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Glamour and Goodwill

Model, actress, film producer, foodie and now, the new informal ambassador to UNIFEM. Padma Lakshmi in conversation with T. KRITHIKA REDDY.


THERE'S A tangible sense of peace and comfort about the house and it seems to reflect Padma Lakshmi's current state of mind. No make-up, no airs. But in form-defining dress and with tousled mane, she looks every bit the ramp scorcher who the celebrated photographer Helmut Newton captured in his pictures. Padma Lakshmi is just back from New Delhi, where she visited the office of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and armed with plans to involve herself in promoting its causes. Padma in first person.

Always socially conscious:

Glamour to goodwill was a natural progression. I was always socially conscious and have done my bit back home in New York. It's just that there's more recognition now. Recognition can be attributed to the fact that I've been around for quite some time now, because of the person I married and since information travels much faster today.

Recently, I went to the U.N. office in New York and explored the areas in which I can work. I found out that UNIFEM, though not heard of, is as large as any other U.N. initiative. Its focus is on issues relating to trafficking of women, dowry, harassment and women in trauma/war-ravaged areas. There's so much stigma attached to women's issues. That's what drew me to UNIFEM. It's not glamorous, but certainly a worthy cause. I decided to lend my name to it. I just visited a shelter called Shakti Shalini in New Delhi and the experience was more motivating than what's just said in the abstract.

Leave creative writing to others:

Involvement with social causes is only a side thing. There are other interests to pursue as well. I write for some magazines. They are more like personal essays. It surprised me when my first book "Easy Exotic" featuring quick fix, low cal recipes turned out to be a hit. Even more kuzhambu finds an entry in it. It was an idiosyncratic kind of thing - a scrapbook with little vignettes accompanying the recipes. Perhaps everyone wants to know what a model eats. My next book too covers diverse cuisines. It's a reflection of our times. But it's not low cal. As far as health consciousness goes, people should make adjustments on their own. Pickle making always daunted me. I just finished making lime pickle. It came out great. I am giving it to some friends in New York.

Padma's Passport:

My passion for food does not stop with writing cookbooks. I do "Padma's Passport" a television show in the U. S. This takes me to exotic places across the globe. It's draining, but exciting.

Once we came to the backwaters of Kerala and tried meen moile. And guess what, every time friends came for dinner, they would ask me to prepare it. After a point, it was irritating. So I decided to present the recipe in the goody bag that was given away at my wedding.

When "Boom" went bust:

My first experience in the East was sad. "Boom" bombed, but I was happy I gave it my best. And there's nothing like having Amitabh Bachchan in your debut venture. Salman stood by me during those trying times. It happens when someone loves you dearly. In films, a lot of things are not in your control. Modelling is more immediate and within your control. When the show starts it's up to you — whether you fall on your face or fly!

Success is happiness: Looking back, I've been through a whirl. Success means different things to different people. To me it's about happiness and being content with what you've achieved.

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