Even though ailments like Celiac disease and lactose intolerance have been part of our lives for a while, it is only now that people have started talking about. What made you initiate a conversation about the same? Please take me through your journey.
I was diagnosed in 2010. During my symptom stage, I went from doctor to doctor but no one could explain it. The symptoms of Celiac Disease are very common. It takes multiple tests to diagnose it. Sometimes doctors are able to and sometimes they brush it off saying that it is food poisoning. In the diagnosis process, I lost out on a lot of things. I quit my job, it affected my mental health and visibly, my physical health too. This took a toll on me.
I didn’t want others to suffer like me. So, I started talking about it. I thought that maybe my journey could give others clarity about their condition. It’s also my personality. I am a very frank person who states her opinions as they are, no sugar coating. I started writing about how I could not travel in society or eat outside. I did not have to talk about these but I did in the hope of helping someone to diagnose themselves. Of course, I am not a doctor and I do advise them to visit one. But this preliminary sharing can direct them in the right direction.
Once you recognised your diagnosis about Celiac disease, what steps did you follow to make others aware of it?
While attending social gatherings, I made sure to inform the host about my situation beforehand. Another thing was talking. For instance, in 2010 I had found a gluten-free product at a local supermarket in Bangalore. I asked the shopkeeper if they could get more of those. I had a chat with several store managers explaining to them the reason why people consume gluten-free goods. Additionally, I have talked to head chefs of several hotels and wrote to food companies as well. Some people would listen, most of them wouldn’t. Whoever was willing, I would speak with them.
When it came to family, I had to sit them down and explain it to them. They understood some of it, not everything. Now, with time, they know. With friends, as well, it was conversation whenever I met them. I also started posting on my Facebook page. People abroad are still aware of this but very few knew about Celiac Disease in India. Since then, we have become a sort of community. We are not in the same place, location-wise, but technology helps us being connected.
What drove you to write a book sharing your story? Can you share your creative process?
In 2014, I had a 10-minute slot at a conference called The Goa Project. Sathya Sharan, the former editor of Femina, was also one of the keynote speakers at the event. After my talk, she asked for my contact information. Two months later, she asked me if I was interested in writing a book. I was surprised and said yes but I also conveyed that I am not a writer. Sathya asked me to write the synopsis first. Consequently, she sent it to Harper Collins. They approved of the book.
Writing a book was not easy. I only had experience in baking so this was a new challenge. But I was very disciplined about it. Over the one and a half years that it took for me to write, I had to revisit some very personal incidents of my life, something I never wanted to do again. Nevertheless, I wanted people to know about the hardships of this invisible disease. It took me this long as I wanted to figure out what the book meant. It was always going to be something that people could relate to.