This women’s day we are happy to highlight the journey of a few women who are working to preserve rich heritage, culture, food and handicrafts of India through their meaningful lives. Read about their life journey in their own words. There is a lot to learn from them about slow and conscious living.
A Canadian travel writer and blogger who considers India to be her “soul culture” and has spent many years immersing herself in Indian culture. Her blog Breathedreamgo, is one of the world’s leading travel blogs about India. We salute her love for India and its culture.
1. Tell us about your journey from being a financial writer in Toronto to a travel writer in India.
Some women are naturally adventurous and take off in their twenties for world wide backpacking adventures. That was not me. I was in my mid-40s when I got the call to travel. At the time, I was working as a copywriter in Toronto, Canada, and recovering from a series of devastating personal losses. I was grief-stricken and depressed and at my wit’s end. I needed a big change to save my life, and I decided to start following my dreams.
My first dream was to take Yoga teacher training. I was the oldest and least flexible person in the group of 24 people, but I was among the first to finish the program and graduate. It was during Yoga teacher training that I got the “call” to travel to India. It really felt like a compulsion, as if my life depended on it. So, I planned and saved and on December 5, 2005, I boarded a flight for Delhi. It was the boldest thing I had done in my life. I was lucky. A friend of a friend – who I had met 14 years earlier in Canada – picked me up at the airport in Delhi and I stayed in his family home when I arrived. It was a very soft landing! I enjoyed sitting in the sun on the terrace, having breakfast with the family, and shopping. The family’s trusted shawl-wala stopped by to show me his wares and I bought two suits and some shawls. So, from the very first day, I had a very good impression of India and of the kindness and warmth of the people. This family made me feel at home, and gave me a base for my travels in India over the next six months. I learned a lot about India by living with an Indian family, and I felt safe and protected.
When I was planning my trip in 2005, I decided to keep a travel blog. It was a very new thing at the time, and I was definitely experimenting with the medium. I started on a shared site, and really enjoyed the online engagement. Later, in 2009, I started publishing my professional travel blog, Breathedreamgo.com. I’ve been publishing ever since, focusing mostly on my travels in India, plus Canada and Asia. More recently, I started a custom tour company called India for Beginners, that helps other female solo travelers travel safely in India.
2. You say in one of your articles that India changed you, it gave you hope, inspiration and a new start in life. How have your travels and interactions with people from different cultures in India impacted you as a person?
On that first trip to India, I travelled north and south, covering many places in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh. And I also spent a lot of time getting to know Delhi, my adopted city. I did Yoga, volunteered, swam in the sea, hugged a saint, marveled at the Taj Mahal, watched the sun rise over the Ganga, experienced a sand storm in the desert, saw peacocks and camels and elephants and monkeys … and had the time of my life.
The excitement I felt on that trip is hard to express. It was like I was on a magic carpet ride. The colours of India, the adventure of travel, the wonderful people I met, the incredible experiences I had – all of it combined to both help me overcome depression and grief, and also inspire my creativity.
3. During your travels, what kind of accommodations do you choose and why?
The day I arrived in India, in 2005, and stayed in a family home, I have been more comfortable in a homestay than anywhere else. I love the feeling of being part of an Indian family, and home food is the best! I wrote a blog post called Why homestays are the best hotel option in India about my attachement to one particular homestay in South Delhi. But the sentiment remains true and I look for homestays wherever I travel.
Over the years, I have spent at least eight years travelling and living in India. I never seem to tire of the adventure of travel in this amazing country. But part of my strategy is to find safe havens and quiet sanctuaries, to get a break from the sensory onslaught of travel in India. This means I often visit wildlife lodges, Yoga ashrams, and homestays. I look for places that are known, trusted, well-reviewed, and recommended.
I also recommend homestays to my India for Beginners guests. As the family is such an important social structure in India, I feel travelers should experience family life during their journeys. This is where you will feel the heart and soul of India!
“I hope I can inspire and encourage other women to take a leap of faith, believe in themselves, and follow the call of their hearts and souls. This is essentially what I did.” She tells HOI.
Recipe developer and food blogger at ministryofcurry, Archana has made Indian cooking fun and easy. We love her passion to cook and work towards preserving the local flavours.
1. Tell us about your journey from being an engineer to a writer and food blogger.
For 19 years, I worked for Oracle as a Software Engineer in the supply chain ERP solution space responsible for analysis, design, development, and software releases. My role included customer interactions and coordinating with cross-functional teams. While still working, in 2016 I also started my blog ministryofcurry with the vision of preserving my family’s stories and recipes. I wanted to organize the recipes I had learned from my mom so that I could easily share them with my extended family and friends.
As I started sharing them I soon realized that my recipes were making cooking simple and fun for not only novice cooks but also expert cooks. By 2017, I had developed a strong following for my Instant Pot recipes. My creative and disciplined approach to software development was helping me with creative recipes and precise instructions that others found very easy to follow. That is how I decided to start working full-time on the blog, developing recipes while spending more time with my children who were growing up fast. And since then, I have been on this journey and mission to develop and share my easy recipes, combining modern techniques and delivering authentic flavors and experiences.
2. How has this journey changed you as a person?
Cooking makes me connect back to my roots, bringing back memories of wonderful foods I grew up eating – the aroma filling the kitchen, the colorful presentation of the served food, the lip-smacking sensational tastes, and their related fun memories at the dinner table with family! Now, it is fulfilling to see my family and followers enjoy my recipes and the same foods that I grew up eating – and that connects us in a bond of shared memories.
Now as I cook, I get inspired to create recipes that I can share with my community. It gives me immense satisfaction to see my audience try my recipes and share back their creations and reviews. The best part is that I get to wake up to so many sweet and touching notes and feedback every single day. It gives me so much joy and pride to see people from all over the world and of all age groups and experience levels easily recreating my dishes. It has not only made all the efforts I spend perfecting my recipes worth it but my audience also keeps me motivated to create more awesome recipes to share.
3. Bonding with your family over meals is what you always cherish, how do you ensure you and your family get authentic traditional food during your travels?
My family loves to travel and we always make it a point to eat like a local during our travels. We spend a considerable amount of time in advance researching traditional foods from the place we are visiting. We ask friends and family who may have visited the place before as well as inquire with the locals. We try to make reservations at the recommended places serving local food. This inquisitiveness and openness as we explore and seek out new flavors and experience culture allow us to learn and enjoy new authentic foods even during our travels.
A rural entrepreneur who founded Craftpotli to build an ecosystem of Adivasi tribal crafts from different parts of India. We love her passion to unravel the rich heritage of Indian villages.
She is presently traveling in some forest and will share her story soon!