An Invitation from Existence

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Devapria writes about her mother, Kumud Gokani, author of two cookbooks and presenter of cooking classes on US TV.

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When Osho was on the Ranch and it looked like Rajneeshpuram would live forever, my parents Ma Yoga Kumud and Swami Anand Krishna applied to immigrate to the United States. Thirteen years later their immigration came through, in 1994, just when they were thinking of building a little house in a coconut farm ashram in Gujarat, India and retiring there.

When the green card call came, my dad was interested, actually excited to accept this ‘invitation from existence’; my mum, on the other hand, was reluctant. She just wanted to ‘settle down’ and retire. She really did not want anything unplanned happening in her life anymore. After raising four kids, being a housewife her whole life, moving houses and countries multiple times, living and working in the commune in Pune for several years, she felt she now deserved a break.

Visions of palm trees, ocean breeze, three ayahs and a lazy life were left behind when in the end ‘they’ did decide to go check out life in the United States. When she agreed to accompany her husband on this adventure, my mum clearly and repeatedly stated, “I am coming with you on the condition that I will not work for a living.” To which my dad always teasingly replied, “I earned and worked for our living my whole life. Now it is your turn.”

After a long bumpy beginning and a lot of moving across the US, my parents ended up in… guess where? Yep, Oregon! After trying a few jobs and businesses, my mother hit upon Indian cooking. For the first time in her life she established her own business and, based purely on her own skills and hard work, she earned her first money. Not only that, she actually became a local celebrity. As an Indian woman who had always been the shadow of her husband and had always been known as ‘Dr Gokani’s wife’, she suddenly became Kumud and he became ‘Kumud’s husband’.

Watch on YouTube

Within a year she started producing her own TV show called ‘Cooking with Kumud’. She supplied the local delis with Indian dishes, started a catering company, taught Indian cooking classes and, with the help of friends and students, wrote her first cook book (‘Cooking with Kumud’). All of us in the family noticed what this did to her personally. Her confidence grew, at 60 she learned how to drive, and in her own way started exploring life in the United States. Usually when Indian families immigrate, they either come as a young couple and the woman is busy making and/or raising kids, or they come to their already settled sons and/or daughters and then are busy looking after their kids and grandkids.

My parents came just on their own, with no family obligations. That meant a very different life for them. The cooking projects, the cookbook and their TV productions were some of the things that expanded my parent’s horizon. For a few years my mom’s show won the award for the ‘most favourite show of the year’. The show also won an award for excellence.

One quick note about my dad and his TV production: He started a show called ‘Meditation: The art of living’. This is a kind of chat show that always starts off with around 8 minutes from an Osho video discourse. Not only has this show been aired (in Oregon!) every week for the last 18 years, the Alliance for community media presented his show with an ‘award of excellence’ where candidates came from nine Northwest States (Northwest Region).

Osho may have left Oregon but he is very much here in different forms. For example, the second book my mum wrote, Feed the Beloved Soul, has an Osho quote for each chapter. The introduction included this quote taken from Walk without Feet, Fly without Wings and Think without Mind, Ch 7:

“Food is God. It is nourishment, something of God is in it – otherwise how will it nourish you? Something of life is in it. Packaged life, packaged sun, is in it. That’s what trees are doing continuously – you cannot absorb sun directly, they do the job for you. They absorb the sun and then you eat the apple – the apple is packaged sun, ready for you. When you are eating an apple, remember to be grateful to the tree. It has done something for you that you cannot do on your own. Be grateful to the sun – you are eating the sun, you are eating energy. Taste it, smell it, touch it, be sensitive to it, be open to it and you will find windows opening in you.”

As we now enter the kitchen and the world of doing, practicalities and logistics, let us keep the love, joy and gratitude in our hearts, throughout the prepping and cooking. Those are the vital ingredients in the dishes I prepare and which I hope make cooking and feeding yourself or loved ones into a joyous act of celebration. Each chapter of this book begins with words from Osho which I have found useful.

May the food you prepare nourish your body and soul and that of your loved ones.

‘Feed the Beloved Soul’ is packed with recipes that you probably have never heard of. Most definitely you will not find many of these in restaurants – only in traditional Indian homes. So if you have had the luck to be invited to eat with Indian families, you know what I am talking about. A lot of the recipes have a little story that go with it. The stories could be about growing up in India (think 1940’s), or there might be stories about my mum’s own young family; then there are tales from being in Osho centers or about wisdom or understandings gained from being a sannyasin. There are anecdotes that talk about the times when my mum and dad (he always helps in the kitchen) cooked for and fed spiritual people in the US and in India, e.g. Ramdas, Gangaji, Vimlatai, Krishnadas, Reshambaba, etc. My parents always mention Osho when they talk with other spiritual teachers and they are finding that all of them have a lot of respect for Osho and his vision.

So, along with finding an independent identity, moving forward in her own personal growth, my mum (who is now 73) has the satisfaction of also being able to share her master along with her food and culture. This is what this book is: a good mix of traditional home-cooked Ayurvedic recipes coming from an Indian family kitchen, served with stories from my mum’s life in all the countries she has lived in (England, India, Kenya, ‘Pune’, USA and counting…), Osho and his vision, her simple and powerful insights around cooking, spices and their medicinal uses in Ayurveda, meditation and the effects of cooking with love and more.

PS: Now that my parents are getting older, retirement is always a topic of conversation. When we ask mum if she would like to retire in India she says no, because in India ‘she cannot go to her Zumba classes.’

cookingwithkumud.com – more videos: archive.org

Text by Devapria

Read Sharon Johnson’s review of Kumud’s second cookbook, Feed the Beloved Soul: Ayurvedic Vegetarian Cookbook on Osho News

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