From all the participants on the Calendar Girls project she stands apart not for looks or her thoughts but for her ability to dabble in all things with a smile. For someone who turned 48 years young this year she is childlike pure hearted. The interview with Ritu Chaturvedi who is showcasing as Shehrezad in September was like a splendid and scrumptious thaali feast. Her thoughts of different tastes and moments filled me to the brim as we lingered from one memory to another.
Her work and her words bring together many flavours of sweet, sour and special – the only taste she lacked was bitter. She lives by a simple math formula. “Every experience is a learning. It comes to teach you something – either about yourself or the other person. When someone hurts you, don’t be bitter and angry or hurt them back. Instead be kind and giving. They are angry and hurtful because they are hurt. Your kindness will heal them and in return you will heal too. Whatever you do with a good heart it expands and goes into the universe, later this karma falls on you as blessings four fold,” smiled Ritu who is a mother of two grown boys, she is a food blogger, a judge at various culinary contests, a visual arts teacher at Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre and now a story teller as Shehrezad and herself!
Looking back at her childhood days she shared that she and her cousins would borrow books from the local library and read in competition. “We used to see who will read the maximum storybooks in a week. I loved to read – it was like being a new and fascinating world. So when I came to know about Calendar girls and the theme of fairy tales I just knew that I had to be Shehrezad. She was sent by her father to the heartless king to be his wife and her destiny was to be killed the next morning. But using her presence of mind and creativity she stays alive night after night telling him stories. There is so much one can do if we put our thoughts together. Same as Shehrezad who cooked up stories I can cook up a variety of new dishes and spreads. Given an open pantry I can create new dishes day after day after day. This is why I chose to be her!”
“Being on the Calendar Girls team meant that I got to meet different women from different backgrounds and mindsets. It was a wonderful experience. I think we all took and gave to each other because each of us came with a definitive plan and purpose with our participation,” she added.
Ritu married when she was 21; she was the eldest in her family. At her in laws she was the youngest daughter in law. Her role and responsibility was suddenly at a different tangent. “It was really nice to be so loved and pampered as the younger one in the family. I was given liberties and I used them in the kitchen. My grandmother always said that to win a heart you must go through the stomach. I remember that the first time I made daal at my in laws it was very watery but they relished it without fuss. I experimented and always bettered my food. From early on I had mentors who would always share with me simple tips and techniques on making staple dishes. The more I cooked, the better I got. I began to keep my taste buds alert at restaurants and then recreate the dishes at home. It was always exciting and fun to be appreciated.”
Ritu used her skills not just win hearts at home but also to participate and win cooking competitions in UAE. After a decorated journey that began in 2000 she won the best chef prize for BBC Lurpak Cooking Challenge last year. From here she chose to take her skills to the next level and began judging culinary contests herself. She also writes about food and does restaurant reviews on her blog https://fussfreecookingblog.wordpress.com
“Cooking for me is a stress buster. There is so much love involved in making a dish. It entices all the senses. The colours of the ingredients, the aroma of the spices, the feel of the freshness, the taste of the flavours and the sound of satisfaction not just as we cook but also as we eat. It is pure bliss!”
Living away from home Ritu’s sons have taken from their mother. “They can both cook and are rather good at it too! However this was not something that I consciously did or taught them. It was more of a necessity for them to learn when they moved abroad to study. Being vegetarians we have limited choices when it comes to eating out so my elder son would ask me for recipes and I would guide him online. Later when it was time for the younger one to leave the nest he decided he would learn his favourite dishes before going abroad! Now between them they can make good food and also host parties. It is very satisfying for me to see this.” She smiled.
“Life really is about giving love without judging anyone. I use my time to do what I enjoy whether it is with family, friends or food. I also am a Visual Arts teacher at Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre. My role there has helped me immensely in being at peace with myself. Every day I learn so much as a person. Often I am asked how I manage to pack so many activities and responsibilities into my world. I really think it is all about the will to do. I see time as a precious thing. I don’t idle it away in front of the TV or in futile doings. I look beyond the immediate outcome and select what I want to achieve.
“Being on this project was important to me because it gave me the place to speak my mind from and to tell the world that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from and what your space is – if you have a story the world will listen!”
About Calendar Girls: W2W Events Proudly presents the launch of Calendar Girls 2016 at the Gallery of Light on 28th of November 2016 – 6 months of work and one day of inspiring speakers, performers and Fashion showcase – we launched with a bang. An event to change minds about Beauty and Body image – showcasing the worlds most beautiful women in one calendar. #BeautywithoutBoundaries #woman2woman #womensupportingwomen #Calendargirls2016
Credit for this amazing event goes to a full team of awesome individuals!
Events By : W2W Events
The Awesome Events Team:
The Fashion Designers:
Fussy Diva – by Desi Sari Dewi
Rev Du Soliel
Hayaati by Aisha
Jewelry Sponsored by AGATHA Paris
Makeup Sponsored by Bourjois Middle East – الشرق الأوسط
Official Salon: Splendour Salon
Makeup Artist: Malini Ohri
The Amazing Performers:
Siya & Varsha
Smartband from SmartLife Foundation
Official Film Maker: Kalyan Chakravarthy (KC24)
Official Media Partner: @Selfie Tv
The Fantastic Speakers:
Marie & Lara – Bourjois
The Amazingly Beautiful Calendar Girls of 2016:
Piyaa Jayesh Kumar
Pinky Jayesh Kumar
To learn more: firstname.lastname@example.org