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Nature's child, chef's delight

"My son disbeliefs me when I tell him that when we were kids, we would dance in the rain, bottle butterflies and earthworms and , climb trees, steal mangoes. He asks me, `you were Tarzan or what!" — Rati Agnihotri



Rati Agnihotri... the food-loving actress has her share at Cafe Coffee Day in New Delhi.

BEAUTY ALWAYS follows health. And health has much to do with food. Find a food lover who is not healthy and whose good health does not reflect on his cheeks? Difficult? So it was tough to fathom that Rati Agnihotri, yesteryear actress with perfect charms, whose health reflects on her skin and agility, wasn't a foodie.

"Oh food! I love it. I am an absolute foddie. In fact, discussion on food and recipes is one of my favourite subjects," chuckles this 42-year-old child-woman - yes, she is one with vagaries of kid who sings along instantly if some one starts with a tune, ready to hop if coaxed, geared up to mount atop a tree, steal a mango and rush to escape the `mali', trail through water and what not. "I don't know why today's children are just not like that. My son disbeliefs when I tell him that when we were kids, we would dance in the rain, bottle butterflies and earthworms and feel excited and elated, climb trees, steal mangoes. He asks me, `you were Tarzan or what! Climbing trees is awful!' Today they just don't commune with nature. For them, computer games and television is the world of entertainment. Even today when I am on outdoor shoots, I never leave a chance to roller skate, walk through jungle, ride on horse and what not."

She is a chatterbox, a very interesting one. Sitting pretty at Café Coffee Day in Connaught Place, sipping her share of hot coffee while a pizza awaits her, she does not mind revealing the "fiasco out of a nervousness" that happened with her when she was "newly married".

It was February 1985. After marriage, her first day at architect and businessman husband Anil Virwani's kitchen. "Maybe I wanted to impress him with my culinary skill. I made a wide variety of Indian food. But instead of salt, I put `nimbu ka khatta' powder in it. It was also white you know! Normally I don't taste my food. My ratios of ingredients are generally perfect." But this time, it wasn't. Hubby took the first bite and said politely, "Dear, I think there is some wrong ingredient in the food...' I tasted it and felt so embarrassed. We had our dinner out that night," she can't help laughing it off now and assures "I am a wonderful cook now. I can prepare Thai, Malay, Mexican and Chinese food." Seafood is her speciality and she cooks crabs and lobsters best.

This foodie is but a perfect homebug and traditional too. She calls herself "old fashioned". She left the film world on her own choice. "I left films when I was at the peak of my career. If I had stayed, I would have got more demanding roles but I always preferred personal life to professional life. I did not want to detach myself from the bliss of a domestic life. When children are small, they always need their mothers. Then if parents are not there, their growth is stifled and parents too become over-powering and over-protective. Stepping back is important."

It is only when her son, now 17 and in college, had come of age, she returned to films with "Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi" in 2001, continued with "Yaadein", now "Chupke Se... " and "eight more films".

"I play a very mean and nasty woman in this film who is strong headed and very defiant. She uses everything and everyone for her benefit and is completely in mess when it backfires."

Rati had been working in four shifts before she made it to Delhi. She has clouded her eyes with dark glasses. "My eyes are looking so tired," she takes off her glasses for a second on request and immediately puts them back, "people will get scared!"

She is tired now. Has reasons too, for she has been doing many other things besides films. "Candle and soap making, aroma therapy, landscaping, meditation teaching, Reiki, social work and... you will get bored listening to my list of preoccupations."

Don't get tired?

"I do! If I do nothing! The more you work, the fitter you are."

Believe it. She stands as testimony with glowing, wrinkleless skin, faultless stature and the liveliness of a child!

RANA A. SIDDIQUI

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