[Inner Flame is now part of India Botanicals as of Dec 31st 2021]In February of 2013, I owned a beach-front condo, had a spectacular credit score, zero debt, savings et all. By February of 2014, I was left with $10 in my bank account, huge credit card debt, probably a credit score of 350 (that I was so scared to even look at) and I became homeless. Yes, ego and bad decisions from that ego sent me to the streets.
My new belongings
Now all I had left with me was
- My car
- 1 bag of clothes
- Copper water bottles and toothpastes that I was planning to wholesale to yoga studios
- My Vaasi Yoga (breathwork) and meditation practice.
My guru had told me never miss a day’s practice. And I never did. I would practice 1 hour before sunrise and 1 hour before sunset.
Selling at Flea MarketsI have always worked in the corporate world. Flea market was all new for me. I started selling copper water bottles and an Ayurvedic toothpaste in flea markets that I had initially planned on wholesaling. Flea market table fee ($5) was all that I could afford and I needed money immediately. I made $70 on Saturday. I knew that was not enough to sustain.
#VANLIFE. My new home!
I traded my newer Pacifica for a much older van. That way I can store my copper water bottles and toothpastes and I can also sleep in it. I sold the remaining furniture and with that money headed to New York, as it was a bigger market and had more wellness expos, where I could find my target audience.
Upon reaching New York I found out most of the wellness expos were booked six months in advance. If lucky, I would pickup last minute cancellations. I started eating into my capital for living expense. That business didn’t go well. I was broke again.
Now I needed to find a place to park my van and sleep, a place to shower and I had no money for food.
I found out Ananda Ashram in Monroe, NY had work study programs. You can live and eat there in exchange for seva (work). I had no choice… I headed straight to Ananda. I got work as a dish washer at the ashram. I lived out of my van in their parking lot and washed dishes for 20 hours a week.
During free time, I would listen to J Krishnamurthi and David Bohm talks on YouTube. They speak about how the brain is so conditioned and how it keeps repeating the same mistake. That influenced a lot in the way I started thinking. I stopped trusting my brain.
I stopped using my brain for decision making. My brain was only allowed to make simple, no-brainer decisions like ‘If thirsty, drink water’, ‘if hungry, then eat’. For every other decision, I would flip a coin. I had my mom’s coin, so I would pray and let the universe decide for me.
This brain and it’s reasoning made me homeless… Why would I trust this brain again? At least with a coin toss, there was 50% probability of being right! I would follow the decision, even if I didn’t like it. There was no re-toss because that was coming from my brain.
Dish washer to first Cooking gig
One day at a breakfast shift where I was the dish washer, the cook did not show up. I was asked to cook breakfast. I was very nervous because I was not a cook and this breakfast was for over 100 people. I did a coin toss and the universe gave me the permission.
Since the dish, Upma, was on the menu for breakfast, I quickly googled the recipe. Now there was a problem. The recipe I was following gave measurements for 2 servings. I was cooking for 100 people. Breakfast had to be served in an hour. I didn’t have time to calculate and since I was nervous, I couldn’t even think clear.
You see, my mom was a very good cook. I remember how her Upma and Coconut Chutney tasted. So, my plan was to spice it little by little and stop when it tasted like mom’s Upma.
Upma and Coconut Chutney was a big hit! I got many recipe requests.
Getting fired from the kitchen
I got 2 more cooking shifts that lasted about a week. The kitchen manager did not like my dishes getting raving reviews. So, I was fired from the kitchen. Now I had to pay to live at the ashram or leave. There was no open positions in other departments. I had 2 days left there.
Another dishwasher at the ashram told me, I could go live at Hariman State Park. He used to work there. The park charges $20 for camping fees. I only had $50 on me. I could, at max, stay there for 2 nights. Then I wouldn’t have money for food.
My strategy was to hang out during the day at a nearby outlet mall, keep $20 in an envelope and go to the state park after their office closed. If the ranger questions me, I will give him that envelop. If I got lucky and the ranger doesn’t show up, I could get few more nights at the campground. This will buy me time to figure out my next move.
My last day at Ananda Ashram
Thursday, I scoped out the state park for a camping spot that was well tucked away. I was about to leave the ashram on Friday afternoon and was headed to Woodbury Commons outlet. Scott and Alex from the ashram committee met me as I was leaving. They told me they had fired the kitchen manager for some other reason. They said, everyone loved my cooking and asked if I would like to become the kitchen manager!!!
I told them I didn’t like the operations side of the kitchen. I loved cooking… my new found skill set. I became full time Lead Cook at Ananda Ashram.
From Cook to Inner FlameMy cooking was now getting rave reviews and I was enjoying it. I would get feedback from guests like…they were coming to the ashram only to eat my food!!!
The most popular dish of mine was Kitchari, Sambar and Coconut Chutney pairings. At this point, I was using my mom’s recipes. One guest gave me the title 'Kitchariwala'.
The comment that changed it all
One of the guests at the ashram came to me and made this comment…
“Harish, you should just make Kitchari, Sambar and Coconut Chutney all your life and make sure everyone eats it”.
That kept playing in my head and Inner Flame was born!
Now with our meal kits and mixes, your cooking will taste exactly the same as my cooking.
Why Inner FlameThe flame stands for the spark (inner awareness) within us and you need flame to cook Kitchari. Might sound a bit contrived... With all that happening in my life, that was the best name I could come up with. Now we all have to live with it!
Our MissionTo make it super easy for everyone to cook delicious and high quality meals at home that nourish not only the body, but the soul. Better than restaurants.
What we eat is who we are. Everyday, we bless everything before we start work, so you can get the highest vibration and organic ingredients.
Thanks for reading…. I talk a lot! I did a coin toss before writing and the Universe said it is ok!!!