Marwari with a taste for hot Andhra curries ~ Says Marwar Magazine

by on May 11, 2008

“A Marwari with a taste for hot Andhra curries. A research scholar with a penchant for writing recipes. A translator of heavy religious and spiritual works who is equally at ease with children’s books. Pratibha Jain’s platter of life is a combination of different flavours.” – says Marwar magazine about Pratibha Jain in an interview.


Marwar magazine


A translator, researcher, with her doctorate in the philosophy of language, author of various childrens’ books and now the co-author of a unique book, Cooking at Home with Pedatha: Vegetarian recipes from a traditional Andhra kitchen – Dr.Pratibha Jain dons several hats with ease. More than anything else it is the passion with which this lady from Chennai thrusts herself into varied roles that is admirable. Hear it from this multi-faceted author, researcher herself on how to pursue disparate interests and make a success of them all.



“I was born in Chennai. But with my father being in the army, we used to travel a lot, changing cities often. I think this is where my fascination for people developed. When you travel so much and interact with different cultures from childhood itself, you really feel the world is yours,” says Pratibha.


It is probably this attitude that made her go back to college after a six-year sabbatical. “After marriage, I had to wait for a long time for my sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law to get married. But I always wanted to study further. I was equally determined not to do a correspondence course because if you don’t go out there, then you don’t get the required exposure,” she informs. While she was interested in both psychology and philosophy, she ended up studying the latter and pursued a doctorate in it.


“After I finished my PhD, I taught for three years in the University of Madras as a guest lecturer. It was the first time guest lectures were allowed in the varsity. I think the authorities agreed because they wanted me to teach there. Later they wanted me to become a permanent faculty. But I did not want to be restricted by a 9-5 job as my other ventures were taking off.”





Pratibha stopped teaching, though she continued to do her own reading and research. But what made her choose a subject as unusual and specialized as the ‘philosophy of language’? “I was always interested in the problems of communication, interpretation and language. Most of the time I noticed that though people use the same word, it holds different meanings for different individuals. The way people refer to similar emotions, perceptions or objects also differ greatly. Besides, there is often a discrepancy in what we say and what we actually mean.” Through her doctorate, Pratibha has tried to bridge the gap between the spoken and the written word.


Doing a specialization in languages also helped her in translation works. And while translating audio books, short stories, religious and spiritual works from English to Hindi and vice-versa, she realized that in most cases, the true essence of the original word cannot be captured; quite often one has to compromise by using a word that is closest in meaning. “I think my work as a translator and my doctorate helped me when I was penning children’s books in Hindi and the recent cookbook, where writing and trying to convey the exact idea is quite a challenge,” says Pratibha.



But a Marwari writing a cookbook on Andhra cuisine? “It started when I used to go to Bangalore for my work with my friend Jigyasa Giri. We would drop by to meet her husband’s eldest aunt, 85-year-old Subhadra Rau Parigi, aka Pedatha, who is the daughter of V V Giri, former President of India. Each time she made an Andhra dish for us, we would note down the recipes. But even after taking meticulous notes, it never quite tasted the same later. That’s how the whole idea of a coffee table cookbook emerged,” she says.


The two ladies would often travel to Bangalore and spend hours with Pedatha learning recipes. “What makes this book unique is that it gives you all the tips. Usually when people pass on recipes, they always hold back some bit of information that makes the item special. Pedatha gave us everything. It was due to her willingness to communicate that this book happened” recalls Pratibha. The entire process of collecting recipes and trying them several times again took almost two years.



The next challenge was writing the book. “Learning how to cook Andhra food was difficult but trying to pass on all the small tips that make a recipe perfect, even more so! If we were to write every small detail it would be endless. We were trying to keep it as simple as possible. That’s when we decided to have a glossary at the back with a translation scheme.” Pratibha even sat with a Telugu pandit to get the spellings standardized so that even a non-Telugu speaking amateur chef could pronounce words like Vaangi Baath, Bisi Bele Huli, Pindimiriyam, Allam Pachchidi, Karivepaku Pachchidi or even Mamidi Kaya Annam!


Marwar magazine 2006

Another challenge was photographing the dishes. “It was not easy but we used traditional dishes like Rachiappas and Eyachombus – basically vessels coated with stone, lead or brass and photographed every recipe featured in the book. “It was very difficult,” she says. “We hunted for a publisher but most of them wanted us to compromise on certain things which we felt were necessary to make our book different. We wanted the entire book to be in colour, with accompanying pictures; we also wanted it published soon so that Pedatha could be present at the launch. Since no one was willing to do that, we decided to publish it ourselves.”


All through her husband’s constructive criticisms and encouragement, along with her daughter Manasvi’s support helped her tide through the obstacles.



Released in December 2005 in Mumbai by Preetham Parigi, Head of Radio Mirchi and son of Pedatha in the presence of Yash Chopra, Sanjeev Kapoor and Prahlad Kakkar, the book’s highlight is its careful attention to detail. “The best compliment we received was from Sanjeev Kapoor; he said it was the first time he endorsed another author’s cookbook, because he really believed in it,” says Pratibha. The book, which originally printed 3000 copies, is going in for a reprint next month, a testament to its popularity. After launches in Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai, it is now scheduled to hit Kolkata, Sri Lanka and Delhi.


And if you thought that this dynamic young lady was going to rest on her laurels…well, think again. She has now started a publishing company called Pritya, which means ‘with love and affection’. She also does event managing for friends’ dance performances. Moreover, Pratibha dabbles in playwriting and acting with RYA Metro, a creative forum that she has been a member of for the past two decades.



What does she do in her spare time? “There is no spare time,” she laughs. “I’m a workaholic. I love my translation work. Also we have a large extended family, so there are a lot of opportunities to meet up and socialize. We also go to our associations and clubs. Besides, Jigyasa and I work with the underprivileged section of society, which takes up a lot of our time.”


“At the end of the day you have to live in a cohesive framework in society. Anything is possible if you are patient and truly believe in something. Convincing others towards change is the tough part. After that everything is easy,” she believes.

(As featured in Marwar, 2006)


Click here to read about the launch of their Andhra cookbook, Cooking at Home with Pedatha. Share with us your insights and comments in the form below.


Share...Google+Pin on PinterestShare on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebookshare on Tumblr

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: