go wrong when you listen to your heart over your head”
Sadaa Sayed, Actress, Animal Right Activist & Founder of Earthling’s Cafe, Mumbai.
“Growing up in the coastal town of Ratnagiri, seafood was a staple diet,” says Sadaa. Throughout her childhood, she was inspired by her mother who was a vegetarian and always made it a point to feed cats. Sadaa learned about the concept of sentience and empathizing with all life, even insects, from her mother at the tender age of 7 as a result of an unfortunate act. Sadaa once intentionally burned a caterpillar alive when she was seven years old without realizing the consequences. Sadaa’s mother saw this act and made her empathize with the caterpillar by asking how she would feel if her finger was put in the fire. This was the turning point for Sadaa.
Within the confines of her household, Sadaa was still under cognitive dissonance that certain animals are just bred for food like food or crops are. That changed once she witnessed an animal sacrifice (on Bakra Eid) from up close at her friend’s place. She immediately made a connection with her previous experience where a life was taken without the consent of the animal. At that point Sadaa gave up eating red meat.
Sadaa had to let life teach her to learn and unlearn. The belief that chicken is required for fitness was reinforced by dieticians in the film industry. But saving a chicken and seeing the sensitive and intelligent side of the bird, again rekindled a connection. In the year 2012, Sadaa finally gave up eating fish, chicken and became a vegetarian. Until now, she was not aware of the cruelty in the dairy industry. Anand Siva and Shasvathi Siva enlightened her with the gross realities of the dairy industry. Intrigued, Sadaa dived into research and during 2017, Sadaa decided to go vegan overnight. At no point did she feel the craving for dairy after going vegan.
The journey to Earthlings started with Sadaa enjoying the vegan food at Ahimsa Cafe in Shirdi. It triggered the idea of starting a vegan eatery in Mumbai that would inspire people to try vegan food. With the help of a friend and a renowned food consultant, Anuradha Sawhney, Sadaa ventured with her second passion, Earthlings, the first being acting.
While looking for a place to start Earthling’s cafe Sadaa was looking at potential spaces, the spot in the Sundervan complex seemed perfect. However what sealed the deal was Sadaa spotting a cat sitting in the complex, this was a clear sign that the place was meant to be. To this day the furry mascot of Earthlings is a cat affectionately known as momo. The next step was reassuring the rather skeptical owners. Their fear stemmed from the fact that their previous tenant, a popular non-vegan burger joint, went out of business.
Sadaa’s confidence in the concept of Earthlings was so strong that she declared to the owners of the space that she would sustain the cafe in the same place for at least a decade.
The name Earthlings is in no way connected to the documentary as one might believe. The name comes from Earthling Ed, a vegan educator who debunks myths about plant-based diets. Sadaa admires Ed for his patience and peaceful methods of getting the message across hence the name.
Despite having no background in the kitchen or the F&B industry nor a business partner on board, Sadaa poured her heart and soul into creating “Earthlings”; she even went to the extent of not taking any projects as an actor.
The primary problem of the industry in Sadaa’s experience is finding and retaining good staff for every job. With constant staff issues, there have been times when Sadaa had to be proactive in the kitchen for 12 hours a day. With the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, Earthlings had to go through more staffing problems.
At the bleakest of these points, Sadaa found herself crying and helpless when almost all of her staff had quit. It was at that time her mother helped her find the true strength within her. As a result, Sadaa persisted in keeping Earthlings running despite the problems they had. Sadaa had to do every aspect of running a cafe including serving people herself but not once did she regret it because her passion was so strong for the food, Earthlings cafe, and the concept of veganism.
Sadaa’s belief in veganism is strengthened by how it helped her health. Before going vegan she used to go to the best dermatologists for acne only to get temporary solutions. The actual cause for her skin problems was dairy, so once she went vegan her skin cleared up automatically without her even actively trying to get rid of them. Another major benefit Sadaa experienced was with her menstrual cycle. Before going vegan she used to experience painful cramps that didn’t let her function, after going vegan all such problems stopped.
During Eid 2020 Sadaa made the beautiful gesture of sending complimentary vegan Biryani to orphanages run by the Children’s Aid Society in collaboration with PETA. All of Sadaa’s plans revolve around getting a mass appeal to the vegan movement and not restricting it to an elite crowd of cafe hoppers.
For the people who want to try switching to veganism, Sadaa recommends that they try the 21-day diet. This is because everything right from their taste buds to habits will change in that time. As a result, if someone tries it they will find it easier to make the change permanent. With this method, She has been instrumental in helping many people transition to a vegan lifestyle.
As an actress and a cafe owner Sadaa leads a hectic life. However, all of that pressure goes away when she comes home to her friendly kitten. When We asked Sadaa what she would recommend for Team Earthen One she promptly suggested the vegan Biryani and Lasagna as dishes that we just can’t miss out on.
Last year, Sadaa started a YouTube channel called Sadaa’s Green Life to extend the awareness about veganism and eco-friendly living among her audience. She touches on various aspects like “ Bedtime routine”, “How I pack my bags for Travel”, “Skincare Routine” to “What I eat in a day” that got 1.1M views! The channel has 193K subscribers and Sadaa has 37 videos so far.
As a girl from a small town, with no training in acting or F & B, yet achieving your passions successfully, what would be your advice to young girls:
Don’t consider your dreams small. If you are passionate about something, focus on it and the universe will show you the way.”
Veganism is now moving Sadaa more towards minimalism and away from consumerism. She feels she is constantly evolving to the next level.
At this point, Sadaa wants to do everything that revolves around animals. Her dream is to start an animal shelter where animals can live safely.
Team TEO is happy to have had an exclusive interview and hopes to see her continued success as an actress, an entrepreneur, an activist, and all that she wishes to be.
Do visit Earthling cafe:Adress: Earthlings’ Cafe, Shop No. 12 Sterlings CHS, Sundervan Complex, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400053