Food for the soul — Prana Café brings soul food to Manipal6 min read
‘Good food warms the heart and feeds the soul’—this is what Rohit Prakash and Varshita S Raman, pictured in the featured image, want their customers to experience at Prana Café, as encapsulated by the name. With a cosy and artistically curated ambience, one gets to relish the flavours of continental and traditional Indian dishes here, coupled with a range of exotic desserts.
Rohit used to run a burger joint in Kerala and after visiting Manipal with his friend, he fell in love with the place and decided to stay back. Varshita was a post-graduation student at Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration (WGSHA). When the two met through a common friend, they realised that they shared common interests and decided to commence on this journey together.
In the initial stages, the two did not plan to start a café. They wanted to come up with a smoke barbeque place; later they expressed interest in wanting to set up a puttu kada as they call it in Rohit’s home state of Kerala. Owing to a lot of difficulties in finding a location of their choice, they kept changing their plans until they fell in love with the perfect site for their café. They are proof that a little delayed gratification can be just as sweet. It took them a year to assemble everything they wanted and in January of 2019, Prana Café opened at the spot the two coveted.
The name of the café, Prana Café, is representative of a ‘life force’ or ‘vital energy’ that powers the human psychological, physiological and energy systems. Taken from yogic traditions, it explains the different manifestations in human mechanism and how to take control of one’s own well-being. In simpler terms, the owners believe that if what one eats is food for their body, then prana is food for the soul. While spending their days in Isha Foundation, Coimbatore, they came across the idea of sattvic food and its immense goodness.
The café’s menu is highly inspired by the dishes Rohit keeps in his list of favourites. An everyday-changing menu is the highlight of the café. On its uniqueness, Rohit and Varshita elaborated, “We live in a microwave world where most people expect to get what they want immediately but such food has no ‘prana’ or soul left in it.” They believe in providing the best to their customers so that food they spend on is worth the expense.
The owners also take care of details which a lot of people are unaware of. The couple shared the harmful effects of aluminium cookware with The Manipal Journal. They said, “The use of aluminium utensils is the main thing in hotels but it is very harmful. There are many issues; cancer, Alzheimer’s and many other diseases can be caused due to cooking in aluminium dishes.”
The café also has started their own awareness drive where they plan on educating their audience about the various aspects of cooking and organic food. They strive to start a joint of their café which will serve sattvic or ‘prana’ food. “Once one starts eating this kind of food they will understand the way their body is functioning because of what they are consuming. The body stays energetic, there is no lethargy and the prana in the body is channelled in a good way. This kind of food keeps one full for a long time. If one eats too many meals without proper gaps, the cancerous cells in the body get enough nutrients and multiply. Nowadays, the immense increase in cancer-related cases is also catalysed by our food habits.”
Apart from the nutritional value of food, in the sattvic system, food is classified into three: rajas, tamas and sattva; these stand for negative pranic, zero pranic and positive pranic foods. Positive foods are those that add prana to the system when consumed. The pranic and vital energies of the body increase with this. A person feels less tired and hungry after a proper meal of healthy and sufficient pranic food. If negative pranic foods are consumed, they take away the prana from the system. They will stimulate one on a nervous level but will take away the vital energies from the body. “It is like drinking coffee and ash gourd juice. Coffee consists of caffeine which stimulates our sense for a while but after two to three hours, it subsides, whereas, if one drinks a glass of ash gourd juice which has high pranic value, you can stay vitalised and rejuvenated for a long time without any decrease in energy,” says Rohit. Zero pranic food, on the other hand, neither add nor take away prana and is only eaten for taste.
Pranic food uses completely fresh and organic raw materials for cooking and emphasises on goodness. It is prepared instantly just like the Café does and is supposed to be eaten within an hour or two of cooking. Sattvic food is not just nutritious but equally healthy and tasty. “It will be a great relief for parents if kids start eating pranic food rather than junk food outside. It will be beneficial and help them in their day to day lifestyle.” They believe that people of all ages will enjoy the kind of food that they serve.
A personal favourite of Rohit, the banoffee pie has gained a significant amount of popularity in and around the town of Manipal. The pie is an English dessert and Prana Café has done justice to it, as widely agreed by many customers. On asking them about a memorable incident with their customers, the duo, with a smile on their faces, shared an incident where one of their customers was in tears after eating the banoffee pie because of how good it tasted. “We knew we had achieved what we had started out to do in the first place,” they said.
The main priority of the pair is to provide the best of food and services to their customers. “As we are also amateurs we want to take our time to learn and train the few people working here,” said the two. They aim to expand Prana Café into franchises selling specific items like cakes, desserts and biryani, and Rohit wants to bring in some flavourful snacks from his home state of Kerala.
Talking about the effort that goes into running the business, Varshita explained, “Physical stress is there but we do not mind anything physically stressful.” There have been times when they spent all day at the café with no time to go back home yet they still thoroughly enjoy their work. “At the end of the day, when we see people happy with the food that we give them, it provides great satisfaction.”
Being new in the business, Rohit and Varshita revealed that everything takes a bit more time than usual. However, young and committed as they are, the new ideas and changes that they have brought in their café are a great advantage to them. They have shown that they know how to pave a way to their pursuits. The artistic decor, reasonable prices, and valuable quantity of food make the café a gratifying place to visit.
Featured Image Courtesy: Sana Thombre
Edited by: Karthika Venugopal