If you say Tarla was born with a silver ladle in her hand, you would not be wrong. One of the first home chefs in India to become a household name, Tarla Dalal’s vegetarian recipes are followed the world over even today.
Her biopic on Zee 5 Global is delicious for lessons we can learn for our money life.
The delicate art of negotiation
Young Tarla started cooking when she was twelve, and she met Nalin Dalal at a traditional ‘seeing’ the bride custom where she cooked a meal for his family. At first she is annoyed at being ‘selected’ for her cooking skills alone, but when Nalin assures her that he will let her follow her dreams when they’re married, she agrees to marry him.
Most of us learn early that working in cubicles, dreaming of that corner office is not going to be enough. Some people become entrepreneurs while they’re studying towards a professional degree. And today no one knows better than you that a work-life balance is imperative. But how many of us know how to negotiate? If you are employed, then raises are generally capped at a uniform percentage. But there’s always room to negotiate time you get to spend doing things you love! Perhaps you could start getting the company to pay for a professional learning workshop and then move on from there, hmm?
Take ownership, like Tarla did
In the film we see Tarla Dalal and her family having dinner at a restaurant. Her kids (who have been the guinea pigs for all her recipes, taste the potato curry. The young son exclaims, 'Mom! This is your potato musallam!' Tarla realises it too, and confronts the owner. The owner tries to pass it off as a recipe he learnt at a cordon bleu cooking school. Tarla slaps him. He then confesses that it is from a recipe book by one Tarla Dalal. And when he realises thatsheis Tarla Dalal he spologies and accepts that it is her recipes that have brought his restaurant many more customers than before. The family then rushes out to the neighbourhood newspaper and magazine recycler (Ghafur, the raddiwala!) and asks for the cookbooks they had sold in a fit of anger. The raddiwala is smart. He charges them more to buy back, telling them, 'Selling price is lower than buying price!'
In your money life you cannot go around physically assaulting your money manager, and you will not get an opportunity to buy back the stocks you have sold at a low price either. It's best that you take ownership of your money. You may take their advice, but the decision must be yours as to where you are going to invest. It will mean that you will need to do as much homework about the instruments in which you are going to invest, but then your decision will be logical and not emotional like Tarla's.
And when it comes to ownership, you can then take quiet pride in the right combination of investments that will make for a tasty bank balance.
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Adapt! Don't let anything get you down
Tarla’s husband Nalin Dalal, loses his job at the factory because of a long strike. He is a good quality control engineer, and has to know how to type out his resumes (remember it's the 70s and he did not have a computer) to send out for another job. And in a conversation, he finds himself solving a problem for his wife: if she cannot teach women to cook at home, he could type out all the recipes that they could give to the women! In fact he encourages his wife to make the best recipes for her first book, and ends up becoming her publisher.
Never let a setback bring you down. Markets tend to go up as well as down. Invest knowing that. Do not react when the stocks go down. Just learn from Nalin Dalal. He just reinvented himself after adapting to the situation. You too should take inspiration from Nalin Dalal and adapt: if one kind of investment is stuck or stock goes down, don't give up. Your investments in diverse financial instruments will ensure that you don't ever have to start from zero.
Ambition is good. Keep your eye on the prize
In the film, we meet Ghafur the raddiwala. He has a shop right across from Tarla's kitchen. She watches him in action - buying old newspapers and magazines - as she cooks, wishing she had the same gleam in her eyes as he does. Ghafur has an eye on the shop next to his that's bigger and brighter. Tarla wishes she too had ambition like the raddiwala, wishes she knew what she should be doing in her life.
At that time, she's teaching her neighbour's daughter how to cook so that she can make basic food after her marriage. Tarla tells her, 'The best way to win your husband's heart is by making him great food. He will agree to let you work if you make him happy.' When that works for the young girl, everyone begins to request Tarla to teach their daughters how to cook. Nalin tells her, 'This is your skill! Teaching people how to love the food you make!'
Tarla then begins to teach women to cook. When the groups become too noisy for the 'building society' who tell her that it's illegal to have a commercial enterprise in the residential building. Tarla begins to look for commercial space to teach, but thanks to Nalin, her recipes are now in a book. One book turns into many books and leads her into being the star of India's first cookery show...
In your money life, you start small, but like Ghafur, do not lose sight of your future. Map it out. Start small like Tarla did, and then expand your investments. When you begin to understand how your investments are working, it will become easier. And just as Tarla had her family - especially her husband - to help her post the perfect recipe, you too can heed the advice of your money manager and find the right ingredients to make for a superb bank balance!
Traditional methods are not always bad. That money could come in handy
Tarla Dalal brings home made food to her husband Nalin at the factory, and sees him enjoy non-veg food with gusto. Being vegetarian, she tries to understand why Nalin enjoyed the food so much. She asks her friend to explain what goes into the recipes that make them so finger licking good. Once she realises what spices make for the fabulous taste, she recreates the recipe using vegetables. It's a vegetarian variation of Nihari and Murg Musallam. Her family and neighbours love the creations!
Those who are generationally wealthy, will never look down on the traditional methods of making money. Unit Trusts, Life Insurance, savings at the Post Office and so on. Sure, you know investing in mutual funds and so on give you better returns, but haven't you heard stories about people discovering savings certificates just when they had exhausted their sources for money? So perhaps it is time to look into traditional recipes and put away money for a rainy day...
Last, but not the least, is a life lesson. Today, in the cities, especially, both husbands and wives work to make a decent living. And it's not easy for the man (who is expected by society to be the one that brings home the bacon) in case the wife earns more. Tarla's husband also goes through a time when he feels hurt about being just the support system for his wife who happens to be doing well at her work. It's a battle of his ego and his heart. It is a life lesson that makes the film a worthy watch. Tarla, the biopic of India's legendary vegetarian chef will show you how you too can face ups and downs of life and yet not give up. Sharib Hashmi plays her husband Nalin Dalal and Huma Qureshi plays the title role. Watch it and be inspired!
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication. She can be reached on Twitter at @manishalakhe.