When Mita Kapur visited Bhutan, the only thing she bought was a bag of red chillies. “I ran into the sabzi mandi and then rushed to the airport.” In Turkey, her shopping consisted of “saffron, spices and cook books.” In Istanbul, well, she ate through the day. “The food was so good I was feeding like an infant — eating full meals every one-and-a-half hours. There was a man who did ice- cream acrobatics. I also discovered a dessert which was like a gulab jamun. It was sunk in sugar syrup and coated in pistachios.”
As you can imagine, Kapur's food-obsessed. So it's hardly surprising to learn that her family's equally enthusiastic about what they eat. Given the fact that she's a freelance journalist as well as the founder-CEO of Siyahi, a literary consultancy, it seems only natural that her first book The F-Word is about food, and her family.
“How have they reacted to it? Well, I guess they just surrendered to their fate,” she smiles, discussing her book at a recent Madras Book Club event, organised in association with the Prakriti Foundation at Vivanta by Taj, Connemara.
In conversation with Parvathi Nayar, visual artist, Kapur says “I was convinced I didn't want to have a structure. I wanted it to be random. I didn't want to give it a form or shape. I just let it write itself… I wanted people to fall in love with cooking again. It's fine if you have a few failures. Like I tell my family, if it's spoilt, it's spoilt. If you can't eat it, find something else.”
Mita's a believer in heartfelt cooking. “You move the soul and spirit of people you feed. Don't cook because you have to. Cook because you want to. It's an act of respect.”
She started her publishing company, Siyahi, because she was constantly meeting writers who weren't being heard. “We function on love, passion and some insane commitment. I think it's the madness that keeps us going. You become a mother, shrink, confidant to the writers,” she laughs, adding with a grin, “Also travel agent and marriage counsellor.”
Being an editor meant she had to be tough on herself as a writer. “It's tightrope walking when you're doing a first-person narrative. When you're using your own family as a metaphor you're walking a minefield.”
Keywords: Mita Kapur