The Real Amrita Raichand
Amrita Raichand needs no introduction. To the world, she is a known actress, a celebrity chef and a TED speaker. But when we sat down for a tête-à-tête with this charismatic lady, we couldn’t help notice her simplistic charm. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is very transparent. This characteristic is evident in her drastic career switch where she just changed lanes to pursue her heart’s calling. Amrita loves cooking for her child, her family and even extends this joy and love to her entire extended family through social media today.
Amrita lost her father at a very tender age of three. Her mother was a working mom. When she returned home every day, little Amrita would be studying or just interacting with her mother while she was cooking in the kitchen. So, Amrita began cooking by observing and helping her mother. She just learned by default. Quite frankly, it even surprised her mother because she was just eight when she began. Amrita attributes these in-built traits to be naturally occurring to a small-town Punjabi Sardarni girl. Back then, she didn’t cook anything fancy. It was just simple things like knowing the appropriate amount of salt or a full-fledged Bihari meal including dal, chawal, tamatar ki chutney, aloo bhindi and beans bhujia.
On Becoming the face of Indian Advertisements
Amrita has always been comfortable on stage. As a child, she was a singer and a Bharatnatyam dancer. Like most young girls, she loved watching her mother drape a nice saree and would try to emulate and attempt to re-drape a saree on herself smiling while looking at the mirror when her mother was away. Hailing from a very small town such as Dhanbad, Amrita never had elaborate dreams of becoming an actor. But destiny brought her to Mumbai. She came to Mumbai to study in St. Xavier’s College. Participating in fashion shows, dance performances and plays were things she was always associated with. So for the college festival Malhar that happens every year at St. Xavier’s, she was involved in a lot of activities there too. Out there, in the first year itself, she encountered an agent from an ad agency. When she was called in to audition for the Pond’s fairness cream advertisement, she was meant to play the supporting role of a friend of the lead. But, when she met up with the organizers, they were very impressed with her skin and chose her for the lead role instead. And that is how Amrita bagged her first advertisement. Then one thing led to another and she quickly became the brand ambassador for Whirlpool too. What most of us didn’t know back then is Amrita was still a teenager when she was portrayed as the mother of two! Amrita’s family was very orthodox and so she knew very well that getting into movies and mainstream acting would not be permitted. So she was happy doing just advertisements and playing the role of a mother at 19. Even after Whirlpool, she did over a hundred ads.
Amrita didn’t suffer the plight of many Indian women. Marriage was quite the blessing for her as her husband wasn’t conservative like her brothers and she got some freedom to explore other avenues like television. Once her brothers realized her husband was open-minded, they warmed up to her acting as well. That gave Amrita the opportunity to venture into mainstream cinema and she did a few cameos in some films as well until she realized her heart was in advertising itself as she was the queen of advertisements and that was very fulfilling.
A Natural Transition
When her son was born, Amrita chose to take a sabbatical for two years to spend time with her newborn. At that time, she concentrated on taking care of her baby and got back to cooking a lot. By the time her son was two, she was offered ‘Mummy ka Magic’ on Food Food. That show felt like home, a very natural transition because she was talking about cooking while being around her own child and those were things she loved the most. That’s when she realized it was her true calling and decided to pursue it by completing an advanced culinary course in Singapore. She just needed to brush up her skills because Amrita had already completed a home science course in a boarding school in Sanaat before coming to Mumbai. She had even initiated a cafeteria which she was in charge of out there, and it is still functional as a coffee shop for girls to this date. Looking back she wonders why she never thought of pursuing culinary arts as a career. It never struck her and she regrets it. But then again, she reminisces how destiny worked its charm into her life when she came to study in Mumbai. So everything just happened for the best and she is very grateful for all her accomplishments and popularity.
The onset of motherhood did not change Amrita as a person. She believes she grew into a better-thinking human. After 25 years of success, Amrita asserts she achieved a lot more after marriage. She is thankful for the overwhelming support she received from her husband and in-laws. She attributes that love, support and encouragement to be the motivation to explore herself, her own boundaries and keep evolving. She explains how the love she feels for her child is just unmatched. It brings about a consciousness of self-realization and the surroundings one dwells in. It re-ignites passion. So, after the birth of her son, she discovered a professional side of herself that was dormant until then. She points out ‘when a child is born, a mother is born.’
Amrita’s interpretation of Equal Parenting
Amrita has a very supportive family. She lives with her husband, their thirteen year old son along with her father-in-law and mother-in-law. She agrees the concept of equal parenting must be encouraged but she believes it is different for everyone. Co-parenting probably cannot be expected from a husband who has a lot more work and lesser availability if he has a 9-8 schedule. One just cannot be upset if the man is unable to attend to certain tasks at night. Likewise, if a woman has a similar job profile and has to wake up early in the morning, the same logic applies. It should not become like a competition between the spouses. One must consider the work commitment factor. Either of them must be happy to step up to ensure balance is maintained. It would be unfair to expect one person to do half of the chores and fulfill work-related obligations if the other person does not have professional obligations. She cites the example in her own home. When her son, Agastya was born, her husband was working, so she took care of everything else. She didn’t want to disturb her husband for certain tasks as she knew he had to wake up early to go to work while she could afford to wake up a little late in the morning if required. There must not be any competition and measuring of tasks.
Today, her husband takes their son for football matches and does a much better job than Amrita too. She tells us how they have divided academic subjects. While Amrita teaches Agastya English, Science and Math, her husband has taken over History and Geography. She laughs and tells us how her husband can even feed their son if the situation does arise, but he’d be a terrible cook. But he could, and he would if the situation so demanded. She feels the need to elaborate on this subject because a lot of couples are competing with each other nowadays and everyone should just do what they can and are good at without pointing fingers or devoid of consideration. She remembers how her husband was terrible with diaper-changing and she did not want her baby to end up with a rash. But, that did not make her love her husband any lesser. That same husband is better at so many other things that he contributes towards. She was good with diapers and now he is good with other things. When spouses compete with each other, problems arise. Besides, co-parenting is not just about dividing tasks between parents, even children get an opportunity to bond with both parents that way. It should be done in a way where the child’s interests are always priority. That being said, there are many homes where the woman does just about everything and nothing is expected of the husband. That is unfair. In such a case, the woman must speak out and seek help with chores like dishes or cutting vegetables at least, if not much. If one person is doing everything, that is not right either.
Amrita feels fortunate that her son Agastya has coped well with the lockdown because her husband trains him and keeps him active while she teaches him how to cook. Agastya also endorses some brands with his mother and online schooling has been keeping him busy. She believes Agastya is enjoying this phase too because there is so much going on at home that neither him or his parents have the time to get bored or ponder too much. He has been learning so many things online and also managed to get together with the other three children in the building. Amrita hopes and prays things settle down soon so everyone can go out and resume their normal lives because not all children have sporty parents who’ve managed to keep them active during this pandemic. She believes all children are affected because nothing matches physically attending school or football matches etc.
When questioned about how she copes with stress and multitasking roles of a mother, wife, actress, chef, Amrita humbly tells us it’s no different than everybody else. She reminds us just a fraction of people are actually famous, but those who aren’t celebrities are actually doing a whole lot more. If they can manage it, why not the famous ones! Even men handle multiple roles, that of a father, son, working professional etc. So her ability to multitask is just as normal as anyone else’s and isn’t a special gift per se. Besides, she tells us how she really loves what she does. Every morning when she wakes up, she is excited about what she has planned for the day. Things that fill up her day like cooking, spending time with her son are all things she enjoys. So if you are passionate about something, success is in your path. There must be a driving force that motivates and propels you, she asserts.
Proposing and Disposing
Being a content person, Amrita tells us how she was never over-ambitious and was happy doing all that she did at every stage in her life. She simply enjoys her work. Of course, she likes being a known identity, but she just went with the flow, always. In fact, she reveals how she never plans anything. She feels if she did plan out things meticulously, she would probably have been a little more professional. She even tried changing this system in the past 1-2 years but it was too much pressure. She elaborates how she dislikes failure and hence refrains from goal-setting because if she were unable to achieve them, she’d just be disheartened. She’s not entirely sure if it’s a good attitude, but it has worked for her so far. She cites the famous proverb ‘man proposes; God disposes.’ There can be days where one wakes up and just does not feel like doing anything. And if there were goals pre-assigned to such a day, it would just bog one down. Amrita explains how there can be days when you just let your body and mind be in the right place. She is quick to clarify that her statement does not imply that one must sit at home laying in bed for six days at a stretch. That’s definitely not what she is attempting to endorse. She does not and can never do that. But, there are days when one works so hard for 3-4 days at a stretch and then on the following day, the body needs some rest. Amrita feels she has the power and facility to say that to herself. So on such days, she just tells herself that she does not want to work and lies in bed. She is happy that she does not have to do things by force just because there is some plan.
For Amrita, cooking is similar to therapy. But she asserts those who don’t enjoy it won’t find it therapeutic. Her mantra is simple – you’ll be able to do something amazing only if you are passionate about it. Her kitchen is like her mandir. It is one of the most important places in her house. Half of her day is spent in the kitchen and so it is very personal. A kitchen can have utensils stored up or even down. The design must be as per your liking and requirements. A clean and airy kitchen, she believes is a must for comfort. Amrita likes a spacious kitchen and dal-chawal is comfort food for her. She has fond memories of this simple meal as it makes her nostalgic with memories of her hometown and the first meal she ever prepared at the tender age of eight.
Tips for a child-friendly Kitchen
Her son Agastya loves bingeing on crêpes. Besides a few basic spices, Amrita recommends storing condiments like olives and cheese as well because you can hide a lot of health foods under a cheese blanket and make a delicious dish. Cooking chocolate and good quality honey are always handy to have in a kitchen, especially when you are making crêpes and pancakes frequently. Besides ingredients, Amrita suggests having a good exhaust fan and tells us how it’s always good to be in possession of a good knife, peeler and lemon squeezer because these little equipments save a lot of time.