As I write, I’m soaring over the Indian Sub-Continent from Mumbai (Bombay) back to Bangalore. I ventured to that mega city for 2 days to visit my dear friend Chef Vikas Khanna and his wonderful mother Bindhu Khanna. Vikas, one of the most acclaimed Indian chefs (and chefs!) in the world, is hosting Master Chef India! Scheduled to premiere on October 22nd, it’s a tremendous production. I’m so proud of my friend, who is judging the home cook contestants with the help of Indian chefs Ajay Chopra and Kunal Kapoor.
Before I continue, I wish to state that Vikas, who I was fortunate to meet on the Martha Stewart India Show is one of the humblest people I know. I am ceaselessly inspired by his creativity, kindness, and immense work ethic. As I perceive, cooking is not only art to him, but his sadhana, or devoted, spiritual discipline. I am also very grateful to now be apart of his Holy Kitchen documentary series with director Ronnie Bhardwaj and writer Andrew Blackmore. I am confident that Vikas will be an incredible host for MasterChef and hope you can catch the episodes online (or on TV in you’re in India).
Now… back to Mumbai.
Vikas’s mother kindly met me at the airport. Right away, we went to the photo studio of the gifted Dilip Bhatia, who was taking images for billboards that will be throughout India. Stay tuned for a blog sharing Dilip’s awestriking, socially aware personal work. The photos he was taking of Vikas and the co-judges were looking great! I’m not yet permitted to share the photos I took of the shoot, but will do so shortly. It was also wonderful meeting some of the industrious team behind Vikas and the show.
Mumbai is an enormous, complex city. Slums are literally across the street from expensive high rises. As the shoot was a full day affair (it wrapped after 11:00pm!), Vikas’s mother and I went on a long walk to Worli Sea Face, where we sat next to the Indian Ocean for sometime. I admit, the juxtaposition between wealth and poverty is mindboggling.
Speaking of such contrast, our day ended with a delicious, late dinner at the decadent Trident Hotel, where Vikas and his mother are being put up. I was so grateful to stay with them! The hotel is quite a corporate outpost. Admittedly, I looked oddly out of place in my Indian dress amidst many foreigners in suits.
Our second day was spent on the actual set of Master Chef India. Though they weren’t filming the actual show, Vikas had a full day of refining past shoots and a number of magazine interviews. His day wrapped up around 6:00, after which we headed to Andheri to fetch my sweet friend Anu. I met Anu on a commuter train en route to the suburb of Kurla in March of 2008. We immediately hit if off and, thanks to modern communication, nurtured a lovely friendship. It was beautiful to see her again! And, an adventure…
If you’ve ever been to Mumbai, you know that the traffic can be unbelievable! The 4 of us cruised around stop-and-go style for hours with our driver! This was not a source of frustration, however, as I was in such good company.
One our way back to the hotel, we sought out dance festivals in honor of Navratri, a nationwide festival that had just begun. The first event we found was a traditional West Bengali Dance. The troop was masterful with their drumming and steps!
We were also in pursuit of the classic, interactive Gugarati style dance. Our search seemed fruitless and we had almost given up hope when we saw a circle of lights by a slum just 10 minutes from our hotel. The second we stepped out of the car, the people enthusiastically insisted we enter into the festive dancing circle. It was such a highlight to the trip to dance with the street children and made us all so happy!
After bidding our new friends farewell, we returned to the hotel for a lovely dinner. Anu (bless her) made the 2hour journey home to Kurla, and Vikas, his mother, and I went to sleep. We woke up, still buoyant from last night’s festivities. I bid his sweet mother farewell. Vikas and I had a wonderful breakfast and then he sent me off. And, here I am!
I know this blog has been more narrative than my usual “Yoga On of Off the Mat” posts. I do want to share with you something this journey truly reminded of me, however.
Never underestimate our immense capacity to share, at anytime, anywhere. Also, in doing so, honor our own and each other’s roots while being equally receptive. Smile and embrace the power of humility.
We are one.
Sophie Herbert is an alignment focused yoga teacher (and perpetual student), a singer-songwriter, and a visual artist. She has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India; teaches yoga in Brooklyn and Manhattan; and recently released her first full-length album, "Take a Clear Look." Please visit her website at SophieHerbert.com.