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With Art and Science, Two Women Are Reviving Uttarakhand’s Nutritional Delicacies

Tanya Kotnala, an illustrator and Tanya Singh, a nutritionist joined hands to form Bhuli (which means ‘Little Sister’ in the native dialect of Garhwali), last year with the intention of reviving the local art and culture of the state.

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As more people migrate to cities and towns in search of better employment and education opportunities, one tends to take up food habits that are convenient and less time-consuming.

And when migration doesn’t involve just individuals but families as a whole, much of the native culinary practices that a village or town had to boast about, often gets lost somewhere as time passes by.

Sadly, this is the story of most villages in India that have bid adieu to not just its people but its age-old regional cuisines that were high on nutritional values too.

In a bid to bring back the forgotten practices of their state, two young women from Uttarakhand have shouldered the responsibility of raising awareness amidst the rural population—through illustrations.

The Tanyas behind Bhuli, Tanya Singh(left) and Tanya Kotnala(right).

Tanya Kotnala, an illustrator and Tanya Singh, a nutritionist joined hands to form Bhuli (which means ‘Little Sister’ in the native dialect of Garhwali), last year with the intention of reviving the local art and culture of the state.

But one thing lead to another, and the duo were soon working on projects in collaboration with the state government’s Food and Nutrition Board under the Ministry of Women & Child Development to open forums for discussing issues like menstrual hygiene and breastfeeding amidst women in rural regions.

“While breastfeeding continues to remain a hushed up topic even in developed cities, imagine the reluctance of rural women to dwell on the subject. Reaching out to over 500 Anganwadis, we have opened the room for discussion amidst these women through the medium of art,” says Singh to The Better India.

In fact, the work that Bhuli undertook as part of the state government’s breastfeeding campaign in August is being used to spread awareness in about 26,000 Anganwadis across Uttarakhand.

One of the illustrations from the breastfeeding campaign—Support from family is critical for the success of breastfeeding; if fathers and family members are supportive, the mothers are more likely to initiate breastfeeding and breastfeed for longer. The key to affective breastfeeding is support and teamwork! Courtesy: Bhuli.

So, how does the term ‘nutrition’ fit under all this?

“Both of us have literally lived all of our lives in the state, save a few years in between for studies. So, the memories of our grandmothers concocting delicacies using seasonal crops is still fresh in our minds”, reminisces Singh.

Following a Masters in Nutrition and a course in Food Communication, Tanya headed back to Uttarakhand.


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“It was sometime during this time that a local preparation named lungdi somehow cropped up in my mind. When I had inquired about its recipe with my family members and friends, most had little or almost no recollection of the dish! This led to research into the various culinary practices of Uttarakhand, while the nutritionist in me sought out the benefits,” she laughs.

While much of these preparations are crafted out of seasonal crops, Singh sheds light on the importance of nutritional content in these native vegetables and fruits.

“There is a reason why such crops are called seasonal. They are meant to be consumed at a particular time of the year. If one tries to draw a parallel with cities, one will find vegetables and fruits being available almost round the year,” Singh adds.

To help more people know of the nutritional local delicacies of Uttarakhand, the duo decided to release a series of informative illustrations in the first week of September.

Some of the illustrations for the campaign. Courtesy: Bhuli.

Why September?

Unbeknownst to most, every year India observes the first week of September as the National Nutrition Week and the time couldn’t have been any better.

“Starting from September 1, we have put up posts featuring a local crop daily, that are supported by anecdotes and gastronomical facts associated with it. Also, we have added the recipes of delicacies prepared from these crops,” Singh mentions.

And because these are beautifully illustrated, the posts are a treat for the eyes while prodding the foodie in one!

Here are some of the posts put up by Bhuli as part of the National Nutrition Week campaign:

You can check more of their works on Facebook or Instagram.

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Written by Lekshmi Priya S

Shuttling between existentialist views and Grey's Anatomy, Lekshmi has an insanely disturbing habit of binge reading. An ardent lover of animals and plants, she also specializes in cracking terribly sad jokes.