Tag Archives: #wisdom

Shrankhla Holecek on UMA Oils Farm

UMA Oils CEO Believes in the Need For Wellness Wisdom

(Featured Image: Shrankhla Holecek on UMA Oils Farms in India)

Los Angeles based Shrankhla Holecek is the CEO of UMA Oils. A long-time Ayurvedic expert who educates on Ayurvedic traditions with contemporary sensibility, she is a lifelong vegetarian, yogi, and natural-medicine practitioner. Shrankhla grew up in India with a strong foundation in the ancient science of Ayurveda, and brings over 15 years of extensive training and understanding in the therapeutic benefits of botanicals, especially as they apply to Ayurveda. Generations of her family have been veterans who have mastered the craft of organic essential oil production and have for decades supplied some of the world’s leading luxury beauty brands. 

Shrankhla moved to Los Angeles about ten years ago for her MBA, after which she spent several years in management consulting. Exhausted by topical creams and one-off medications, she went back to her basics, creating a line of natural skincare and wellness products. In addition to serving as a media expert on essential oils and Ayurveda, she is also a regular contributor to natural health media outlets like Well & Good, Byrdie, Mind Body Green, and Refinery 29.

In this exclusive interview, she talk about her family’s century-old history of being purveyors of essential oils, her brand’s celebrity following, and how she is giving back to the rural community in Chattisgarh where her farms are located.

How did you decide to start your brand of luxurious face, body, and aromatherapy oils, UMA?

Tempted as I often am to tell others – and even myself – that it had a strategic or intellectual rationale, I think the reality is that I started UMA for deeply personal reasons. After what felt like an attempt to get as far away from my family’s roots as possible by moving to Los Angeles, going to business school, and starting a consulting career, I think I came full circle in acceptance and appreciation for all that I had grown up with: the unique value of my Ayurvedic heritage, as well as the beauty, complexity, and richness of the Indian culture. 

In starting UMA, I felt that I could serve as a conduit for a deeper and more authentic understanding of Ayurveda in the West via a platform that demystified its brilliant tenets, but without ever compromising their integrity. There’s clearly a need for wellness wisdom in the world we live in (wherever one may be on the spectrum of integrating it in one’s life, I think most will agree), and I believed that Ayurveda could offer that in a time-tested way. Importantly, building my own business allowed me to prioritize some of the core values I felt very passionately about, gender equality and equal pay is one of them. 

Tell us more about your family’s century-old history of being purveyors of essential oils, and how you translate that ancient science of Ayurveda in your products.  

My family has been revered Ayurvedic physicians for centuries, including being entrusted with creating formulas for the royalty. The role passed down from generation to generation within my family, where we formulated beauty and wellness medicine for the royal family, as well as the kingdom – perfecting Ayurvedic formulas over thousands of women and men, across a wide variety of concerns, constitutions, and skin types. Since Ayurvedic medicine is entirely plant-based, we also started farming many of the ingredients that went into our formulas – and in the last century, that paved the way for our inroads into essential oil distillation and manufacturing. 

Turns out – you need acres and acres of vetiver or jasmine to distill just a little essential oil, and given my family’s heritage and expertise in the field, it was a natural transition to move into the industry. As demand for exotic essential – such as jasmine and sandalwood – oils grew worldwide, my family started supplying some of the marquee fragrance and beauty houses with raw materials (but never the formulas since they have always been a family secret). We have supplied a variety of India-based oils for the exquisite line of essential oils based perfumes Tom Ford created. We’ve also worked with Estee Lauder for over a decade on supplying the essential oils for their beauty and fragrance needs. They expectedly have stringent standards for vendors and we’re proud to meet them!
UMA was created to bring not only our celebrated essential oils but also these revered (and secret) formulas directly to the consumer, as an offering and introduction to deeply authentic and trusted Ayurvedic medicine.

Tell our readers more about the products you offer.

As in the Ayurvedic tradition, a lot of our skincare products are oil-based, helping to balance, treat, and enhance the skin in an entirely natural way. We bring in beloved Ayurvedic ingredients like turmeric, honey, aloe vera, rose water, and saffron through our splendid toners, masks, and gommage cleansers – and ensure the whole of you is cared for (including your mental wellbeing) through our beloved wellness line-up, and whole-body products. We also have delightful candles and incense targeted towards creating a sense of balance in your home environment.

Your brand has also garnered a celebrity following. Tell us a little about that.

Yes, we’ve been fortunate to have some amazing people show us, love! Anne Hathaway, Kelly Ripa, Ariana Grande, Emma Roberts, Eve the Rapper, Molly Sims, and Emma Willis are a few that come to mind immediately. In truth, it is the kind goodwill of many of these incredible people to support a young brand like ours, and the love and passion of so many women and men who have built UMA on our farms and factories over the years that we have to thank for all these blessings every day!

Women Working on UMA Oils Farm in Chattisgardh
Women working on UMA Oils Farm in Chattisgarh.

Relate to us how your brand is giving back to the rural community in Chattisgarh where your farms are located.

On average, we reinvest a third of our annual profits back into our local community. We operate the sole health clinic in our village free of charge and provide the specialized resources to treat Thalassemia, a genetic blood disorder prevalent in the area. We also offer academic scholarships to encourage promising local youth to pursue higher education.

UMA is a woman-founded and run company, and takes great pride in the fact that the UMA estate was among the pioneers in “equal work for equal pay” within India. Our estate has historically employed over 50 percent women, a fact mirrored in the composition of the US-based UMA team. We have always believed that sustainable gender equality can only be achieved by the means of creating true financial independence for women, and for decades have invested in creating the infrastructure necessary to ensure our women employees feel supported and empowered.

Avoiding synthetic pesticides and additives, we actively convert our waste into value. Loving and caring for the environment in the Ayurvedic tradition is a consideration in everything we do. This is why our farming and distillation processes are designed for sustainability and have been since our inception. We farm completely organically, and convert most of our waste into consumer products, like incense, or alternative fuel to power our distilleries. We minimize our dependence on artificial irrigation, and the water used in our distillation processes is cycled back into the farms we grow our crops in.

What are your plans for UMA’s future expansion and other efforts?

Our mission is to continue to educate on Ayurveda and empower people to take full control of their wellbeing, health, and beauty. Ayurveda was so generously shared with us millennia ago, and it’s our company’s responsibility to share that with the world in the altruistic, non-commercial way it was shared with us. I think of products as a way to delight and indulge oneself – never as alternatives to mindful diet and lifestyle habits as Ayurveda recommends – but rather as conduits to enrich your self-care rituals. We hope to continue creating thoughtful products that bring joy, and help strengthen one’s connection to oneself.

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer and editor based in New Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul and Bombay Memory Box. 

Without My Dad

This is the first Father’s Day without my dad. 

I reflect on his advice, “Son, don’t hate. Never be a victim and give in to anger.”  

Advice that could not be more relevant in today’s political climate. I see my father’s importance and the positive role he played in my upbringing, my sense of self, and my commitment to my work.  

To fully appreciate the philosophy behind dad’s life, you need to know one thing about him – he lived a life with an Attitude of Gratitude

He raised us not to feel entitled. We learned, early on, the subtle joys of appreciating the good in our lives with daily prayers of thanks. It was a common bond that connected us as family.

He taught us to never compromise on our values and principles and to take accountability. He pushed people to do their best and pushed us outside of our comfort zones, which really helped us grow. He said “We are humans and mistakes can be made. But we’re not going to make mistakes of character or integrity.”

When other fathers were bragging about their wealth, their children’s grades, clothes, and success, dad never boasted. He said “be a good human being in life,” and that is all that will matter in the end. He brought everybody together.

Dad was a caring, thoughtful, and gracious man. He was always quick to recognize and express his admiration for the skills and accomplishments of those around him. Dad believed that giving back to the community was of utmost importance. This was demonstrated by his extensive involvement in civic and community activities.

I am filled with incalculable joy at the thought of the many lives my dad touched. Reflecting on his life reminds me of all the ways my father is still with me after death. I am not without my dad – I am filled with his wisdom and values and while I live, so does he.

Sunil Tolani is the CEO of Prince Organization and a devoted son to his father, Arjan Tolani. He writes this in memoriam of his father, who inspired him to be the person he is today.

Mother Says So…

A mother’s love is that divine gift that enables a child to do their best.  Mother is not a noun but a verb that personifies unselfish love. We are all connected to our mothers through a special bond even after the umbilical cord is cut. Sooner or later we all start emulating our maternal traits, some of us more than others. 

I remember my mother every morning when I wake up. I open my eyes to my palms and recite the morning prayer. During the day the Rudraksh beads of practical wisdom from her rosary guide my actions. At night when my head touches the pillow, it is her voice that calls upon me to surrender myself to the creator: “Om Hari Sharna”.

I am fortunate like many of you to have a very loving, kind, courageous, talented, and devoted mother. How I wish I could be with her on this Mother’s Day but I cannot travel to India because of the COVID pandemic. It breaks my heart but assembling the pieces of my love for her into a collage, I share this writing as an homage to all our mothers. In my conversations with friends and family on the phone, FaceTime, Facebook, Instagram, and zoom, I have gathered stories about mothers all over the world.

One of my friends said that her mother has a rule, “Never leave the house without saying I love you to your brothers and sisters. You don’t know when you would be together again.” She also said, “Contentment is a difficult virtue but not unattainable” What good advice.

Another lady’s mother went by, “Beauty is what beauty does!”

One mother bade her child to stay organized and she obeyed by keeping an immaculate home. 

A lovely southern belle shared her mother’s advice: “Always be polite and well dressed”. Your good manners can take you around the world. 

My aunt advised her daughters not to do everything themselves even if they knew how to do it. Let your children learn for themselves. Excellent advice, I wish I would have heeded this one. Because of her teaching, my friends and cousins have become experts at delegating their chores to others. Very convenient indeed! 

My aunt always had useful culinary advice. This came in handy before instant cooking and googling recipes was a fad. She said, “If you don’t want to spend your time in the kitchen, rolling rotis for your brood, just make them all rice eaters.” Although I love a fresh chapati with ghee on occasions, we generally cook rice to go with our vegetables.

My son admits that I taught him to be polite to everyone. I think somewhere, in all the telling of stories and reciting poems during his childhood, my sweetness might have taken hold in his nature.

My mother told me not to openly voice my opinion about others but I have not followed this advice. In my personal life, I am known to speak my mind, like my dad. My daughter overlooks my stubborn streak most of the time and we enjoy creative activities together. I paint and write and she creates my Instagram and web pages. My daughter is an honest critic. When I really need advice I go to her.

My grandson had some interesting inputs. He said, “My mother has taught me to say thank you, sorry and to cover coughs and sneezes”.  All helpful tips indeed.

I asked him what I had taught him? He said, “To say Hanjee instead of Haan.” I still think that he does not understand that it is meant as a sign of respect to others and not a mere grammatical appendage that he constantly forgets. 

My mother also said that save your money because ultimately it will help you in any dire circumstance. This is so true in the time of the pandemic when so many of us have to rely on our savings for food, shelter, healthcare, and helping the needy.

Mother taught a lot through her actions. She started her day early, in “Brahma Muhurta”. This good habit gave her an early start into bathing, prayers, gardening, cooking, and reading the morning newspaper. By the time other members of the house woke up, breakfast was ready on the table. She knew that a way to everyone’s heart was through their stomachs. We had fresh food every day: parathas and pickles, poori aloo, omelet toast, upama, idli sambar, and seviyan. 

At home, we kids did not have a natural inclination to learn cooking or help her in domestic chores. She never complained working on her on but was most particular about her afternoon siesta. She took a thirty-minute nap every day and no one could disturb that. We kids squirmed and protested but that was a ritual we all had to follow. Mother was very determined but her effect was gentle and angelic. She never laughed or cried loudly. Very ladylike was her expression and perhaps because of that she has a smooth unwrinkled face to this day. She was able to sense my dad’s moods and always cautioned us, kids, to behave accordingly. We had wonderful conversations at the dinner table which are dearly missed but I don’t miss having to gulp down spinach with water.

My mother often said, “Apne Hath Jagannath.”

As I was explaining the meaning of this cryptic phrase to my friends, I realized that my mother literally took my hands and put them to action. She gave me the gift of an industrious life when she presented me with a sketchbook and colors. Wherever we went, we carried our hobby bag with us.

Ever since then, I have tried to create my own world through medicine, art, and writing. Creativity is my life mantra. I gaze upon the elegant visage of my mother as she tries to bless me by touching my forehead through the phone, I feel humbled. There are not enough words, phrases, poems, or songs in this language that would encompass my feelings of deep gratitude for my mother. But I don’t have to…

There is a woman in the house

Her breath rises and falls

She rests her head on my shoulder 

We both read from the same page

Our eyes close

We hold kindness

We are happy…

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.