Fatema featured in Frances Tulk-Hart's Corona Diaries


A huge thank you to artist Frances Tulk-Hart for the feature on your blog, The Corona Diaries.

Read the blog post below and find more from The Corona Diaries on Frances' website here: The Corona Diaries

Fatema Khanbhai- The Chai Room


Fatema, are you social isolating and if so where and with whom?  How is it being home with them all the time?! 

I live in Sydney, Australia and am at home with my two children, my husband is works in the hospital so for him its work as usual. It’s definitely more challenging than I anticipated, having to home school and run a business at the same time! 


You own your own business called ‘The Chai Room, where you blend teas and sell them through stores cafes, markets and online. Have you had to completely close or are you still doing take out? 

We are very lucky to be able to supply some lovely local cafés that serve our chai. The local community have been amazing in supporting them us and by still getting takeout chai’s to enjoy at home. We also sell in independent grocers and online so the sales have been ok as people are buying chai to make and drink at home.


How is this pandemic affecting your business?

It’s been strange.. I thought that everyone would go into complete hibernation and just not go out and buy anything! BUT to my surprise, people are really taking to buying our chai blends at home and learning how to make it themselves the traditional way (ie making it on the stove). It’s been so lovely to hear how our customers are using making chai as a way to take a moment for themselves.


How many people work for you and have you been able to keep all your employees?

I have a small team and yes, I have been able to keep my staff even though it has been harder financially, but I am determined to try to keep focusing on growing the business to help support the local economy as much as I can


Have you adopted any new creative ways to run your business?

Yes! I love being creative and this time has given me a great way to use my ability to use this skill to reinvent ourselves by using the resources that we have. It’s been like trying to find new ways to fit the pieces together. We are offering a lot of support online to our customers, reaching out and helping them connect over a cup of chai. We have created virtual chai rooms where our chai community can come together and thoughts, love of chai and their feelings if they want. We are also helping our cafes by paying for free takeaway chai’s when they pick up their online chai orders from them. This has been great as it generates new customers and sales for the cafes.


Do you have a routine you try to stick to?

Hmm this has been tricky being a mum and business owner in the same space, however, to balance myself every morning I have to have my morning cup of chai, made the proper way, on the stove. This little ritual really helps me to re-align and take a few moments to myself and the smell is just intoxicating! I do this throughout the day and with the kids, it’s a great way for us to connect without words, just delicious chai and those ahhh moments.


Do you get dressed in the morning or stay in your PJ’s?

Hahah I find that I am being more creative with my wardrobe! I try to reinvent myself every morning as there are no boundaries as to how I have to dress, so jammies are often dressed up with layers of colour and other odd sorts!


What are you doing to fill your days (and nights.) Are you finding this forced isolation has become a very creative time for you?

We are most definitely spending more time together as a family. Something as simple as a card game can get the kids so excited, they just want to be with us and have fun which is so cute. I feel like I am writing more, I am connecting to my deeper feelings, I don’t get to this otherwise. I feel like my mind has more space to explore my creativity and I have since come up with some beautiful new blends using native Australian herbs and spices which I am so excited about.


How is your life and your headspace changing as the weeks of isolation continue?

Following on from my previous answer, having that space I feel more creative about my vision for the business. We are also very lucky to be surrounded by a lot of beauty and water and we have been really appreciating this by taking longs walks when we go out to exercise as a family. So, in some ways my headspace is calmer, I have faith in humankind, I am trying to manifest positivity. This is not always easy but seeing our kids eager happy faces everyday makes it more doable.


What frightens you the most about this, do you have ways of calming yourself?

I was frightened most of not being able to cope and becoming angrier and more impatient person. I have been told in the past to take one step at a time and now we are forced to do so it is helping me to see the bigger picture


Have you managed to find any silver linings?

I have! As I mentioned previously, it has been great to genuinely reconnect with our online customers. When we send out chai it’s a great feeling to know that it’s going to make someone feel good. It’s a bit like sending comfort in a mug! Being able to connect with our children on a different level has also offered us that silver lining. The last time we spent so much time with them was when they were under the age of 5. Now I feel like we are back here, for example I love that we can spend time in the morning to do weird things like examine our funny shaped toes if we want to! And not have to rush make lunches and push everyone out to school with a gazillion bags/musical instruments. 


People are saying this is a time for real change both personally and worldly. Do you agree and if so how, at this early stage, do you see and/or hope your life will change from this? 

I really hope so. In an ideal world, people will be kinder and more forgiving towards each other. I don’t know if everyone is experiencing this, but I have noticed that there are more conversations around how ‘having more time on your hands’ can be good for human empathy. I certainly want to change the way I do things and spend less time on what brings us down and focus more on how to elevate ourselves and those around us. I think for me this will happen by continuing to promote The Chai Room as a business with purpose. Create less waste and more space for out well being.


Are there any conspiracy theories you subscribe to?

Only the one of the universe screaming at us with her hands on her hips from the depths of her bowls that we need to get our shit together if this world is going to be habitable for our children in years to come. 


If you were president what would you have done differently?

Close borders and employ social distancing earlier and get widespread testing much sooner. Maybe even fire myself if I knew I couldn’t cope with leading the country to safety and bring in a more responsible government!!


Using the color chart below please tell me in general what colors you are feeling. It can be a whole rainbow if you want or just one…! 

Red- angry-    Y 

Yellow- scared

Green- inspired, this is giving you time to reflect and/or create- Y

Blue- sad/depressed – sometimes 

Pink- happy. You see and focus on the silver linings. Y

Black- doomed this is hard

Cream- you feel no difference

Orange- over whelmed – Y