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Portrait of a Woman

Proficiency in embroidery, cooking and painting were assets fit for the marriage market. Today it can be pursued as a relaxing hobby. SWAPNA RAGHU meets Ms Nalini Verma who altered the scene in the city regarding these arts.

TILL SOME years ago embroidery, painting and cooking were hobbies or mere time pass. Passed on from mothers to daughters. There were no organised school where one could learn these arts, especially in our city, till Ms Nalini Verma came on to the scene.

Ms.Nalini Verma, an ex-Teresian who started Nalini's Institute for Women (presently Nalini's Academy) 16 years ago, is today a celebrity with little time to spare. Hers is an interesting story for she is an ordinary Kochiite with extraordinary creative talents, namely cooking and stained glass painting. Her Nalini's Academy draws Kochiites of different categories and temperaments, be it school going girls who want to learn embroidery that spice up their wardrobe or young wives who want to impress their spouses with exotic cooking or retired women who want to truly enjoy indulging in their whims now that they have no rush hours to contend with.

Nalini's Academy is a hot favourite in Kochi, thanks to the vision of Ms.Nalini Verma. With shows in Asianet TV channel, regular cookery articles in most of the Malayalam weeklies, and the duties of being secretary, Rotary Club of Cochin Harbour, she still manages to devote considerable time and energy to `Black Tulip', her stained glass studio in Ernakulam. In fact, most of her works adorn the plush interiors of Kochi like `Crossroads', `Circle Manor' and hotels like `Renaissance' and `Whitefort'. She is currently awaiting the release of two of her cookery books on Kerala cuisine covering delicacies from Malabar to Thiruvananthapuram from Jaico Publishers, in Delhi.

Success has not clouded her innate sense of humour and nostalgia when she remembers how it all began. When I first began conducting cookery classes in my neighbourhood in Bombay, I was so anxious to get students, reveals Ms.Varma, with a sheepish smile. "I put notices all over my neighbourhood and got some inquiries for the course. A girl came and asked for details about the classes and I made as many allowances as possible for her, as I wanted to get at least one student .I told her my fee and she said she would join the next day. After she left, I was seized with worry that she may not turn up at all. Will you believe I ran in search of her and managed to find her? When I saw her, I told her I was willing to reduce the fee as long as she would join up for my cookery classes! She turned up for my cookery class and I have never looked back ever since. Somewhere along the way, I feel so grateful, indebted to her for paving the way to what I have become now".

She learned stained glass painting from an Italian and spent considerable time doing research to suit it to the Indian way. In original stained glass, design is made on small cut glass pieces and soldered together. But in commercial stained glass works, design is made on a single glass sheet and the chemicals used are transparent, explains Ms.Nalini Verma, her brown eyes twinkling. In Kochi, the commercially type is more popular. Ms Verma is experimenting with the idea of designing stained glass made gift items, even as she is already designing stained glass lampshades on orders for her clients who are mainly architects and interior designers.

While Ms.Nalini Verma reaches out for the stars, making her dreams come true, we need to awaken our dormant talents within and splash our beautiful Kochi city with a thousand colours of creativity as she has. After all, it is never too late to try and pursue your dreams.

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