I still remember the moment when I first tried that dessert, the way the texture felt, the sensation of it. For me, there was a sophistication to it that other Indian desserts didn’t have. It's creamy and less sweet than the other desserts and very, very rich, texturally – typically a very expensive dessert because it is basically pure cream, sprinkled with pistachios and saffron.
I grew up in India, I was born and brought up there, so it's who I am. I've been living in Australia for a very long time, but Australia does not feel like a true home, it cannot be the way India is. As I get older, I have a nostalgic relationship with Indian food and Rasmalai which is a creamy dessert, is one of the things I crave.
My dad was in the army and I remember we were at a one of the many parties hosted by the regiments –, I think I was eight or nine, and was told to watch my manners and be polite and don't eat everything like a little hippo. I was a really shy kid, so I was thinking, ‘Okay, wow, this all looks really good.’ And I started walking up and down to the table to take it all in first and that’s when I saw it and I was so taken by this very pretty dessert, I was transfixed, I knew I needed to try that.’ I remember all the kids sitting in the room with the grand piano, just eating their main food, like good little Indian kids. And I was like, ‘finished, done with the mains’ and went straight back to get THE dessert. I got two pieces.
When I moved to Australian 17 years ago my housemate took me to a very unassuming Indian shop. I was very confused at the aesthetic of this shop but so excited when I saw they were serving Rasmalai. My housemate who was Australian couldn’t understand why I was so euphoric. I had to explain that it was the first time I was eating that dessert in Australia and that it is going to be the taste of home. I don't know if it was actually really good, or if it was just my excitement and nostalgia that made it taste so delicious.
I love texture, in everything. I love really heavy linens or denim, worn patinas, rust on metal, or granular things, I like what texture represents and how layered it is. And Rasmalai has this really complex texture that feels sensorial and good to me. Choosing a colour for my wall got me thinking about how colour speaks to identity similar to texture, because it tells us a story, makes us curious. And how we can use colour to express a very deep inner self.
I'm not colourful in my everyday expression, I like simplicity and add texture to plain backgrounds through objects. I love wearing black and my wardrobe is predominantly black, navy, grey, white, with a few highlights of colour. And the work I create as an artist is very conceptual, and often tend to be dark. I do however understand how colour can make spaces look small or big and I'm very much about natural light, bright and airy spaces. I love white linen curtains, big windows and character. I think the softer pistachio colour of the Rasmalai gives me a sense of space, which is really powerful. Thinking more though, a soft aubergine hue is also emerging as the colour for the feeling the memories and nostalgia the texture of this dessert brings to me.
Knowing myself, the Rasmalai worked really well as a paint colour because the flavour of the dish is so subtle and intense at the same time, because characteristically it doesn't feel the need to be intense outwardly, and I can relate to that.