I had known for a while that I was to receive the Women's Achiever Award by Young Environmentalist Trust, in recognition of "my inspiring work in the field of gourmet excellence” but perhaps because I had been so busy getting things in place for my first ever International culinary demonstration or perhaps because I simply could not be there to receive it, it didn’t feel real to me.
I woke up on the morning of the 8th – International Woman’s Day with the above picture of my kids holding my trophy in my inbox, titled ‘Pride of the Ghildiyals’. My husband who went to collect it had sent it. Just two hours later, my baby sister Himanshi Munshaw - Luhar took the podium at a Media reception she had orchestrated to present Beacon Holidays and our baby – Masala Trails to Australia. I had been watching her all week, marvelling that my little tomboy had grown into such an efficient, professional young woman that juggled her work and family with such elan. And I was lost in pride at how poised and beautiful she looked up there as she introduced Beacon Holidays Australia. (My siblings do not know this, but I am a bit of mother hen when it comes to them and I tear up with pride when they achievements.) I was having a similar moment then, right up there with watching them dance beautifully at my wedding, get married, become parents – all of those milestone moments when you know that their lives are going to change forever – you feel lucky to be with them and miss those who are not there to watch them.
I was expected to go up to the podium at any moment and was primed for it, everything I wanted to say neatly arranged in my head. So I sat there I was trying to control my emotions waiting for her to introduce me – which was my key. And then she announced the award and the room broke out in applause. I knew she was going to announce it as well so it did not come as a surprise, but at that precise moment, I felt the adrenalin rush that comes with an award or any recognition of one’s work. I also forgot everything I was going to say! Thankfully we have our mother’s genes in us and us Munshaw siblings are a honed to stay calm under any circumstances! So I did stand up there and I did deliver what I wanted to say.
I couldn’t help thinking how wonderful it was to receive this award while I was in Melbourne! I am a great one for reading signs in how things play out. And while many of you know that Masala Trails becoming reality was a dream coming true for me. What no one knows is that this part of my food journey began in Australia, 5 years ago. My husband took a sabbatical to look after home and baby and sent me off to discover Melbourne. And I came here and saw all the wonderful ways that Australia celebrates food and its diversity. I went home wishing I could do similar things with Indian food. But I felt that these dreams were too big for me to aspire to, how could I even think I could do all that and be a wife and mother and run a house?
But somehow, it happened. I juggled all the roles I have chosen to play and worked hard. And along the way I also made another big decision; to make it my life’s work to champion the preservation of Indian Cuisine and food lore. Indian Cuisine is a living cuisine that is still evolving, between the natural borders of the magnificent Himalayas and the peninsula of the Indian Ocean is one of the richest culinary cultures in the world that encompasses the traditional and is taking some extremely successful steps to the modern. But it is facing the threat of fast food. I don’t want us as Indians to come back to it 10 years down the line and try to resurrect something we have lost. I would like to keep it alive and that is possible only by cooking it, not preserving it in books but cooking it! And Masala Trails is one way to do this. What I have learnt is that the only limitations you have are the ones you draw for yourself.
And then, the perfect end to this wonderful week was to meet Matt Preston. He was kind enough to take time out of his heavy schedule to meet me. I could not quite put into words how good it was to meet somebody one looks up to!