Reena Ranger, Chair of Women Empowered, is In Conversation with Mira Manek for her regular series for 'iGlobal' to explore some inspirational facets from the life and achievements of prominent Global Indians.
Mira is a food and wellbeing author specialising in Indian cookery and wellbeing. She is a qualified Integrated Health Practitioner, a discipline that combines nutritional science, naturopathy, Chinese medicine, Eastern philosophy and Ayurveda to treat physical, mental and emotional disorders. Mira has published two books: ‘Saffron Soul’, a cookbook inspired by the vegetarian food of the Gujarat region, and ‘Prajna’, a book of simple, age-old Ayurvedic rituals for modern-day living which are designed to enhance wellbeing and bring happiness. Mira has her own brand of Chai, called Chai by Mira, and hosts events and retreats around the UK and the rest of the world.
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Culinary author, restauranteur and food entrepreneur: where and how did your love of food begin?
My love for food started with watching my mother, grandmother and aunts cook up thalis and feasts for the whole family. I loved coming home from school every day and eating rotis and simple curries – my favourite was kidney beans and potato curry.
This was normality, but it wasn’t until I was 30 that I realised the value of this and that’s when I started learning how to cook these wonderful and daals that I grew up eating, started recording them and wanted to write a cookbook – called ‘Saffron Soul’.
What is your philosophy about mind, body (and soul) and how what we consume and do impacts upon each?
How we eat and what we eat impacts our mind and vice versa. Food is of course a source of pleasure and joy, but food is our source of energy and has a functional role too. Whole foods such as vegetables and grains are packed with nutrients, with vitamins and minerals that are used by different parts of the body and mind.
A healthy diet helps maintain a healthy gut, and the gut communicates with the brain through the gut-brain axis. Ninety per cent of our serotonin receptors, for example, are in the stomach; serotonin is the chemical responsible for regulating happiness and mood. Eating the right foods and having a balanced diet can hugely impact our mental health and happiness.
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How do you manage your work-life balance?
I wake up super early three-four days a week, which means I get my done, I do some breathwork and my EFT (or tapping). This early start allows me to have a relaxed yet energetic start to the day, able to exercise without a sense of rushing around, which means I enjoy it more. I also like to use the steam and sauna once a week, I have hot and cold showers which have helped my circulation and more – so wellness and wellbeing is something I take very importantly.
This year, I’ve started reviewing my work, wellness and life at the beginning of each month, which allows me to take stock, plan and change things. My second book ‘Prajna’ is all about Rituals for Happiness, instilling practices that make for a better day and a happier life – so inserting new rituals and making sure they become a part of my daily life is very important to me.
How would you best describe your relationship with the ?
I feel British as much as I feel Indian. I love living in London and being British is very much part of my identity, but I equally have a magnetic draw to India. I go every year and feel at home there. I love the fact that I have this almost sacred relationship with both countries and that both make up my identity.
What has been the lesson you have learned during the Covid lockdown?
Slowing down is something I’ve embraced and thus patience. Equally, the past two years have taught me growth, that learning and growth never stop. Lastly, valuing my closest relationships and having less social events in my life.
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If you could go back and give your teenage self-one bit of advice, what would it be?
Keep doing, keep learning, be yourself and don’t let judgements stop you.
Which one person has had the greatest influence in your life, and why?
My grandmother. Everything from her food to her jovial, yet bold and feisty character. I’ve always loved spending time with her, asking her about her life and childhood stories, and I hope and wish I can keep doing more.
Reena Ranger is the Chair and Co-Founder of . In this exclusive "In Conversation" series for iGlobal, the dynamic entrepreneur-philanthropist catches up with high-achieving Global Indians across different fields to spotlight some insightful life lessons. (The views expressed in the answers are of the interviewees).