In her own words:
“I was made in India, on the coconutty west-coast along the Arabian Sea. What luck to have been nurtured by a playful father, an orderly mother, and both my grandmothers.
In my first few years, I was held for long hours by my beloved Badi, an elderly adivasi (indigenous) woman who cared for me while my parents worked. My first foods were her unusual grains cooked in clay. I cried for her when we moved away from that early home. The story is that I refused food, chanting “Badi” a hundred and eight times before my father lost count. His mother, Mein, prepared bhakri, confident that it would break the spell. Hours past bedtime, she placed the spiced bread in front of me. I regarded it silently, looked up and wailed “Baaadiiii!” Exasperated, she said “Eat your Badi’s fat chapattis” and snapped off the lights. The next morning, there were no signs of bhakri and no more chanting.
We subsequently moved to Goa, land of seafood, meat and chicken curries, but being Gujaratis, we were vegetarian. Meals were prepared indifferently by servants who did not know our cuisine. I was uninterested in eating. Grandmother Bai, coaxed me by telling me stories and bygone kitchen tales.
I moved to Bombay to attend University and came to live with grandmother Mein. I remember my first meal, wordlessly experiencing our traditional thali, with tamarind flavored lentils, cooked and fresh vegetables, perfectly steamed rice, thin ghee-smeared chapattis, green aromatic chutney, curds, a divine murrabba. Something came alive and I begged to learn her art.
She taught me to handle ingredients but more importantly: that flavor was affected by all the elements: the sun, water, soil, air and the mind of every being that touched it on the way to my plate.
I got a degree in Philosophy from Bombay University, but Mein, with her sweet-sour gujarati touch, led me to realize that I was continuation of a self that preceded her and all the ancestors. While men are remembered by names and records, women are remembered in kitchens by recipes, scents and stories.
At twenty-two, I left India to pursue film studies in California, Mein sobbed funereally. She felt all would be forgotten. In my fifties, on the other side of the world from the Arabian Sea, I weep with her. I grew all three of my foreign children in a land-locked snowy-climate.
Project Mystic Murrabba was created to perpetuate the traditions that were passed down the generations. To remember those that make us, I share the art of cooking, through classes and meal service. Recipes and stories will be compiled into a memoir for the generations that follow.”
*** Please follow along on instagram as well and learn more about Gita. This year for my birthday, I am embarking on a weekly photo essay projecthighlighting 52 Phenomenal Women. . This is week 42 of 52. Participants in this project will be supporting the efforts of Dress for Success Worldwide – Central. We are all stronger together and it is my sincere hope that we will be inspired by each other’s stories. Now is the time to celebrate as well as encourage one another. Tell your story!**