Till midnight I was thinking about the questions to be asked to an entrepreneur who has converted her passion and hobby into career. “Why are you still awake?” asked my wife. I told her about my thought process and asked her to help me in framing the questions and went to sleep as if my burden was taken over. Next morning my wife got up late. May be she took her task so seriously. “See, it is not easy to be a writer”, I said. Gauging her no nonsense mood I decided to keep mum. She helped me with the questions and I left the house to meet Mrs. Tarla Dalal. I don’t think she needs any formal introduction, the name itself connects us to her field of passion that is cooking.
I reached her office on time and found her busy in a meeting with her staff members. After a formal introduction I asked her the first question suggested by my wife, “when did you come to know that cooking is your passion?” I was feeling so relieved for not asking my trademark question (When it all started?). “Well, I don’t know”, she replied. I was zapped and thought if my wife has taken some kind of revenge by suggesting a wrong question. “It all happened”, she continued. I heaved a sigh of relief. “We used to help our mother in the kitchen. I used to cook only Gujarati food at that time. After graduation I got married and as my husband was an avid food lover he insisted me to cook various varieties of western dishes, deserts and this way it all started”, she continued. “So it was all to please my husband”, she said. Her determination to keep her husband happy led her to a successful life. “I would definitely tell my wife the advantages of keeping the husband happy”, I thought and imagined myself being served by plate after plate of Indian delicacies prepared by my wife. “Would you like to have a cup of tea?” Mrs. Tarla asked. My sweet and tasty dream was over and I replied in affirmative while recollecting myself.
“Have you ever joined any cookery class?” I asked. “Yes, I joined one cookery class in the beginning itself but I left as non-vegetarian dishes were also prepared over there. Then I started reading various books”, she replied. “When did you start taking cookery classes?” I asked. “Whenever guests at home liked my food they used to make a request to teach them and I started taking cookery classes. It was all by accident”, she replied. “That’s why they say, guests are like God” I thought. “How do you innovate various dishes?” I asked. “I study a lot; we have a team who guides us on nutrition and research work”, she replied.
“How many books have you authored so far?” I asked. “I have authored more than 100 books so far. They are available in Gujarati, Hindi and English”, she replied. “Wow!”, I muttered. “Who says women are equivalent to men, no! they are way ahead”, I thought sitting in front of a lady who has been conferred the Padmashree by the President of India in the year 2007 besides other numerous awards for her outstanding contribution in the field of cookery. Later Sanjay Dalal, son of Mrs. Tarla Dalal joined us. “Now he handles the whole business”, Mrs. Dalal said proudly. Sanjay told us that besides food magazines there is one bi-monthly publication and an online portal too. “We are in the process of making an application which can be used on mobile phones to provide the whole data base of Tarla Dalal and that too for free”, he said. “We are coming up with you tube videos and other videos for DTH platform”, he continued.
“Do you take cookery classes still?”, I asked her as Sanjay left. “Yes, I take cookery classes on invitation. The amount collected is used for various charity purposes”, she replied. “I am almost 76 years old so I feel that I need to give something back to the society”, she continued. “Are you 76 years old?” I exclaimed. “Yes”, she replied. Frankly speaking she doesn’t seem to be so old. “We have a book on iron, calcium content of food. Food shall be the answer for health not the tablets”, she said.
“What is the secret of success in this industry?” I asked. “To be a success in this industry one must take care of three
things first being the easy availability of ingredients second being the ease with which one can cook and last but not the least the taste”, she replied. How simply in a nutshell she had put forth the secret of being successful in the field of cookery. It reflected her rich experience and the depth of knowledge possessed by her. “80% of middle class women cook food, so with the help of these three principles you would be able to reach the masses”, she continued. She also told me about her book “one teaspoon of oil” that teaches to cook dishes with only one teaspoon of oil. As I was about to leave she also showed me the pictures of an event where men were the participants. We shook hands and let me admit that it was a proud moment shaking hands with a Padmashree recipient for the very first time in my life.
I came back home and poured all the gyaan and advices on my wife and also told her about the advantages of keeping a husband happy. “I will try my best”, my wife replied. I pretended to check whether I had entered the right house. Amidst laughter and happiness we both appreciated the effort of Mrs. Tarla Dalal.
Interview By Vishal Saxena