Lasting impressions are not cooked easily!

Last year, on the way back from office, I saw something new near my house. A quaint little place with green cane curtains for walls, simple wooden stools and a little door with a cute canopy on the top. As is usual after a tiring day at work, I was feeling a bit drained and looking forward to my daily cuppah and hot shower. But somehow this place pulled me towards itself like a magnet and I decided to outsource that days cup of tea to these café people.

One inside, I realized that the place was not what it made itself to be from outside. They have the best coffee machines, beans and any equipment that could enhance the customers’ culinary experience. My spirits were already beginning to lift up. At the counter was a lovely boy who perked up on seeing me. I realized how much difference it makes for one to be smiled at, how it makes one feel connected with other people and cared for in such little instances. He told me the specials with a smile, and after a brief conversation suggested that I try their caramel coffee, made from special ingredients from Malaysia. Well, why not?

I took a stool by the window and admired the evening lights while the place slowly started filling up. Since it was a new place, many people were walking in tentatively but then cheering up after talking to the Barista at the counter and his other colleague, equally polite and helpful. The boy found time to smile at people, make suggestions based on what people seemed interested in, prepare my coffee, offer my complimentary cookies along with it and keep the place tidy as a dream, all at the same time.

Soon he was at my table, with my coffee and a warm nod. I nodded back and took a sip. It was like a little slice of heaven. I guess he gathered it from my expression and went back with a satisfied smile. As I spent thirty minutes there soaking in a beautiful experience, two more cups of caramel coffee, easy bonhomie among the other guests, I couldn’t help feeling totally de-stressed. By the time I got home hat evening, I was already gearing for what was ahead in the week.

Soon I was spending at least two or three evenings a week at the café. I learnt that the boy’s name was Stanzin and he was a chef from Ladakh. I found it slightly unusual so I showed some curiosity to learn more about him. Over the next few weeks, I did. Stanzin belonged to a simple farming family based in a village near the capital, Leh. His parents went to work in the farm during the day time and so Stanzin and his sister took care of the house. Slowly, Stanzin started cooking for the family, in order to save trouble for his mother, as his sister took care of the pets, the cleaning, maintenance and supplies. Though in a traditional society this may seem like a reversal of roles, talking to Stanzin I realized that the beautiful people of Ladakh have no such biases and notions.

So, as years went by, Stanzin was cooking better than before, and soon it was not only his parents but the extended family and friend circle that was coming to partake of the feats he prepared occasionally. Word spread and home-stay requests started coming in. One German tourist who wanted to stay with a Ladakhi family, instead of a typical touristy hotel enquired with somebody at a shop if they had recommendations. Stanzin’s cousin Sonam was there at that time and instantly suggested that the tourist could stay with Stanzin’s family. The German had such an amazing time that he put up a post on Facebook and Twitter about it. Soon there were people staying with the family almost every week.

By this time, Stanzin had discovered his love for cooking and he wanted to explore his passion more. He said that while he deeply enjoyed cooking for guests from all over the world, he craved to learn cuisines other than Ladakhi. From these internal travelers, he heard about kitchens all over the world, where he could apprentice and grow his skills. He decided to act on his dreams.

Parents cooperated and Stanzin found himself in Delhi on balmy April morning. Of course were not as easy as they seemed from outside. After knocking several doors and encountering biases, rejections and disappointments, he found work in a café in South Delhi where luckily, the head chef was skilled in Italian cuisine. Spending three years there, Stanzin learn the fine art of baking pizzas, making fresh pastas and everything else that makes Italian cuisine so divine. But now he wanted more.

He has recently met and befriended a Punjabi man who used to frequent the café and enjoyed Stanzin’s red sauce pasta with mushrooms and anchovies. This man invited Stanzin to join his newly opened restaurant specializing in Indian food. Stanzin accepted and began his tryst with Mughlai and Awadhi food for two years. Another chance meeting with French man at an outdoor party where they were catering, got Stanzin interested in learning French cuisine. It was like God was showering beautiful opportunities on him, and it would be silly to refuse them. With the blessings of his current employer, and by now a good friend, Stanzin accepted the French gentleman’s offer of moving to Bangalore where he was just about to open a French café.

And here he was. Stanzin in a French café. Though by now, it had become a little more eclectic, as I understood from Stanzin and the French owner, Francois, based on their taste tests and feedbacks from various well-wishers. Hence, we saw cane curtains and wooden stools, though we also saw French crepes and croissants, at the same place! But that is another post.

Learning Stanzin’s life story, over a period of almost a year, I have developed a deep admiration for this young man. All of twenty-seven, Stanzin betrays his age, with his deep calmness and serenity. Always focused on one of the many recipes that he keeps developing at all times, I can safely say that I have never seen him perturbed or disturbed. Persevering and passionate, food seems to excite him like nothing in the world, and cooking for people gives him tears of joy at times (I have seen them myself once, when he made me a classic French toast that left me spellbound for a minute with its soft perfection).

I often ask Stanzin what inspires and drives him, and after prolonged moments of reflection he almost always says it is his unwavering belief that he was meant to have a passionate love affair with food in this lifetime. This strong self-belief, an unbelievable talent at cooking, his simplicity and passion add up to a heady mix that can hardly leave you untouched.

Each time I am going through one of my existential crisis, questioning whether I really l like my job, if I should be doing something different with my life, I find myself at the French café. More often than not, I cajole Stanzin to talk to me, and without doing much, he ends up helping me look through what a lot of times turns out to be case of misjudged perspectives. My experiences with Stanzin have helped cut through layers of confusion I had built in mind unnecessarily. Trying to find answers to everything, I had loaded myself with questions that did not even need to be asked. I had confused my past with my present and my future with my thoughts; resulting in an un-understandable phenomenon that I thought was my life. Well, Stanzin is no guru, and I am not close to enlightenment, but some precious moments spent with my wonderful friend have helped me slow down and see through the clutter in my mind. 

His life has been no cakewalk. Leaving his family left him depressed for month, because of the soft cocooned world that he belonged to. Slowly coming out of it and performing in the big bad world also was not easy. Each time he found himself settling down, he invited a change upon himself in his quest to grow and learn. Changing circumstances, cities, adopting challenges with a composed mind can hardly be easy for a twenty-two year old. 

And then added to all that, the deplorable and disappointing bias that exists in most of our minds about people with oriental looks. Stanzin recounts of many instances where he has been called a ‘chinky’ on the road and how it slowly stopped hurting because he would remind himself that what matters to him is his kitchen and his family, anything else that happens in his life is just an episode holding no meaning. In one of the most bizarre experiences of his life, after he had moved to Bangalore in the year 2012, there were crazy rumours that started doing the round regarding people from ‘north-east’. There was a mass exodus from the city amidst fears of violence and attacks. Stanzin says that those were some of the darkest days of his life where he found it difficult to stay rooted and hold his faith. Incidents and news from Delhi about assaults were also worrying him, and what he wanted most was to be around his family, that continued to support him silently and strongly through thick and thin. Though Francois, who told me that he was most disappointed with the way Indians treat other Indians, provided as much moral support as he could, Stanzin contemplated returning to Ladakh because of how he could.

I am so glad that he did not!

Today Stanzin has found his strength and equilibrium again, and proudly tells me that some of his French cooking is even better than Francois’! From what I can see, all regulars love him and his easy charms. He is a beautiful, genuine and gentle soul, which inspires all of us through this solid passion, self-belief, pure talent and kindness. I consider myself truly fortunate of knowing Stanzin, and the many lessons he has taught me about life even without knowing himself. The deep imprints he has left on my mind will continue to drive me as I strive to find my own passion and anchor, in my own life journey. Even if Stanzin manages to realize his dream of learning in one of the finest Swiss or French cooking schools (which he is working extremely hard towards by saving money and learning as much as he can), and goes away from Bangalore not giving me the chance to talk to him whenever I am in doubt or in need for conversation, his words and deeds so far will continue to stir and enthuse me. The impact that he has had on my life is so deep and meaningful that physical distance and time can never take it away…
When I decided to write this post about Stanzin, I went to the café to tell him about it and as expected, he was most shy about it. He told me that I should find somebody else who is working for the well-being of the society and a much more pioneering figure. I laughed and said that none of them have had or will ever have the impact that Stanzin has had on me. I secretly took these pictures of him for this post (he is very photo-shy!). that is why the pictures are slightly shaky. Later I showed them to him saying I will add them to the post whether he likes it or not (of course I would not have if he did not approve of it). Guess what our dear Stanzin said in response: “As long as some pretty lady sees them and asks me out on a date, I am fine!” Well, that’s Stanzin for you, a rare limited edition human being, a true winner! (and isn’t his Mohawk hairstyle cute?) I wish more like him were made!
One person who comes to my mind when I think of these qualities, trust, passion, reliability, pioneering, simplicity and self-belief, is the youth icon, Lionel Messi. Barcelona star Lionel Messi, who is the heir apparent to the throne left vacant by Diego Armando Maradona, has overcome obstacles like  growth hormone deficiency to become the stalwart that he is today. The only football player in history to win the FIFA Ballon d'Or four times, all of which he won consecutively, and the first player to win three European Golden Shoes, Messi has broken world records and created historical moments for not only sports lovers but for people throughout the world. Through his passion and talent, he has given us all things to learn from and qualities to emulate. 

Now Lionel Messi has joined hands with Tata Motors as their global ambassador to add to the latter’s strong consumer motivation of ‘Seeking Excellence’ and ‘Self Belief’. This partnership, for me, showcases not only the confluence of two global brands-Tata Motors and Lionel Messi, but also creating great stories. The campaign builds upon Tata Motors’ DNA of trust, authenticity, reliability, simplicity, as well as its commitment to innovation. Hats off to both of them, for coming together and creating stuff that is undoubtedly #madeofgreat

If you have some thoughts to share about this #madeofgreat association, then please tell me what you think (in the comment section below). If I find your answer inspiring and #madeofgreat, then you will win an Amazon voucher of Rupees 750 :)


alok said…
Indeed a nicely written post. I wish you good luck for the contest
Here is my answer
The association of Tata Motors with Lionel Messi is that of two greats. Lionel Messi has been exceptionally talented who with his hard work, determination and sacrifices has got better and tougher in his chosen sport so is the Image, reputation and quality of TATA Motors that have transformed brilliant ideas into masterpieces of engineering and created a brand and products that we are so proud of as Indians. Lionel Messi has transformed his body and the mind body co-ordination into a masterpiece of precision and excellence it would not be wrong to say that Lionel Messi is the TATA Motors of sports where as TATA Motors is the Lionel Messi of vehicles both giants in their own spheres driven by the drive to excel and lead by example. So Lionel Messi is the best choice for becoming the brand Ambassador for TATA Motors
The story of a Legend in himself – that’s how I will describe it in a short sentence. Very well written with words which enhance the simplicity yet greatness of the person. Salutations and very happy for you to have got inspired and bringing out your best in life.

My answer: Tata is a name which any and every person can rely on for its honesty, commitment and perseverance. Lionel Messi is a legend who has carved his name in history books with total dedication to the game, simple living and improvisation which is seen with each game he plays. The association of Tata Motors and Lionel Messi as their Brand Ambassador will definitely give an edge to the Tata group over its competitors solely because the brand Ambassador also holds the same reputation of not letting his fans down ever, like Tata Motors who have given the best to the world over the decades. Its an exemplary association par excellence.

You can choose my answer as the Voucher winning comment if you feel I described it all well.. :) Please remember to post it on the Indiblogger contest page today as soon as you have 3 comments here..

Mahima said…
Your post defines #madeofgreat to the hilt. Goodluck for the contest
My answer is:
Authenticity, reliability, simplicity, as well as its commitment to innovation are the pillars of strength on which TATA have built a brand that has put India on the global map. It is a brand that has stood the test of time just like Lionel Messi who tackles opposition on the field with his skill,agility,strategy,brilliance and raw power to reach and score a goal so has been the track record of TATA motors who has become a brand leader and a global giant. These qualities make TATA Motors and Lionel Messi perfect partners who stand for the same set of values thus Lionel Messi is the perfect brand ambassador to represent TATA Motors.
Hope my best to be a winner here; do contact me for the prize at
fingers crossed
bhuwan said…
Your post defines #madeofgreat to the hilt.Very well written and interesting post indeed.
My Answer
Tata Motors is a brand that makes durable vehicles, with its MADE IN INDIA mark makes every Indian proud. It is a brand seen globally as Trusted, Reliable, Innovative and at the forefront of technology. In its journey since inception it has overcome all odds, competition, and adversities with grit and determination. These same qualities are associated with Lionel Messi who was very talented and hardworking from a very early age. With each game that he played he kept improving his skills and built a career to become one of the best player of professional football. There qualities make both TATA Motors and Lionel Messi giants who perfectly compliment each other and Lionel Messi the right and perfect Ambassador who stands for the same values that TATA Motors does.
Hemaa Princess said…
Your post describes #madeofgreat so well that it has winner written all over it. Good luck for your entry.
Here is my answer.
Like minds think and act alike looking at the track record of TATA Motors it has stood the test of time and built a business that was built using bricks of hard work on a foundation of trust. Authenticity, reliability, simplicity, as well as its commitment to innovation are the trademarks of brand TATA Motors. These same qualities are present in Lionel Messi who with his immense talent has made a mark for himself on the international football field .Facing all hardships he has worked hard toiling on the fields and in training sessions facing injuries and pressure to come out trumps and be a winner. Thus these two greats Lionel Messi and TATA Motors are made for each other .There association is a bond of two legends
In case you pick me a winner my email id is :
Fingers crossed :)
Shilpa Bindlish said…

Tata Motors' association with Lionel Messi spells a significantly notable alliance that will steer the company towards favourable benefits. I always acknowledge Tata Motors as a distinctive name in Auto industry, which will not let the success 'larger-than life' elude from its fate now with a timeless guild with iconic figure Messi. I don't see this union of Tata Motors as an aspirational effort for garnering some quick publicity and evoke specific reaction from myriad crowd with Celeb branding, but is rightly an embellished handshake for keeping up the pace to get to the pinnacle of success graph. To sum things up, I am joyous to see the brand and the star uniting for 'One in a Million' #madeofgreat power-packed drive ahead :)

Shilpa Bindlish
Canary said…
Beautiful answers from you all! Thanks for stopping by! Making my job to select a winner so tough :)
Yagnesh Joshi said…
Yours is a very well written post your .Its is a very nice description of #madeofgreat
TATA Motors is a brand associated with performance, endurance and excellence. These words are also synonymous with Lionel Messi who plays as a forward and weaves his magic on the football field.Just as Lionel Messi is considered the best footballer in the world ,TATA motors which is Indias premier automotive manufacturer gives wheels to the people of India with its wide range of vehicles. Both believe in excelling in whatever they do and set examples for others to follow. They compliment each other as both are reliable trustworthy and leaders thus Lionel Messi is the natural choice as the brand ambassador of TATA Motors
prajakta sinha said…
I like the simplicity and honesty of your post! All the best!

I hope you like my thoughts too :)


These are not mere words but a part of our soul. Not just the ones that we carry around in our individual bodies but that supreme soul that binds us all together in this universe. That is why we teach our children values and morals so that these little pockets of our souls do not die away. But when we look around at our modern day lifestyle and society,it leaves a lot to be desired, right? Wrong :) I would say,as long as we have even 1 shred of humanity left,there is a ray of sunshine and that is what we see here.

I am inspired by your story just as I am inspired by the stories of Tata Motors and Lionel Messi. As I said above about humanity and ray of sunshine, it is very few icons left in this world who make me feel that way. Both Tata and Messi definitely make it to this short list.

When we talk about Tata Motors,we talk about the pride that every Indian feels because this is our truly global brand, a brand with a soul, with every product made to help us fly. This is a corporate behemoth that has not amassed its fortunes at the cost of the little man but by being a part of the very grassroots. The legacy of excellence and giving back to the society selflessly is so ingrained in Tata DNA that it has become part of folklore. Even today,in any Indian home, the moment a son/daughter gains employment in a Tata company, nobody talks about salary or CTC, they just thank their lucky stars that they are a part of Tata family. The very soul of India resides in Tata. Tata Motors has taken these very same values global, making Indians proud of what they represent. 'Look,we represent excellence, with a dollop of old world values, with love and respect' !

When we look at Messi, we see a boy with dreams in his eyes and a man who has put everything he had in making them come true, and he did! With singleminded focus,dedication and hardwork, he has managed to outdo every obstacle he faced since his birth personally, healthwise and family financial situation wise. Every obstacle became just another step for him to grow and reach up the sky. And still, every time he walks out on the field, he plays with the same agility, alarcity and a a hunger to prove himself as if it is his first game! He hasn't achieved his demi-God status without superhuman efforts.

When these two demi-Gods of their respective fields come together, there are bound to be fireworks and that is exactly what it is! Purely from a corporate point of view, there are rare instances when we see such a perfect fit form. It can be called a divine sign that a symbol of vibrancy and dynamism like no other has taken shape with the partnership of Tata Motors and Lionel Messi. More than a mere advertising gambit,it is an amalgamation of those perhaps 'lost' values that the world needs more of,now more than ever. Maybe the Gods are finally happy!

Prajakta Sinha
Sarita Gupta said…
Thanks for commenting on my post and it got me here :) Such a wonderful boy, Stanzin! Would love to meet him if I travel to Bangalore some time :) Wishing him good luck for his plans to study further and change the food landscape of this world for the better.. I am sure he will inspire many people along the way because he is #madeofgreat!
My answer to your question:
Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
Thomas A. Edison
When we have two brands based on such genius coming together, we are set to have nothing but perfection and magic. I feel that Tata Motors has chosen very well with their new brand ambassador in Lionel Messi. It is a wonderful association based on shared values and principles. They both have such self belief that they can be nothing but great! Like Judt Garland said: "“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” "
Canary said…
Thanks all!!

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