Today I had the unique experience of interacting with a group of Japanese women visiting Chennai.
There were four of them:
- Akemi Yoshii, works with a Chennai software company as a Japanese translator and is also a freelance food writer who has completed her Master’s in Gastronomy at the University of Adelaide, Australia) and writes about Indian cuisine for Japanese media.
- Kurumi Arimoto, cook book author is the daughter of the most famous cookery author in Japan,Yoko Arimoto.
- Maiko Shimizu, is a professional writer, editor and photographer and Radio presenter. She is running a web site “One doodle Land (http://onedoodle.jugem.jp/)” and planning to introduce Kurumi’s travel of Chennai through her web site.
- Akemi Kimura who owns a boutique in Yamaguchi, Japan.
They wanted to learn how to make South Indian dishes and my friend Viji Varadarajan, who has authored many cookbooks, arranged a session in her house. We were contacted through the internet and it was a very satisfying experience teaching them important dishes from the Chennai cuisine..
The main item on the menu was Kozhakattai/modak that is made for Lord Ganesha. They were surprised that it was just like their wontons and they showed a remarkable dexterity in making the sweetmeat. It is not an easy dish to prepare for seasoned cooks but it was amazing that they could manipulate and shape the dough, (made of rice flour and water and cooked into a paste) with élan.
I took Akemi Kimura to a French company, Vastralaya, that is custom making hand embroidered furnishings in Chennai for designers from Paris and Europe. She was completely taken aback at the quality of the embroidery and its intricacies. The workers are all men in this establishment and they truly do fantastic Ari, Zardozi and appliqué work apart from crewel and other Indian embroideries. It seems that the traditional expertise in hand embroidery in Europe is now practically extinct. The East is still maintaining its hold over traditional crafts but that too may disappear as the children of all these craftsmen are training and moving over to white collar jobs.
A couple of months ago I had the chance of meeting a Saurashtrian family of silk weavers, Veerayya Silks, that can trace its roots in the same house that still stands to seven generations. They are making silk saris and have found out that direct marketing to a select clientele is more remunerative. They come to the client’s house with their saris. They have had no training in Avon/Oriflame marketing strategies; they don’t advertise but are able to successfully run their business by sheer word of mouth.
The enterprising initiatives by entrepreneurs from different parts of the world is very interesting for a people watcher like me.