Rebekah Blank does not remember life before India, for a good reason—she was barely a toddler when her family left the US. The co-founder of Fabcafe (the dining arm of fabindia) and Atmosphere Kombucha talks about growing up in Mussoorie, living in Delhi, and her love for the outdoors and healthy eating. By Rashima Nagpal
What was it like to grow up in Mussoorie?
My parents moved to India when I was 18 months old, so I don’t have any memory of my family’s life in the United States. My childhood in Mussoorie was pretty unusual. We spent a lot of time outdoors, playing in the forest, climbing trees and mountains, making fire. It was the complete opposite of the city life that I now experience in Delhi. My school Woodstock, and Mussoorie in general, had an international community. It gave us a global perspective, and we made friends from different countries.
What’s your go-to place in the country and why?
My hometown—Landour, Mussoorie—where I always feel very grounded and peaceful. I still have a lot of friends there. I also love going to Goa; South Goa in particular. Agonda Beach is a very relaxing place for me.
Tell us about some of the most memorable trips you have taken in India.
We used to take family trips to Goa during winters. We would spend a month or two near Palolem Beach, and a lot of our friends from Mussoorie would also be there. Other than that, we did a lot of hiking in the Himalayas. My parents would find some obscure mountain, valley, or lake, and we would go on family excursions, carrying our own tents and food. My parents didn’t believe in porters or guides, so we would be by ourselves, surviving in the wilderness.
Fabcafe is an interpretation of Indian recipes. How did the idea come into being?
I went to college in the US. We had a big corporative association, where the students would make all the decisions and do all the work around ordering and cooking food. I ended up being a chef as part of the organisation, and learnt a lot about carbon footprint, and how important it is to eat local food. India has an amazing culinary history. Almost anything can be grown here. We did a lot of research in finding different ingredients, farmers, and suppliers for Fabcafe. We wanted to create a menu that offered Indian food that was not mainstream.
You also founded Atmosphere Kombucha with your sister. What part of the brand do you take care of?
I am exclusively working with Atmosphere, currently. I handle making and brewing the kombucha, running the factory, marketing, and the strategic aspects of the company.
What is your idea of healthy eating?
I try to eat as much organic food as possible. I love going to Nature’s Soul in Defence Colony [in Delhi]. They have an amazing curation of products from small health-food businesses around the country. I order online from I Say Organic and Prodigal Farms. I also go to the farmer’s market at Sunder Nursery on Sundays.
How did you discover your love for yoga?
I discovered yoga when I was in high school, through a book that I picked up from the library. After college, I developed a personal yoga practice to stay fit.
You’re married to an Indian. Are there cultural differences that you both have to navigate?
I got married about a year ago. Since I grew up in India, it’s not much of a cross-cultural relationship. Culturally, I’m fairly Indian. The way we relate to our families is very different, though. But the way the two of us think on a daily basis is more or less the same. We ate the same snacks and watched the same television shows while growing up.
I read somewhere that you are fluent in Hindi. Did you learn the language or pick it up?
When I was younger and living in West Bengal, my parents sent me to a local school. I had to enrol myself in either Hindi or Bengali classes. My parents thought that Hindi might be more beneficial for me in the long run. It was a bit of a disaster, because everybody in my class already spoke Hindi. But now I talk in Hindi on a daily basis.
What is your advice to foreigners travelling to India for the first time?
Experience the roadside culture as well as the luxurious side of India. I’d recommend having an open mind and not having a tight schedule. Those of us who live in India know that things don’t always happen the way you expect them to.