“I followed my heart with the intention to give,” says Ity Tiwari, a cooking teacher, tourist guide, beautician, community activist and homemaker.
Ity Tiwari came to Switzerland in 1999 – after travelling to Sweden, Singapore and Germany along with her husband on his various job postings. “Our daughters were three and five when we moved to Wallisellen. “Mansi, my elder daughter, studied at an international school until the third grade. We later moved her to the local school. The younger one, Tanvi, started at the local ‘Spielgruppe’ and continued with the Swiss school system. The girls are now 20 and 23 years of age”, says the humble and elegant lady with a smile that reveals pride.
Family life and volunteering went hand-in-hand for Ity
Ity comes from Jaipur, where she grew up in a traditional Rajasthani family. Hailing from a region famous for its rich food and a country of international culinary fame, she had a natural inclination towards cooking and eating fresh, healthy food. “When Mansi was at the international school, I started a weekly ‘hot lunch table’ for the entire school to make up for some of the unhealthy packed lunches the kids brought along. Soon, other women joined in. I strongly felt that every child, especially at a young age, should get a good home-cooked lunch at school. And in time, the pull towards cooking grew.”
Irrespective of which country she was in, Ity was very involved in the local communities, stepping up as an organizer and volunteer for all sorts of activities. When she moved to Switzerland, she says, “There were 14 kids in the building. Taking them outside for activities enabled my first contact with local parents. In the early 2000s, one of the challenges was the little English our neighbours spoke. This encouraged me to improve my German,” she says. It also prompted her to attend German lessons once a week at the local Migros Klubschule.
“While doing my German course at the Migros Klubschule, I saw an opening for a cooking teacher in the adult education section. Being passionate about freshly cooked food, I applied for the position as an Indian cooking teacher. As I began teaching both adults and kids in the community of Wallisellen, I became enmeshed in the local life here and consequently more fluent in the local dialect. The Klubschule was looking for someone experienced – and I had the relevant experience from Wallisellen, I got the job as an Indian cooking teacher. The dishes I chose were simple, authentic and full of flavour – a gateway for the locals to experience Indian cuisine.”
But Ity was engaged beyond her cooking courses to keep life happening and exciting. “I also volunteered at the Gemeinde Wallisellen, helping out with projects like the ‘Mittagstisch’ or the local Catweek Project. I never worked with the intention to build up a career, but simply wanted to give back to the community I was living in.”
Twenty years in this country – effectively trilingual and multi-talented, Ity is making a positive impact.
Creativ-ity started out as a food blog at that time, blogging and social media hadn’t taken off in Switzerland. Her U.S.-based cousin encouraged and supported her to give it that extra push. Truth be told, Ity was sceptical, but that didn’t deter her. “Threading, cooking, sewing – I was interested in a lot of things. When we looked for names for the blog, we settled on ‘Creativ-ity’. It is now a website, featuring information about my private cooking courses, recipes and places in Zurich and my hometown that I am passionate about. It also features my side project as a beautician. The main reason for focusing on my private cooking lessons was because I believe that everyone should be really taught to eat healthy, no matter how much or little time or experience they have. The idea is to be creative and eat healthily – and do something together.”
Do you work as well?
Like many living here, those labelled ‘trailing spouses’, Ity, too, was asked the time-tested and irritating question: “Do you work?”
And for this, she has a smart and quick, honest to the core and pointed reply that many women can be proud of echoing: “I have always worked. Apart from jobs and volunteering, I have always considered the roles of a wife, mother, and homemaker a 100% job. By no means do I underestimate the significance and value of these roles that I am blessed with. Is working connected only and solely to the commercial aspect of bringing in the money?”
Today, after a variety of work experiences that include being a beautician, an independent cooking teacher and one employed by the Klubschule; she has also stepped in as a part-time guide at Zurich Tourism. “I love all of it. I need chaos to keep going. I need the work pressure to be sane. It may sound strange, but this buzz keeps me relaxed and gives me purpose and zeal. I might not carry the weight of the bread and butter, but I work for the coffee and cake – something that both my husband and I love to indulge in,” she smiles.
A word to all women
“I consider myself a global citizen – a human being. Nationalities confine and constrain me. So, from one woman to another, I’d say: Follow your heart. Do what you feel is the right thing. Help out. This country has offered me so much. All you need to do is invest in the culture and language – and move beyond it.”