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Last Updated: Monday, 22 December, 2003, 05:51 GMT
Moving stories: Madhur Jaffrey
BBC World Service's The World Today programme is asking migrants who have been successful in their adopted countries how they got to the top of their field.

Madhur Jaffrey is an actress, TV presenter and writer - but it is for her cookery that she is best known. She was born in Delhi, India. She left the country at the age of 20 to come to Britain.

I have an interesting reason for leaving.

I got an Indian scholarship to begin with, for the theatre really, and my case to the Indian Government was that there were no schools that taught acting for the stage in India at that time - we're talking mid-50s - and could I please use that scholarship abroad?

Madhur Jaffrey
I think somehow I was destined to be an international tree, and to pass on whatever my roots were feeding me to all kinds of other people
I had a scholarship for two years, and then my dream was always to be another Marlon Brando.

I wanted to act, and I wanted to act in a certain style - which of course was to me in America.

Here I was, a trained actress, and I had just won a huge award at the Berlin International Film Festival as Best Actress.

I thought: "Now my career is made."

But no such thing happened, so I was here in the United States looking desperately for work and not getting work.

I had three little girls at that time, and I had to send them to school.

I said: "How am I going to do it?"

And the only thing I know how to do, perhaps, is write.

So I started writing for magazines and newspapers, and I was writing about anything I knew anything about.

I also ventured to write about food - and somehow, food writing just took off.

When I wrote my first cookbook, I actually felt that I knew very little about cooking - I just started cooking at the age of 20 myself.

So what I said to my editor was that I was going to do a book on the food that I know, that I cook myself. And what I know is the food of Delhi.

That's what my first book is - it's pretty much all the recipes from my relatives, from my friends, in my city, the recipes I grew up with and that my mother sent to me in little air letters when I was a student at Rada.

I very much doubt that I would have had a full-blown cooking career in India, because the way I was raised, we had cooks in our house, and the cooks cooked.

My mother would go in occasionally to supervise the food, but that was it.

I probably would have grown up not cooking on a regular basis - though of course it's hard to know, but I tend to doubt it.

I don't think I would go back and live in India now because I have kids and grandchildren who were raised in America. I knew as a very young girl in India that I was destined to travel, destined to try and fulfil a lot of my ambitions.

I wasn't quite clear what those ambitions were, but I knew they were going to take to a place where I would be with an international group as opposed to a national group.

One's roots are terribly important - the word roots is roots, and that's where the tree grows from.

But I think some people are destined to be national trees, and stay in the land of their birth, but I think somehow I was destined to be an international tree, and to pass on whatever my roots were feeding me onto all kinds of other people.

I just feel that I didn't choose any of this, but somehow it's come about, and I have very few regrets about it.

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Madhur Jaffrey
"I said to my editor was that I was going to do a book on the food that I know"



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