My childhood was spent on a film set. I grew up watching actors changing into glamorous attire for a performance, dancing to a choreographed film song and acting out some amazing scenes. To put context to this situation, both my parents own a production company which is how I had access to the amazing world of films.
Throughout my childhood, I knew that I was meant to be an actor, it was something I felt was in my DNA. After finishing college in Mumbai, I went to New York to pursue a diploma in acting at the New York Film Academy. I arrived back to Mumbai in April 2012 and took up a job as an Assistant Director on Bang Bang which starred Hrithik and Katrina. Since I had no experience and came from a film family, I was given the title of “Dahej” for the first couple of months as no one in my team actually had any faith that I could do anything. They thought I am just going to be another privileged kid who comes to work and gets by doing nothing. Within two months of the job, I proved them wrong and before I knew it I was considered an integral part of the team.
Through this movie, I realized how much hard work actors put into their jobs and what actually goes into making a movie. Growing up in a film family you only see the effortless side of filmmaking but the actual hard work, grit and determination of each crew member is something you can only experience if you work on a film.
At the same time, there was a major dance film that was going to be made with a new girl and an already established actor. I had met the director for the part who was clear that he would only know that I fit the part upon seeing me in rehearsals but assured me that I had a real shot at the movie. I had to take the chance so I left my existing job to start training. An international team was meant to fly down and we were meant to start rehearsing from January 2014. I had already begun training of my own in the meantime so that I could keep up with whatever was thrown my way. I was prepared to work hard. The rehearsals kept getting postponed and eventually an established leading lady was cast. I decided to not give up and instead use this opportunity to train with some amazing choreographers even though I knew I wasn’t going to be part of the film.
Most days I was the only girl in the rehearsal room and the rehearsals were headed by this amazing dance crew who specialized in stunts. I didn’t have any background in doing stunts but upon their insistence one day I really tried to give it a shot. I did a somersault without my neck touching the ground and landed directly on my right side lower back that tore the last disc in my lumbar spine. So here I was at 23 with no film in hand, a broken spine, no job and severe depression.
After months of physiotherapy, I started practicing yoga again to regain strength in my spine. My practice is where I began to regain more emotional balance. I have always loved sleeping early and waking up early to practice. Personally, I am not very sociable as I often feel anxious in big groups, intimate gatherings are what resonate with me the most. So even though I did my best to attend every film party/premiere/award function, overtime I just didn’t want to anymore. Spending your weeks only messaging casting directors and film directors, hoping for a meeting and attending auditions but never getting an actual part in a movie can really damage your confidence. But coming home to my mat I always found a space of non-judgement and acceptance.
In 2015, I developed severe lactose intolerance, what started out as a stomach infection, ended up me being completely intolerant to all kinds of dairy products. This made no sense to me at the time as growing up vegetarian, dairy was a large part of my diet. In February, I launched my brand Yogisattva as a yoga merchandise brand to sell yoga inspired products for people who wanted to gift their friends/family yoga themed gifts.
At the end of the month, I went to Goa for a period of 7 weeks to deepen my own practice of yoga and heal my spine. During that time I ate a lot of plant based food made with unprocessed ingredients. I remember feeling so energetic and my personal practice was stronger than ever. This was the best I had felt physically and emotionally so far in my life. As I delved deeper into my practice I stopped seeing any worth in the materialistic aspect of the merchandise I created.
I got back to Mumbai and on a whim flew to Bali to qualify as a Raw Vegan Chef with no intention of actually cooking for anyone but myself. I came back and started offering smoothies to my friends post a workout, three years ago no one had any idea what Mango Matcha Smoothies were or that Acai is a superfood. Upon my friends insistence, I started selling food through a small email group of only twelve people and with only 4 things on the menu and once a week pick up under my existing brand name Yogisattva. The 12 people on the list became 25 and then 50 and before I knew it I was in business! Instagram really made me popular fairly quickly and I began selling food everyday. Throughout this time I also started teaching people how to make this type of food and I began hosting plant based brunches in my own house.
Even though I was working out of home, for the first time I felt a sense of financial independence. I would participate in exhibitions, stand for hours in the heat at every Sunday’s Farmers Market, pack up my entire kitchen to teach a cooking class at Studio Fifteen and begin cooking from 6am in the morning to host a plant based brunch. However, I was happier than I had ever been.
The process of auditioning really knocked my self esteem and with Yogisattva I began to regain all of it back. Everything made sense because I had purpose. I was still auditioning through this entire time as well hoping for something to come through because one part of me felt like I must fight and not give up. But now I didn’t feel so lost anymore. All my meetings with casting directors were much more interactive now because suddenly everyone was interested in what I was doing.
In 2017, I had the opportunity to be part of a music video and I was so excited. Finally this was going to be my big break. I was made aware before I joined the project that the music video had a very low budget and I would have to bring my own clothes as well as organize my own hair and make up team. So here I was in this music video and paying for everything with the money I made from Yogisattva! Upon its release, while I got a lot of love from my friends and family, it had no real impact on my career.
I remember after this video released I went for an audition which was for a web series that was meant to be a prequel to Baahubali and as I was saying lines like “Maheshmati ke raj gharaney mein” I burst out laughing. I don’t know what it was but it just didn’t seem right. I didn’t belong here. I didn’t want to be here. And it’s like a switch came on and the next day I just felt liberated that I no longer felt the need to pursue this line of work. For the longest time there was this internal battle inside of me that felt like I was giving upon my dream and this constant pressure to prove myself. What I realized is that my dream itself had changed but I was too scared to admit it. I began giving my time completely to Yogisattva and took up work as a chef in many Yoga Retreats across India, Portugal and England to work on my skills and understand how a professional kitchen works.
In 2018, I finally opened my own space. Today Yogisattva is India’s first Whole Foods Plant Based Culinary Academy combined with a Yoga Studio and Retail Store for all our Vegan Food and Dessert. I wanted to create a space where I could provide people who had lactose and celiac intolerance with options for both food and dessert. I want to empower people with the knowledge of eating unprocessed nutrient dense foods and share that the process of health and wellness begins from inside out. I love reinventing the vegetable and showing people there are so many ways to eat the same vegetable. Being a certified Yoga Teacher as well, I now teach at the space every week day. I don’t have any aim to convert any individual to any specific lifestyle or way of eating, I simply want to share the food that makes me so happy and feel so good.
What I learnt through this entire journey is that it’s okay for dreams to change. I learnt that sometimes you can give something everything you have and it still doesn’t work out only because you were meant for something better. I learnt that no matter what people tell you about the way you look, you can only feel beautiful if you yourself know that to be true. I learnt that I am blessed to have a family that supported me in whatever I decided to do in my life. I learnt that you don’t need a huge group of friends to be happy but just a few friends who you can really count on. I learnt that even though I wasn’t the conventional 20 year old partying girl, I still managed to fit in comfortably if I wanted to. And most importantly I learnt that kindness always goes a long way and eventually makes everyone and everything come around.