She started practising yoga at the young age of 9. Turned vegetarian at 14. Transformed into a vegan at 26, and more specifically into a raw vegan at 32. And today helps scores of Bengalureans realise the power of yoga, while simultaneously coaxing them to work out an appetite for cashew & almond butter, almond cheese, homemade granola bars and other raw vegan foods. RITZ caught up with Divya Nichani, the vivacious lady behind Puraw Vida, which beautifully blends the essence of yoga with vegan food to provide a purer way of living .
Life is to be enjoyed. Life is to be cherished. Enjoyed and cherished in a bountiful manner by keeping stress at bay, the mind calm, and by biting into some of the freshest and choicest foods that nature has to offer. “Then we can realise and experience the true meaning and value of life. When our body, mind and soul are calm and the food that we consume superbly complements our spirit is when we live life to the fullest, in all its openness, freshness and positivity,” says Divya, whose profile reads as ‘mother, entrepreneur, yoga teacher, raw vegan chef, pastry chef, and a soon-to-be author’.
Though she started learning and practicing yoga as a young girl, thanks to her mother (who is also a yoga teacher), it was only post marriage that Divya decided to turn her passion into a profession.
“As I grew up I developed an intense connect with yoga. I thoroughly enjoyed the discovery that I was having with every breath, and with each asana. I was realising the immense benefits it was having on me and this somewhere triggered the thought of helping others recognise the power of yoga. That’s when I went in for a formal certification from the Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune to start teaching.” Countless individuals, both the very young and the very old have been trained by her, “with my youngest student being around two and half, and the senior-most being 78 years old.”
So if it was her mother who instilled in her the love for yoga, what exactly went about turning this meat-loving Sindhi into a vegetarian, and more so into a vegan (and now a raw vegan)? It was a visit to the butcher’s shop and the fear that I saw in the eyes of the animals caged there, says this mother of a 9-year old boy. “And I turned vegan as I felt that my body was gradually rejecting milk and milk based products. I also happened to watch a few PETA videos that ignited in my mind the idea of learning to cook without any milk products. But since restaurants have limited vegan choices, and I couldn’t eat daal-chawal every day, I had to get hands-on into learning to cook the food that I wanted in a vegan manner. As often one thing leads to another, while being vegan, I got introduced to the niche concept of ‘raw veganism’, which limits the use of gadgets, and avoids the usage of a gas and a microwave in order to preserve the nutrients in the food.” Today, she cooks lip-smacking delicacies such as raw vegan pastas, pizzas, enchiladas, juices, smoothies, soups; and mouth-watering desserts like marble cakes, apple cinnamon tortes, walnut brownies, and many more. She says her expertise is all thanks to the course that she went through at the Living Light Culinary Institute in California to become a trained Raw Vegan Associate Chef. She has now mastered the technique of using equipments like spiralizers, dehydrators, blenders to concoct exotic foods like zucchini pasta, flaxseed crackers, dehydrated pineapple chips, granola bars, raw vegan cheeses such as cashew and almond cheese, raw vegan butters including those of pecan nut, almond, cashew and Brazil nuts.
With her venture Puraw Vida (meaning pure life in Spanish), which started 6 years ago, Divya is helping people realise the twin benefits of yoga and vegan food. “Since I enjoy cooking, I myself make the cheeses, desserts, crackers and butters and encourage my yoga students to try them out. Vegan food is still at a nascent stage in India, while raw vegan food is even more niche. Beyond health benefits, the recipes should appeal to the taste buds as well. I am trying to Indianise flavours and get creative with my recipes to try and entice people from different age groups and backgrounds.”
As she gets innovative with her culinary prowess, she also provides a few glimpses into her future plans. These include authoring a book about her journey that will be replete with recipes, conducting workshops on raw veganism, approaching schools for sessions on yoga and vegetarianism, going commercial by opening up a kitchen or a café for her vegan foods, and probably opening her own culinary school in future. Wow! Now that’s a lot on anyone’s plate. Good going Divya!