Ten years ago, when I started Mukti’s Kitchen, I began a journey that would help me bring authentic, healthy Indian food to everyday people and make my dreams a reality. I started from scratch and had no idea what the future held for me. I took a great risk back then, but I worked hard, and it paid off.
Now, those dreams have hit a stumbling block because of the coronavirus pandemic. Over the years I built a thriving home-based business. One that has taught hundreds of people the nuances and special techniques of preparing traditional Indian food. Although small, I am truly blessed by the reputation and respect it has earned. I am truly humbled, and it has been my pleasure to serve my community in such a way.
Let me tell you a personal story. I did not go to school to learn to cook or to run a business, but I always had a passion for cooking – a passion I inherited from my mother and aunts. I watched and learned as they prepared magnificent food in their own delicate and loving way back in India. When I came to the United States, I was not thinking about sharing this knowledge outside of my home and family. I was content as a research laboratory worker – first in Albany, and then here in New York City. Starting a business of my own was the furthest thing from my mind. I was satisfied in my role as a Research Microbiologist, and the primary bread winner for my family.
After my husband Partha, who also worked in the biological sciences for many years – first as a professor in India and then as a Ph.D. student in America – decided to switch careers and pursue his dream of becoming a writer and social activist, we left a stable life in Albany and moved to New York City. I worked for the state and then with the city; jobs that were essential for the survival of my family, but I wanted more.
In 2010, when Partha finally landed a stable teaching position at a labor college, I decided it was time for me to pursue my own dream to turn my passion into profession. I launched my small business out of my small Brooklyn home. I invited people to come to my kitchen to learn how to cook all those wonderful dishes my mother and aunts once taught me to make. Slowly but surely, Mukti’s Kitchen became well known among food lovers in New York and beyond, and my website drew many five-star Yelp and Google reviews from my students.
Our humble home had been blessed with the vibrant and warm presence of people young and old, well-to-do, and just getting by. They came to my class with a lot of uncertainty as to what to expect, and left with a big smile of satisfaction on their faces. A three-hour-long hands-on class often went on for three and a half to four hours. We laughed and giggled with one another, cheered each other on, and were wowed by what we would create together.
Sadly, with the unthinkable and catastrophic coronavirus crisis, that experience has ended temporarily. I do hope that when the crisis is over and we come back to our normal lives we will also come back to our vibrant classroom setting, and Mukti’s Kitchen will return to its old, vibrant self.
In the meantime, I have had to adapt to the changing times. I am now offering online classes and even though it is definitely not a substitute for in-person classes, those who have already taken this new 90-minute class have come away very happy to learn how to cook various dishes of their choice. They can follow along effectively and have shared with me how easy it was to see and understand what we were doing. They love to share their creations after class and have emailed me the following day to tell me how tasty their own dishes were.
Life brings big challenges, and we all work hard to overcome those challenges. Right now, the challenge is how to keep healthy and safe – free of the virus and remain mentally resilient and genuinely happy. Cooking good food, maintaining connections whether in-person or virtual, sharing good times and eating together are some of the best ways to boost immunity as we inevitably make our way to the “new normal”.
We can’t forget how all these things can be emotionally therapeutic too; believe me!
I promise you this, whether I’m teaching online or in my kitchen with students, I will always give you my best. Join our classes online for now, and when we go back to our old, normal routine, we can meet and cook in Mukti’s Kitchen right here in Brooklyn, New York.
I wish you all the best of health. Happy cooking!