career transitioner/ restarter
INDRA RANI LAVAN ISWARAN
Author I Host I Signature Chef
(In her 70's)
Her story (as shared by her nominator)
Indra is a devoted wife and mother to her family. She assisted in her husband’s clinic, and also has extensive experience in the international medical conference arena. She later worked closely with different countries in organizing government meetings to undertake infrastructure projects.
Indra is also a published writer, poet, playwright, and also written and directed several dance and drama stage production. She taught herself how to cook and through the years have developed outstanding culinary and presentation skills to her guests. In recent years, she played and continued to play hosts to travellers and locals, opening up her beautiful home for private dining. She offers her exquisite various home cook cuisines with a narrative of each dish that bring us back in history.
Indra centres herself to bringing different cultures and viewpoints together. She involves herself in several associations, telling stories, participating and preserving history of Ceylon Tamil culture through her writing, creative production and involvement in temples. When friends dine at her place, Indra will always take the time to create simple beautiful table settings. She prepares and cooks with love and passion constantly testing and fine tuning her dishes for her friends. She challenges herself to be better when an ideal dawns on her.
Encouraged by friends, Indra opened her lovely home for private dining in her late 60s when most would be happy to retire and occasion cook for family and friends instead. She enjoys personalizing each dining booking and also share tales of lost traditions and how each dish came upon when she serves the dishes. Her heart is gold.
As she wants to keep the traditions of the Jaffna cuisine and afraid that it will be lost in time, in 2019, at the age of 70, Indra self wrote and published her book “They came from Jaffna. A historical Culinary Journey and Enchanting Tales of Roots, Routes and Vivid Memories as told by a Pioneer’s Granddaughter.” A collection of history and 300 + recipes across different cultures, 500 pages in total. At 70 years old, she launched her book to great fanfare where she oversaw the buffets menu from recipes in her cook book as well as the table settings in the function hall in the Grand Hyatt. It was an unforgettable stunning and grand event. The book won an award for 25th Gourmand World Cookbook Award 2020.
Indra is the epitome that no matter at what age, you can always create and do something spectacular and share with the world. She once said that her life began at 60 when she is more free to do what she wants, likes, and create. Her time is now. It takes great focus, determination, persistence, passion and love to have self written, design and produced her book all on her own.
In her words:
My greatest achievement was to write an award winning book called 'They Came from Jaffna'. It is a 570-page coffee table book with history and the legacy of my Ceylon Tamil heritage. I received a grant from NHB and the book was launched by DPM Heng Swee Kiat in 2019. I wrote the content, designed the layouts and the covers, did the photography and published the book on my own although I had no experience in such a venture. It won the Best Books In The World at the Gourmand World Award 2020 in Paris.
Biggest challenge thus far
My husband and I had four children, the last being very premature. The three older children still under 5. I had no proper help as it was very difficult to get at that time and there were no foreign domestic workers then. To add to my challenges juggling my role as a wife and mother, my husband's elderly mother and two siblings moved in with us. Hence we were 9 persons in the household. It added to the strain to my already full time duties as a housewife. I was running the home and taking care of the very young children including the extended family who were very demanding. None of them did anything around the house. I had to cook, clean and iron on top of looking after the four children and the in-laws. They lived with me for 12 years and I took care of their every need. This was the most challenging time of my life but I was duty bound to my husband to take care of his mother and his family and our very young family.
I was very proud that I managed my life with humility and candour. I came from a very affluent background where there was so much house help. Never in my life did I ever think that marriage would include challenging demands from live-in extended family. But I had it within me to work hard and be a dutiful wife and mother as well as an in-law. Perhaps all of this made me what I am today and I am proud of my achievements.
what judges say
Incredible achievements and shifts at her age, and she has shown amazing strength and resilience. Her book is a clear achievement!
Still pursuing her goals and pushing her dreams, not letting age be a barrier!