A fortunate few people know what to make of their lives, while the chosen others have to like a river chisel their way through life’s landscapes. I first met Garima in 2016 at her sprawling ranch house in New Jersey. She had cooked a finger licking dinner of grilled chicken gravy , spinach and cottage cheese curry, served with fragrant cumin rice. What struck me about this wonderful hostess was that she could talk while standing for hours on end, ply her guests with heaps of food and forget to offer them to sit …..all without thinking anything was amiss.
Garima comes across as a person who would prefer to blend into a situation but her glittering green eyes , quiet and wise presence and unquestionable talent as a cake artist thrusts her into the reluctant orb of attention. On a grey October evening we chat about her journey in her living room surrounded by chary owls and partridges carved by her father- in- law. Like Garima’s thinking her living room (in pastel greens and natural woods) is uncluttered and open, perhaps for accommodating in her words “any curveballs that life will throw.”
Reminiscing she tells me that despite being an outstanding student in India with gold medals in economics and accounting, the path in her life has never been a clear one. Parental and societal expectations propelled her to follow the road to academic brilliance but served to only make her seek the path of creativity that would bring her true joy . Soon after marriage , kids and responsibilities followed and thereafter she moved to Japan. It is there that a small incident almost fifteen years ago became the universe’s elbow nudge for her.
It was her son’s fourth birthday and he wanted a cake. Japan an expensive country, Garima decided to bake the cake. The result delighted her kids. Over several years it came to her that only as a cake artist could the streams of creating and teaching confluent within her . She could work for hours crafting a kid’s abstract idea and the process had a mysterious, calming effect on her that dissolved all her worldly stress. The delight on their faces and her devotion to her passion is how she has discovered joy in her world.
Each of Garima’s cake is a story and is not merely pretty in a cakey way. So a bear surrounded by moon and stars , is dozing, yet seeing a dream world, the unicorn is wide eyed and cautious while entering the realm of humans and the boy in graduation robes attempts to shake off disbelief and wrinkles from his black coat. For Garima the world and all its inhabitants are an inspiration, so the heft of a grey skyscraper, the swagger of a Harley Davidson, the happy murmur of summer streams, the delicate unfurling of green spring ferns and the crackling flames of a bonfire all find their way into her cakes that make competitor pastry chefs confess that her creations are “amazing masterpieces” .
Garima conducts state certified baking courses at the Promise Culinary School in New Jersey. For some students it’s a second opportunity to start over and it’s her endeavor that they craft a sustainable livelihood. Every artist needs to plumb the well and for Garima it’s a five mile walk near her home taking her to the sights of familiar trees, water bodies and eagles. The stroll by herself helps her to walk in life with her partner , her grown up kids with their galloping aspirations and her auto immune disorder that often holds up a serious stop sign. Her children have learnt two principles from her , one to discover and work on your passion and the second to always march on .
In an unbelievable moment she tells me that she has had to never scream on her kids or students or Toby her pet Labrador because she listens even when nobody is talking and is non judgmental knowing that every heart bears the burden of a story. Baking cakes for organizations like Icing Smiles that provide celebration cakes to children suffering from terminal illnesses keeps her humble and empathetic. She tells me sometimes people who come to her workshops are depressed or grieving . Some just need to get away from their gizmo infected worlds .The physical act of kneading the dough and focusing on getting the curls and dips of flowers, leaves, stars etc right induces a soothing effect. The touchable result of beauty and taste that can be shared with their loved ones leaves them with a curious sense of completeness and a sense of control that influences other dimmer parts of their lives.
Garima’s mornings are ushered in by Toby , a cup of coffee and tuning in to National Public Radio that brings the various worlds at her doorstep. Her head buzzing with possibilities she then comes back to her plane to connect with her family, her friends and her craft as a cake artist that feeds and fulfils her inner being. She takes almost nine hours to fashion a cake and works the graveyard shift. Often her husband a senior IT professional and a wood crafter by hobby , burns the midnight oil with her. When stuck at a bottleneck she likes to accompany him on their private plane and take off into the open skies of New Jersey. Just circling her familiar world from the top gives her a fresher perspective to whisk her various roles. .
We say our byes . On reaching home, I receive a message from Garima on my mobile that opens yet another window in this amazing artist’s life. She is a tinkering poet and I listen to her voice permeate my apartment creating a slice of life with water ponds, dancing sycamores, whipping winds, rumpled clouds and the dust of everyday life.
– : Garima can be followed on facebook at Tiers of Joy : –