“You will never follow your own inner voice until you clear up the doubts in your mind.”
Indeed, there’s more than a grain of truth there. In a moment of self-realisation something similar happened to life coach and corporate trainer Sujit Sumitran.
Having had enough of his challenging corporate lifestyle that involved being on his toes all the time, quite literally, travelling 15 days a month, living out of suitcases, Sujit decided to chuck it all and follow his heart. He was in Delhi recently holding the first round of his bread baking workshops in the city and took time out to speak to 90caps.
Heeding that ‘certain call’, the “restless person that I am, I realized there is more to life than work,” says he with a twinkle in his eye.
For too long he had fashioned his life as a professional on someone else’s terms and this was the moment to grab life and live it on his terms, savour a peaceful, simple existence, away from the madding crowd. Having spent time variously on work-related projects in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, in 2015, he decided to shift base. With his parents and his wife, he dropped anchor in a 100-year old house on the banks of the river Mapuca in Goa from where he continues his work with large corporations, while pursuing his interests.
“It was a conscious decision to quit my high-salaried job and escape the clutter and chaos of urban existence. I needed to do different, more meaningful things than just make money, pursue hobbies; take one day at a time, slow and easy.”
Leaving a successful corporate job for starting an altogether different venture is not easy, but some dream big. So what started out as a weekend hobby – rustling up delicious fish and mutton biryani – to de-stress and unwind evolved into a fulltime calling that has few parallels. But mind you it was not ‘biryani’ that fired up his imagination!
“The lifestyle change gave me a chance to try out new stuff. I started my own company in 2012. I also now had plenty of time to play around with food, innovate and try out new recipes,” he says, informing that it was only in 2013 that he took to baking bread seriously, introducing the hitherto largely unknown sourdough bread to Indian audiences.
From a corporate honcho to baking, that’s one giant leap back to the basics, one would remark. “Well baking chose me rather than the other way around,” he says.
But why baking, one persists? “Because unlike all other forms of cooking where ingredients are dead, baking is alive,” he answers cryptically, then helpfully qualifying that his favourite sourdough bread consists three basic ingredients, whole wheat flour, (milled at home by him) water and freshly prepared yeast. The home-prepared yeast is important because it enhances the nutritive value of the bread by allowing the bacteria and yeast to help digest nutrients and increase their bio-availability. Since sourdough is slow-fermented bread, it also ensures that one does not get a bloated feeling, which one normally does after having the regular commercial bread. Also, there is the option to be innovative and douse it with interesting flavours, which Sujit usually does!
A self-taught sourdough baker, Sujit has brought about a renaissance of sorts in the world of baking with his new offering. Though sourdough is an old and popular form of baking bread in Europe and the Americas, the discerning in India are waking up to its benefits.
In a world that’s obsessed with convenience and quick fixes, Sujit is a strong advocate of the slow-fermented sourdough bread. Why? Because it is “100 per cent natural, handmade, healthy and crusty bread made with time as an ingredient – the way bread was made thousands of years ago. Bread, in which flavours rule and speed isn’t prioritised over nutrition.” And believe you me the end product is to die for!
Popularly known as ‘The Bread Whisperer’, Sujit’s baking passion shows in many ways – in the black Tee he sports with the legend proudly proclaiming ‘Bread is life, lets bake it a better world’; in his eye for detail and his due diligence to ensure that the loaf is a piece of culinary art.
It is fascinating, nay riveting, to watch ‘passion, precision and patience’ acquire poetic levels in the elaborate way he goes about preparing the sourdough bread.
Armed with all the baking accoutrements, he kneads and moulds the flour to a fine consistency, adding the freshly prepared yeast, a variety of seeds or different fruit flavours, tucking and folding the dough, moistening it, patting it gently, almost coaxing it to ‘rise’ to the occasion!
He is preparing three varieties of sourdough bread in preparation of the workshop he will be holding the next day. These include the normal sourdough flavoured with dill pollen, the second one has powdered keenu fruit and the third one is nutritious ‘seeded bread’ flavoured by sesame (til seeds), nigella (kalonji), sunflower, flax (linseed), melon seeds and anardana (pomegranate seeds). The dough having been given the loving treatment is then set in a rattan basket and left in the refrigerator for a few hours to ensure it soaks in all the goodness and flavours, before being baked. What emerges from the oven is a delectable offering with its warm, crusty, honey-hued look.
Even as you watch the proceedings with your saliva working up a frenzy in your mouth, Sujit informs that sourdough bread teams up best with Indian and South Indian curries, especially wife Sudha’s and his mother’s cooking which receive fulsome praise and, the famous Kerala ishtew (stew), that staple of all Malayalis!
Amongst his personal favourite flavours and ones he repeats often are: green chillies and cheese; coffee and cranberry; dark chocolate and green chillies; panch phoran (five spice mix); beetroot and black carrot to give it a tantalising purple hue.
With his baking making waves not just in Goa and across India, it may come as a surprise that Sujit who bakes “every second day” does not sell his bread but barters it!
“Money has a very dehumanizing effect and keeps things on such a commercial level,” he rues.
“I prepare my bread with love and passion and am so much happier to share it with people, connect and build bonds. Barter works out just fine. Usually, when people come home for bread they bring along eggs from their farm, home-made butter, fresh fruit from their orchards, some special dish they have prepared … and it works out just fine. At the end of the day we are all happier and we have strengthened our ties!”
Need one say more?
To cater to the mushrooming demand, Sujit Sumitran is on baking road-trips across India. Overwhelmed by the response with all the workshops being sold out within hours of announcement, for the first round, nine workshops have been announced as part of Round II across three cities:
Mumbai: 20th, 21st & 22nd April, 2018. Venue: Studio Eighth, Bandra
Bangalore: 4th, 5th & 6th May, 2018. Venue: The Smoke Company, Koramangala
Delhi: 11th, 12th & 13th May, 2018. Venue: AR.CH. Studio by Smriti’s Special, Mayur Vihar Phase 1
Featured image Photo Credit: Madhumita Nandi