DR. INDU SHAHANI
Dr. Indu Shahani, Sheriff of Mumbai and Principal of H.R. College, tells an interesting tale about her college canteen, as she feeds us some scrumptiously tangy Chinese bhel piping hot from its stove."When I became Principal, 123 Dinshaw Wachha Road, where HR is housed, became a no-hawking zone. I was stranded with many hungry 'outstanding' students, as they spent a lot of time standing outside and eating off the stalls! I thought it was a good opportunity to bring them in, and we had a little space in our backyard where we created a small canteen. The hawkers were rehabilitated and the students weren't as 'outstanding' anymore! Everybody was happy."
Indu Shahani has the unique ability to get along with almost anyone and put them at ease immediately. She's a natural teacher, and is living and loving every minute of her role as the benevolent Principal. Her life revolves around it. After a quick breakfast of some papaya pieces, she's at her desk. She lunches at it, too, a couple of chapattis, some vegetables and a flask of lassi. "I get withdrawal symptoms without my lassi," she smiles. In the evening she snacks on a sandwich, and dinner is generally at home with her husband, Ranjit, who heads Novartis (India). Their son, Siddharth, after graduating from the London School of Economics, is working in London.
| She may not don the chef’s hat, but she has mastered one essential Sindhi skill: that of roasting the perfect papad! "It was again my father-in-law who helped me get it right. He used to say that a papad cannot be either underdone or overdone, and I use it as a metaphor for life," she says sagely.
She recalls how, for 30 years, a family dinner has meant going to the Golden Dragon. "Left to me, I would opt for the Thai Pavilion, but I am generally overruled!" Passionate about Parsi food, she adores the akoori na pattice and egg-chutney pattice her school friend's mother used to make! "Despite my strong preference for vegetarian fare, I heartily tuck into the jardaloo ma chicken and other delicacies at a Parsi wedding."
She's also fond of her native Sindhi cuisine, and confesses to making some very good Sindhi bhajiyas. Called Sanha pakoras, they are made of gram flour and onions and are double-fried. Surprisingly, it was her father-in-law who taught her how to make them! But, that apart, she confesses she's not much of a cook. "If it comes to me I can cook, but out of choice I would rather read a book!" She recalls the time her son's teacher at Campion School summoned her over an essay he'd written titled 'My Mother's Cooking'. "Would you believe he wrote just a single sentence: My mother makes very good toast!"
But her lack of interest in having an apron around her has spurred him on instead. "My son's a great cook," beams the proud mum. However, she has mastered one essential Sindhi skill: that of roasting the perfect papad! "It was again my father-in-law who helped me get it right. He used to say that a papad cannot be either underdone or overdone, and I use it as a metaphor for life," she says sagely.
Any indulgences? "I love hot toast with butter melting on it, although we are now avoiding butter!" Not faddish about her food, but sensible, she says walking every evening at the Hanging Gardens and doing the Surya Namaskar every morning keeps her in fine fettle.
A holiday usually means heading to London to see her son and losing herself in the parks. "I particularly love Holland Park, with its Japanese Garden. And I enjoy going to the pubs and eating my cod and chips. My favourite, of course, is the grilled cod at North Sea Fishing. Although the fried cod at Russel Square is also delicious. Another joy is sitting at the Serpentine Café at Hyde Park, with a cappuccino and carrot cake, and watching the ducks! Something I've learnt from spending so much time in London is not adding sugar to my coffee or tea. They hardly ever even serve sugar there."
Sharing the secret of her svelte dynamism, the principled Principal asserts: "If there's one thing I try to teach younger people it's to cultivate good eating habits, with an emphasis on regular exercise. Fast food is an addiction that needs to be contained."
DR. INDU SAHANI INTERVIEWED BY shernaaz engineer and photographed by FARZANA CONTRACTOR at h.R. COLLEGE , Bombay
About the mag