Dr Rashna Ladhani on balancing her love for medicine and food, in equal measure

Dr Rashna Ladhani on balancing her love for medicine and food, in equal measure

Reena Ranger, Chair of Women Empowered, is In Conversation with Rashna Ladhani as part of her regular series for ‘iGlobal’ to explore some inspirational facets from the life and achievements of prominent Global Indians.

Dr Ladhani was born and brought up in Mumbai and after not much focus on studies, went on to surprise many to become a doctor. After completing her training in India, she arrived in the UK in 2002 to pursue a post-graduation in paediatrics before moving into the field of general practice (GP). Finding herself in a precarious financial situation as a single mother, she turned to her love of food to start Rashys Recipes. She now offers a unique private dining experience of Indian and Indo fusion cuisine, which has diversified to food boxes, afternoon teas and home-ready food deliveries.

From doctor to chef, please take us on a whirlwind tour of your journey.

My love for medicine and food are probably like a Libran scale – in equal measure and unbiased. From the age of 13, I have always dreamt of being a doctor. And growing up in the multicultural and colourful streets of Mumbai, my encounter with food stemmed from local hawkers enticing us to get street food such as bhel, sev puri and the tangy spicy sweet hot and cold all in one pani puri, or the dosa – which could be plain, butter, chilli butter, Chinese noodle Schezwan dosa, cheese dosa – all along the path to my medical college.

Even now, our alumni reminisce about the canteen food and bunking classes and the jestful ragging that would ensue. What better way than to tap into your soul and create a private dining experience of Indian and Indo fusion cuisine?

While the last 18 years have seen my career move to general practice, to be the mother of two daughters, to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 and within months of that diagnosis to lose my father and be unable to attend his funeral due to my treatment, I have had my share of saga. Or so I thought; but 2018 brought a new twist in the plot of marriage, which broke down after 15 years.

Left in a financially precarious situation with the ongoing divorce and Covid impacting work, and being a single mother, I resorted to my love of food to start Rashys Recipes. Being nicknamed Rashy since coming to UK, it only seemed fair to trade in that name.

What can I say, but there is always a rainbow as long as you believe in it.

What has been a low in life that has been your teacher?

I found it amusing that divorce hit me harder than even breast cancer. On so many levels and purely as a financial answer to the vagaries of maintenance of the household and my two girls, I had to step up.

Rashys Recipes started with a push to steer out of financial predicament; because even as a doctor and a single parent it has been understatedly hard. My love for food and medicine now merge as I cook along and reach out to the wider community by delivering home-cooked meals.

My heart belongs to food and the trials in the rear-view mirror seem the propellant for a dream to come true. It’s the lows and the rock bottoms that truly test your resilience and grit and yet open doors you would have never imagined.

How would you best describe your relationship with the UK and India?

India to me has been the mother of all foundations. And the UK has been the father that allowed me to spread my wings further! My Indian roots have flourished and branched off in the UK, both in my career as a doctor and in my passion as a private chef.

I love both my ethnic background and the pride to be a UK national. The accent, however, is here to stay (says the Mumbaikar!)

What has been a lesson you have learned during the Covid-19 lockdown?

Necessity is the mother of all invention. As a contract doctor, Covid left me with scarcity of work. There were cuts in the hours and manpower in the general practice locum world, as GP surgeries managed their caseloads remotely and urgent care settings were not as busy.

With a huge financial implication, I harnessed my love for food to start trading as a business. And, when you put one foot in front of the other and keep marching and keep innovating from a place of necessity magical consequences emerge.

So, trust yourself and push yourself to achieve what your heart truly desires.

If you could go back and give your teenage self one bit of advice, what would it be?

Do not steer away from your passion! I regret not completing my paediatric training to become a consultant. Instead, the Indian in me felt being a mother meant more than following a dream.

But we are more than just mothers and keeping that fire in the belly alive is the key to staying truly alive. So, follow that dream, your dream, no matter whether you are a teen, adult or nearly mid-40s as I am.

Which one person has had the greatest influence in your life, and why?

My dad. I felt he traded his life to protect his daughter when I had breast cancer. He was an epitome of sacrifice and love and his absence is a painful memory but his life a beautiful poetry.

Reena Ranger is the Chair and Co-Founder of Women Empowered. In this exclusive “In Conversation” series for ‘iGlobal’, the dynamic entrepreneur-philanthropist will be catching 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.

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