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Arjun Mohan, CEO (India) of upGrad, with his wife, Surbhi Bhatia, CEO and founder of The Mom Store.
Arjun Mohan, CEO (India) of upGrad, with his wife, Surbhi Bhatia, CEO and founder of The Mom Store.

Why the kitchen has become our sanctuary during lockdown

The nearly 70-day lockdown have taken many into their kitchens; even busy startup founders have discovered the joy of cooking

NEW DELHI : Kanika Tekriwal, founder of JetSetGo, an aviation startup, describes her pre-lockdown self as a “Maggi-omelette type cook". She would order meals in most days but the threat of the virus ended that habit. Three days into the lockdown, Tekriwal, 32, dusted her oven, untouched since the day it entered her south Delhi house a year ago, and baked a banana cake. “My housemates (her help and seven-month-old terrier) approved of it," she laughs. Since then, Tekriwal cooks about six times a week. She’s tried everything from Baked Egg Avocado Boats to quinoa bread, and shares it with her neighbours, whom she rarely spoke with before the lockdown.

The nearly 70-day lockdown have taken many into their kitchens; even busy startup founders have discovered the joy of cooking. It’s no longer about heating up a takeout meal, but CXOs are turning out new recipes and experimenting. There are many reasons for this growing fondness—the kitchen offers a break from the cycle of finishing work assignments and thinking about the future, and provides a sense of control during an uncertain time.

Tekriwal finds the process of buying groceries, which she never used to do earlier, therapeutic. “I have become friends with the nearby kirana store owners. I cook whatever I find at the shop."

Research shows that rolling, kneading and mixing are all linked to positive feelings. A 2016 study, published in the Journal Of Positive Psychology, suggests that individuals who frequently take a turn at small, creative projects like cooking during stressful times report feeling more relaxed and happier. Cooking, especially baking, is mindful, explains Philip Muskin, a Columbia University psychiatry professor, in an article in The Atlantic.

Harshil Mathur’s go-to food guide is his mother. The CEO and co-founder of payment solutions startup RazorPay grew up watching her make different cuisines. He decided to channel his interest during the lockdown and began cooking for his two roommates and himself. “Once I ran out of oregano and called my mother for suggestions. I ended up putting ajwain. Everybody liked it," he says, proudly. He’s made varieties of cake, pasta and pizza. “But please don’t ask me to make rotis. I just can’t get their shape right."

The joy of baking lies in producing something tangible when most life events have shifted online, says Arjun Mohan, India CEO of edutech startup upGrad. Another self-confessed “Maggi-omelette type", Mohan turned to cooking to spend time with his wife, Surbhi Bhatia, who’s CEO and founder of The Mom Store, a mother and baby products company. “Despite being in the same house, we are so busy with work that we get don’t time to talk to each other. So we have these morning or evening cooking sessions. They are a stress-buster and I can’t even begin to tell you the happiness that comes from co-building something," says Bengaluru-based Mohan, who’s in his mid-30s. “The best part? You can’t complain something is bad because you made it!"

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