“The tell is in the smell”, said a lady who smelled all the 9 PODI jars at our booth in California. Not only did she go home with a jar of Crispy Garlic, but was evangelizing PODIs to another person who came by the booth :)
I keep thinking about these moments and smiling. If you have followed our journey for the past 2+ years, you know I don't shy away from talking about how this hasn’t been easy, and yet, entirely rewarding and purposeful. For someone who had a thriving decade-long career, starting a business, a food business no less, was a huge leap of faith.
In Oct, I took on a bi-coastal challenge - travelling to have a booth in the first week of Oct, at SALA in the Bay Area and another in the 3rd week of Oct, at No Borders Shop in Brooklyn.
South Asian Literature and Arts Festival (SALA)
'Changing the narrative' was the theme for South Asian Literature and Arts Festival (SALA) 2023. The event brought not just dozens of South Asian businesses, but also incredible writers, artists, and performers. At SALA, I was joined by 3 other young femmes in the food space, on a panel discussion titled Morning with Masala - on the panel we had Alyzeh from Peepal People, yours truly, Pooja Bag from Diaspora Co, Zee Hussain from Kula Nursery. The conversation was moderated by the lovely Madhushree Ghosh, each panelist spoke about the joys and challenges of running ethical businesses that balanced creative expression with the responsibility of educating future generations on our food systems.
SALA was a cerebral celebration of so many different perspectives and voices. It was an honor to be at an event that was highlighting people I have been looking up to for decades. I was undeniably anxious before this event, as it was my first ever panel in this new industry. However, I was so grateful to find a welcoming community, not just in the event attendees, but also among other small business owners.
It was delightful to finally meet people and talk about PODIs in person (perils of running an online biz!). When I said that PODIs were as (or more) versatile than any other seasoning like an everything bagel seasoning or za’atar it was a lightbulb moment for people who thought they were restricted to just idlis and dosas.
No Borders Shop in Brooklyn
It’s a good thing I had NO time to overthink my next event in Brooklyn, No Borders Shop. I had been warned that if SALA was busy, at No Borders I would have no time to breathe. While California was unusually warm that week (for Oct), Brooklyn was overcast and rainy all day.
Luckily, the enthusiastic people in attendance were curious about smelling and experiencing PODIs. I didn’t have to work hard at engaging this bunch - they volunteered their truest and deepest thoughts and feelings about all things South Asian without so much as a What?
Also no one celebrates culture quite like No Borders Shop - it was a lovely, inviting, come-as-you-are kind of an event!
It was amazing to see just how comfortable the Gen-Zs are in their own skin, unapologetic about their identity, inhabiting a culture where other voices dominate, just like PEEKU. Some even asked me if they could grab a PODI-bae business card to use as a bookmark - delightful to see the PEEKU fan club growing!
Attending both events was an eye-opener for me and enriched my understanding of contemporary South Asian diasporic culture, since the audience was diverse and spanned across various generations. I only wished amma could attend (she's been recovering from a knee injury); so many people asked about the genius behind the PODIs! It was heartening that the love and care with which she perfected these recipes over the years was finally visible and being celebrated.
Diwali Mela in Atlanta
After a whirlwind few weeks away from home, I came back to Atlanta and started busily packing orders from both of these events, and had another booth at a Diwali market on Nov 4th - this time on home turf - in Atlanta!
My internal psyche at this event was a bit different, it has been challenging to keep the biz running as usual, while consuming devastating news of deaths due to the Hamas attack on Oct 7th and rising deaths of so many children and civilians in Palestine. I channeled my despair into: a small fundraiser - 15% of all sales from 29th Oct to 12th Nov (Diwali) were donated to the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF), into learning more about the history of Palestine-Israel and into urging our political leaders/govt representatives to push for a ceasefire. My heart is truly with all the innocent Palestinians being displaced out of their homes and losing family members in massive numbers.
I'm gutted we're allowing this. Our collective action fueled by collective pain is the only way out. I continue to believe that small acts of solidarity matter greatly. It is our civic duty to ensure that our tax money isn't used to fund violence anywhere in the world. We need to keep our government accountable.
Grateful to all the event organizers for not just organizing such incredible events, but also for curating wonderful businesses and bringing us all into much-needed, in-person community!
If you dropped by at one of these booths, thanks for coming by! It means so much to have you here, now. Truly, thank you.
Maker's Market Artisan Faire in Atlanta
I am currently getting ready for my last market of the season - it is a holiday market in Atlanta again, on Dec 2nd, this time hosted by Maker's Market. They champion local small businesses who make their goods in America! I look forward to spreading the PODI joy.