Editor’s Note: The author, research assistant at Renaissance journal pens down a heartwarming account of how from not knowing anything about cooking she not only slowly learned how to cook but has also discovered in the process her love for conscious and healthy cooking.
“One has to find the true harmony and balance between the body’s need and the food taken.”– Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 31, p. 428
This journey began many years ago and got a concrete shape when I arrived in Pondicherry from Odisha 17 years ago. Since then, there’s been no looking back.
Everyone in my family is passionate about food and feeding others. The fact that my father owned a restaurant and my mother is an excellent cook added to this. Since childhood I’ve been naturally sampling a large variety of foods especially the local cuisine available. But I hardly knew how to cook and the ingredients used, before I got married.
Following my marriage when I took those tentative steps to cook some meals, I became anxious unsure about my capability. With firm determination, I spent a year taking lessons from my mother and other available resources such as shows on television and YouTube channels.
Then an opportunity to prove myself arose on the occasion of my husband’s birthday almost 15 years ago when I had invited some friends over for dinner. Keen to come up with some delicious dishes (of course, under the guidance of my mother), I got to work with earnestness. At dinner time, my friends were liberal with their praises with some commenting, “Delicious food!” etc. That was the day it occurred to me that I too can cook and cook well! From that day onward until now, I just love preparing tasty dishes and enjoy feeding my family and friends who visit me.
There was a time when I hardly ate any vegetables, but following my marriage when I discovered that my husband is not a big fan of non-vegetarian food, my perception began to shift. Gradually I began to recognize and appreciate the kinds of nutritious food we should consume in our daily life because our constitution is completely dependent on what we consume.
“. . . healthy food and drink make a healthy body, fit to be the temple of a pure mind and life.”– The Mother, CWM, Vol. 2, p. 206
Whenever I cook today, I keep in mind how it can be made tasty as well as benefit our health.
My approach to cooking at home is very simple. I always follow some ground rules in my kitchen.
1. Prepare mentally
2. Ensure the kitchen environment is clean
3. Cook with a peaceful mind
4. Never compromise on hygiene
For instance, I make,
- Bread Sandwich
- Idlis & Chutneys of different varieties
- Poha and Upma
- Varieties of Chillas (pancakes)
- Different types of Parathas
- Sabudana Khichdi
- Vegetable Khichdi, etc.
Occasionally, I cook some Chinese and Italian dishes. During our get-togethers, I end up cooking different varieties of dishes which my friends always find delicious. One day they suggested that I open a restaurant in Pondicherry!
Small ventures, started with care
Following a number of discussions with my husband, family and my close friends, we finally opened a restaurant – Garma Garam – on 7 December 2017. It was a huge success and we had a regular stream of food enthusiasts. Unfortunately, we had to shut it down after six months, because my husband (Jyoti) and I had to attend office throughout the day and got very busy. We were unable to invest sufficient time to the restaurant.
In mid-2019, I took a break from my job. I then got enough time to experiment with my cooking. I cooked new recipes every day by watching YouTube and from cookbooks. My interest in food grew tremendously and I began a thorough research on the subject.
In 2020 during the lockdown, when all the restaurants were shut down, my friends requested me to prepare dishes for them regularly to be delivered at home. Once again my focus shifted to making delicious and healthy dishes. One of my friends, Gayatri Majumdar, created a WhatsApp group –‘Biswa’s Kitchen’ with around 12 to 15 friends as members. I restarted my food business by catering from home. Once a week (either on Saturdays or Sundays), I would make both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes in a hygienic way with affordable prices. It was a win-win situation!
(Prayer before we take food)
“My sweet Lord, supreme Truth, I aspire that the food I take may infuse into all the cells of my body Thy all-knowledge, Thy all-power, Thy all-goodness.– The Mother, CWM, Vol. 13, p. 54
Some of our kitchen’s dishes include,
- All types of Parathas
- Varieties of Rice
- Varieties of Dal
- Different kinds of Paneer dishes (with Paneer I make at home)
- Gobi Chilli
- Mushroom Chilli
- Malai Kofta
- Dahi Vada
- The all-time favourite Egg Roll!
- And many more. . .
Meanwhile in 2021 I re-joined Sri Aurobindo Society where I began work with Dr. Beloo Mehra in AuroBharati, of which Renaissance Journal is a part. My basic work involves graphic design, conducting events and research work mostly on Indian culture. Amidst my hectic office work, I have been dedicatedly continuing with my cooking.
Recent work at Society
As part of the June 2023 issue of Renaissance on the theme ‘Food, Sleep and Yoga’, I conducted four practical sessions on conscious cooking and healthy eating. These were organized with the help of my colleague and writer Gayatri Majumdar in the magical environment of Sri Aurobindo Society’s Surrender in Pondicherry with its fish pond, mango and neem trees and birds and flowers. Some of my signature dishes including Crispy paneer pakoras (with homemade paneer), Sabudana Khichdi, Chana Chat and Gol Gappas were part of this offering.
In addition to conducting fortnightly cooking demonstrations which spanned over a couple of months in 2023, I also facilitated discussions among the participants based on the posters I had designed and displayed at the venue. There were intense conversations surrounding digestion, categories such as Tamasic and Sattvic food, attitude to food, balanced diet and several other related topics. These posters featured selected insights on food and cooking from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
I recently revised some of these Food posters for a more formal exhibition to be displayed at Sri Aurobindo Society. This exhibition will run from June 27 to July 6, 2023. All are welcome for the exhibition.
Click HERE for a report on the Exhibition
There was a very heart-warming response from all those who attended the demonstration-discussion sessions at Surrender. They commented on my hygienic approach, the love I invest while preparing the dishes, the posters I designed and so on. Here are a few samples:
- It was a great start to an evening honoring the importance of food and how we can make the preparation of our food with bhakti and love. And this process makes the food so tasty.
- I loved your confidence and the dedicated way you cook.
- Had an excellent evening. . . A big thank you for the yummy golgappas.
- Thank you for such an excellent cooking class at Surrender. We learnt so much and relished every bit of the delicious crispy paneer pakoras. Eagerly awaiting future gatherings in the Mother’s space! Thanks to all those who attended making the event so special.
One of the participants during these sessions. Namomi Ghosh shared with me that she is working on a small poem to express how she felt about her experience. It felt so good reading this.
My journey with cooking and food and their tremendous contribution to physical and mental health continues. This journey has been one of Dedication and Faith and has taught me many important lessons: how simplicity can add to our learning and progress by keeping the flame of Aspiration alive.
~ Editorial input: Gayatri Majumdar
~ Design: Biswajita Mohapatra & Beloo Mehra