The Hunger Artist

India Today - - LEISURE - —with Chinki Sinha

Q If you weren’t an artist, what would you be? A I’d be a chef. I’d travel, and cook what I ob­served. Cook­ing makes me happy.

Q What is your mem­ory of food? A I grew up in Kha­gaul, in a mid­dle-class en­vi­ron­ment with lim­ited com­forts and ra­tioned ne­ces­si­ties. When we ran out of curry, we would im­pro­vise. We would mix mango pickle with bar­be­cued red chill­ies and then add cut gar­lic pods. It would taste di­vine with cha­p­ati. I still crave the food served in Bi­har for wed­ding and funeral func­tions like the shraadh. They would serve it in steel or brass buck­ets, and I loved the sim­ple fare: aubergine curry, to­mato chut­ney, yel­low dal...

Q How do you cook? A From mem­ory and ob­ser­va­tion. For ex­am­ple, when I first went to South Korea in 2000, I stopped at a road­side eatery where an old lady was cook­ing noo­dles with let­tuce and red paste. I took photos, and when I re­turned, I tried cook­ing it (I fi­nally found the red paste in a shop in Gur­gaon). I im­pro­vise a lot while cook­ing. One should never cook when one is tired; cook­ing is like yoga.

Q Would you ever open a res­tau­rant? A It has been a dream of mine to open a res­tau­rant for the past 15 years. But I don’t want to open it in In­dia. I want it to be a con­cept res­tau­rant—like the art I make. It is all about who we are, our dreams, where we come from and where we are go­ing.

Q What do you carry while trav­el­ling? A I carry spices to cook for peo­ple I might meet on the jour­ney. On the way back, I carry spices, culture and photos and videos of food and the process of cook­ing it. I see it as car­ry­ing things for­ward.


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