Mrs. Tarla Dalal, India’s most-loved and best-read cookery author, lived a life of giving and sharing – love and joy. Readers and viewers, who had celebrated Diwali with the sweets she taught to make through her books, videos and TV shows, could not believe their ears when they heard she passed away early on the morning of 6th November 2013.
Like them and you, we too thought she was forever – a permanent happy fixture in our lives, a motherly figure who would guide us through our culinary journeys always and always.
Her own eventful journey began on 3rd June 1936, as a little girl born to a couple in Pune. She was the eldest daughter of that Vaishnav family, and little would they have known then that she would one day become the diva of Indian cookery! She had a natural bent for cooking, and at the young age of 12, she helped her mom with everyday cooking at home! She went to college and finished her B.A. Economics in 1956, and soon thereafter she was married to my father , Mr. Nalin Dalal, who was doing his M.S. in Chemical Engineering in America.
A young food-loving Indian family in a foreign land. That was a turning point in her life, and the start of her career!
My father loved multi-cuisine food, and motivated his wife to try her hand at different cuisines. Since she loved cooking too, Mom jumped into the task brimming with energy. She read different books and tried her hand at two to three new recipes every single day! Her husband though was a perfectionist. Much as he would appreciate and devour the dishes she cooked, he also shared suggestions to improve dishes that did not come out as expected. She then would re-cook the dish for him till she got cent percent marks for it! She gave her whole to everything she did – which ultimately groomed her into an expert in vegetarian multi-cuisine cookery. But then, mom used to recollect that it took papa almost nine years to confer the ‘Master of All Cuisines’ title to her – rather a long graduation that was!
“Good things must be shared!” she believed. So, in 1966, when her friends pushed her to start a cookery class to share her skills with youngsters, she readily agreed. She started giving cookery classes at home, with six students. Soon, there were young girls (and their mothers) queuing up outside her home to enlist for her classes. Her classes became the talk of the town, and ladies in Mumbai used to say to each other: “If you want to get your daughter married, first put her in Tarla Dalal’s cookery classes”.
Happy with the success of her classes, papa suggested that she write a cookery book, to reach out to more people. Her first book, “Pleasures Vegetarian Cooking,” was released in 1974 and became a huge hit. In this venture too, her husband was the wind beneath her wings! Mom used to try and jot down recipes while papa helped edit them.
She came a long way from there, transforming her twosome venture into a closely-knit team that shared her passion. In 1987 she bought her own office, and launched Sanjay & Co. together with me. Her books were translated into Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Russian and Dutch too. We together also set up Tarladalal.com in 1988, to reach out to all without any boundaries. She became India’s No. 1 Cookery Author, with over 150 books to her credit — her huge list of multi-cuisine and course cookbooks, along with her very successful health cookbooks, have sold over 6 million copies, and her website has 2.8 million visitors per month – wow, those are figures even top artists will envy!
Her positive influence on people around her was so appreciable that in 2007, she was awarded the “Padmashree Award”– the biggest award an Indian can dream of achieving – for her contribution in the field of cooking. She was the first Indian to have been awarded in this category.
She was also extremely tech-savvy! She loved to be in touch with the younger generation, and was buzzing on all popular social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Word Press, Instagram, Pinterest, Picasa, and her own blog. The Tarla Dalal app happened to be the most recent ‘techie’ addition to her repertoire. While holidaying in Singapore in 2010, a fan asked her why she had no videos, as that was the latest way to follow recipes. As soon as she returned to India, she started making recipe videos and posting them on YouTube! That is how proactive she was! Now, there are over 400 videos of hers on YouTube, in which you can continue to watch her cook in her loving and engrossing way.
From being the best friend of every newly wedded girl, and the idol of many an Indian woman, Mrs. Tarla Dalal went on to find a place in the hearts of cooking enthusiasts all over the world. Not only did she spread the message of vegetarianism and the art of cooking exotic foods with simple ingredients, but through her charity, ever-smiling demeanour and appreciable way of life she also taught us how to live, and not just be!
We can call Mrs. Dalal’s teachings as vegetarian activism, but it was a fun-filled kind of activism that made everybody willingly walk the vegetarian path. By demonstrating mouth-watering recipes from starters and main course dishes to desserts and mocktails, she made everybody enthusiastic about trying and understanding vegetarianism as a delicious, economical and quick option, before adopting it for life.
A master of new ideas, she has demonstrated her recipes all over the world, and interestingly she never charged a fee for any of these events. She did them with a beaming smile on her face and an untiring enthusiasm simply because she loved to do it. She never hesitated to travel to any nook or corner of the world to spread her love of good food. She often held cookery shows to raise money for charitable causes, and contributed generously to cancer and asthma patients in hospitals.
She lived a life that we cannot forget, one that we can learn from. Beneficiaries will remember her charities. Men and women, young and old, will remember her cookery lessons, just as friends will remember her life lessons. Her team will always remember her unrelenting perfectionism and affable demeanor. Her family will always remember her love, care and warm hug.
Mrs. Tarla Dalal continues to live through her work, in not just the kitchens but also the minds of people all over the world. We stand by the faith that she is forever – not just as memories but also tangibly. She has left behind a legacy – not just to be remembered but to be continued. As a tribute to her, her team of professionals – honed under her direct supervision – has resolved to continue her legacy and continue to bring out many more books and on-line content based on the treasures she has left behind.
Together, let’s continue her work, her charities, her good spirit. Let’s make sure she lives on!
Miss you mom !!