I wish I had paid more attention to my health early on, so it didn’t take a health situation to be here.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nandita Godbole.
Nandita established her brand ‘Curry Cravings™ LLC’, www.currycravings.com, more than ten years ago which has grown from catering private events, to becoming a globally recognized name, and her, a globally recognized author. Her events, writings, blog and books have always centered food, wellness, and holistic care, and culminated in latest cookbook, “Seven Pots of Tea: an Ayurvedic approach to sips & nosh” (2020, Turmeric Press).
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Thank you for inviting me to share my story.
I grew up in India, and have spent half my life in the US during which time I have taken on many roles. I am a parent, a food-writer, and an author, and have spent a good part of my lifetime searching for a balance between emotional and physical wellness. My medium became food, because my relation to it was fraught from an early age. I started Curry Cravings™ LLC with a mission to improve people’s appreciation of Indian food, but this venture has taught me more about myself than I ever expected. Eleven years into my brand, I now can look back and trace back every pivot, every moment of my growth and journey to one thing: my quest toward overall wellness.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
Being a solopreneur is a crash course in the hardest Business School there may be, and the hardest life lesson about tackling fears and confidence while also protecting ones mental and physical health. Every aspect of my journey with my brand has offered deep lessons: from setting long term goals for growth and finding a way to pursue them, or learning that setbacks can pinpoint shortcomings. One of the most difficult yet valuable lessons to learn as a solopreneur is knowing how to value your intellectual property and recognize and celebrate self-worth because it impacts your mental well-being. Any setbacks, though most unwelcome, continue to guide me to refine, distill and improve everything I create — whether writing a cookbook, or writing an article, or even create content and products that will be helpful to someone else’s emotional wellbeing.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
As a child, I was surrounded by a fortress of trustworthy people who always kept my overall wellbeing in their heart. As a result, I became rather naive to the ways of the business world. I learned my vulnerabilities when people disappointed me in the most unexpected ways, and were disrespectful to me and my work or work ethic. Sometimes it broke me. But, I took inspiration from underlying concept of Kintsugi: making beauty out of something broken with something precious. I asked: how could I mend myself? What was most precious to me? Disappointments turned into a lesson in honoring the human experience and spirit, celebrating acts of kindness, and creating an environment of mutual respect and balance. Each time I have a setback, I try and repair the broken spirit with hope, strength, and something intrinsically valuable to create a thing of beauty.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I would be nowhere without the inspiring strength of my mother. She projects a fiercely protective spirit and a confidence that makes even the most difficult problem disappear. Last year, she had just harvested hundreds of dozens of organic mangoes, and to convert into products for sale when her farm was devastated by Cyclone Nisarga (a hurricane). Her property and home suffered a lot of physical damage. But after the initial shock subsided, within a few hours, my 73-year-old mother took a deep breath, and got to work, guiding the cleanup during the day time, and converting all her produce into shelf-stable products after sun down. A mere two weeks later, she was literally back in business. My life-story is filled with too many instances of the quiet power that comes from her guidance, advice, and her can-do spirit.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
In the last five years my underlying health issues became cause for concern. However, many people discounted them as a passing phase. Many of my health issues came from cultural conditioning as a mother and caregiver. Often, women’s’ mental and physical health issues are ignored in lieu of social pressures. Most women with family responsibilities are not able to take time for themselves. Myself included; many women pride themselves in juggling it all. My troubles were deeper than could be remedied with a topical fix. They needed a much deeper and longer lasting approach, a lifestyle change. I began including holistic wellness practices in my daily routine and saw my physical and mental health improve tremendously. I recognized that if I was able to carve out a mere 10 minutes throughout the day for something small, that time was a huge gift, and improved my mental health and physical health as well.
As a huge tea drinker, I realized that whether it was an herbal brew, tisane, a chai, a black tea, a green tea, or even an overnight infusion, I found tea-making to be a meditative process that required just a few minutes of care and attention. Just as the ingredients transformed during the preparation, I benefitted physically and mentally from sipping through a preparation that used ingredients that were Ayurvedically good for me. This became a small act of self-care, with long term benefits.
As I continued to look for examples of books that allowed readers to explore Ayurvedic teas and brews, ones that could become their wellness tools, I came up empty handed. Toni Morrison is famously believed to have said this: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I realized that an Ayurvedic “tea” book was missing in the wellness space, and decided to start writing “Seven Pots of Tea: an Ayurvedic approach to sips & nosh” (Turmeric Press, 2020).
As a cookbook author I had the tools and experience to creating a cookbook but knew it would be irresponsible to merely offer recipes or promote holistic self-care without offering clear guidance to the principles of Ayurveda. I wanted others to know about it, perhaps make it part of their self-care regimen.
Since I had been studying Ayurveda for many years, I decided to write a cookbook that combined fundamental Ayurvedic guidance and knowhow around beneficial herbs and spices along with recipes for herbal teas, tisanes, brews, chai’s and more. The hunger for such content showed when “Seven Pots of Tea: an Ayurvedic approach to sips & nosh” (Turmeric Press, 2020) was preordered by wellness seekers all over the world long before it was released.
I believe that the small and simple and care-filled act of making a healing brew and the resulting cup of “tea” can be the key to pursuing mindfulness, and self-care. To pair with my cookbook, I launched Rethink Tea, Rethink Chai, an avenue to explore the preparation of wellness oriented herbal teas and brews. Through it, I offer both virtual and socially distanced in-person tea-tasting classes with some simple Ayurvedic guidance. I also have tea-tastings, dosha-specific self-care kits and travel friendly tea-tasting kits for true self-care.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
I learned that we can find wellness and mindfulness in simple acts in our daily life. The best parallel is how we make a cup of tea! This process is as ordinary as engaging all our senses literally, metaphorically, or both. An essential part of embracing wellness comes from being present, and in the moment. When making tea, I call this, Art of Kriya, or the Art of Doing. It is rather simple, and folks can apply these principles to other parts of their life.
- Sight: Whether it is making a cup of tea (or interacting with someone), we must start by “seeing” what we are interacting with. Appreciating the moment for all its beauty, or even finding small and noteworthy things to admire at that time goes a long way in being present.
- Smell: Aromatherapy needn’t be restricted to packaged synthetic scents. When making tea, everything has an aroma. We may find that some ingredients smell woody, others are floral, some have citrus notes, others smell warm and earthy. Engaging in each ingredient will enhance your mood. Similarly, sometimes the air has a pleasant Spring-like aroma, at other times, we enjoy the aroma from someone else’s barbeque! And it may be just that little distraction that can help us enjoy the moment more.
- Sound: If one is making tea, I would recommend that they listen to their ingredients — are they crunchy, do they rattle in their container, do they sound different than when you last used them (did they get old/stale). Similar to ASMR, this process allows us to engage at a primal sensory level. Similarly, one must train ones’ self to really listen to people, their tone, intent and appreciate how they feel. It is another easy way to engage better.
- Touch: Another essential part of wellness care is the science behind touch-therapy. If tea making is an example, then feeling the textures of various ingredients to appreciate them more, and learn more about each in the process. While the tea is being brewed, I would recommend that we take a minute to massage our hands, our shoulders, and the back of our neck, as well as our temples. Use the steam from the kettle or stove to energize ones finger-tips before the massage. It is a quick, simple way to provide relief to the pressure points and release some of the tension.
- Taste: Just as it takes more than ingredients to make a good cup of tea, it takes more than a few pieces to make a healthy life. But it is always important to start small, and see our wellness journey as the sum of all the parts.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
When I was working on my cookbook, Seven Pots of Tea, I was using the catch-phrases “Rethink Chai” & “Rethink Tea” often. It started with sharing the wide breadth of wisdom that is embedded in Ayurveda, and sharing the knowledge that the word ‘tea’ covers a much larger concept. But beyond it, there was a deeper purpose to the Rethink campaign: it was not about questioning everything. The ‘Rethink’ campaign remains about looking beyond what appears on the surface, about building a culture of accountability and therefore, community. If we all understood our role in one another’s’ lives at a personal level and beyond, we would all be a better community.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- I wish I had the wisdom to start learning about Ayurveda right out of college, rather than doing in along the way. It is a life-long learning practice, and I wish I had started sooner.
- I wish I had learned to listen to my grandmother more, she was very wise and was willing to teach — I wasn’t willing to learn and now it is too late.
- I wish I had paid more attention to my health early on, so it didn’t take a health situation to be here.
- I wish someone had told me to travel more around India before I left 25 years ago, because there is so much to learn.
- I wish I had saved my copy of “Materia Medica” that I found by accident thirty years ago with a used-book seller.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
While all are noble and important causes, mental health impacts each one of us at the most personal level. By taking control of our own wellbeing, we can move mountains. Without it, we are nothing but dust.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I am easily found on Instagram: @currycravings
I also blog at: www.currycravingskitchen.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights!