Makers of wine, runners of marathons: Meet a unique couple from Hyderabad
Looking at Uma Chigurupati in her elegant pink chiffon saree and discreet solitaires and you could be forgiven for believing she’s another of Hyderabad’s high society ladies. That she is, too, but Uma and husband Krishna Prasad are a great deal more than industrialist and pretty wife. They spend much of their time stomping about in a vineyard in the Hampi Hills of Karnataka, watching over the planting, pruning, watering, harvesting and, of course, guiding the wine-making process.
It is from these vineyards, set in the arresting but harsh terrain in which the ruins of the magnificent Vijayanagar Empire lie, that KRSMA wines emerge, easily among the best labels being produced in India at present.
KRSMA is a combination of Krishna and Uma’s names and is testimony of their shared passion for wine-making. “In fact, early on in our marriage I used to make wines at home and Uma was a willing accomplice,” says Krishna Prasad, who also owns a large pharmaceuticals business. Later, as he travelled, tasted great wines and visited some of the iconic wineries of the world, he toyed with the idea of buying a vineyard either in France or in Italy. “It was to be a retirement plan,” he says.
It was during that time that they stumbled upon a tiny vineyard in the Hampi Hills. The terroir was unique, with its rolling hills, iron-rich soil, dry weather, minimal rainfall and cool nights. “But beyond that there was nothing,” says Uma, who is now completely hands-on in the wine-making process. Out of what seemed like a wasteland the Chigurupatis carved out lush vineyards and a boutique winery that produces a small bouquet of single varietal wines. “It’s a learning process with every vintage,” says Krishna Prasad. “We learn to let nature do what it will and not tamper too much.”
When it comes to what they put into their bottles, Krishna Prasad and Uma are perfectionists. While they have hired expertise from across the world, they make the decisions at every stage – from deciding on the ripeness at which the grapes are to be picked to choosing the barrels in which the wines will age.
Because they are not led by a fancy wine-maker from abroad as is the case with most Indian wineries, KRSMA wines reflect a charming, fresh, free spiritedness. They are not fixated on following Old World or New World styles in their wine-making. “We just adopt the practices and techniques that we think will make the best wines, wines which we’d love to drink ourselves,” says Uma. Since there are no set recipes, each vintage is different. “The grapes tell their stories through the wines,” she says.
If you think a couple who could so easily have settled for the easy life were being adventurous by carving out a vineyard in unexplored territory and making splendid wines there, listen to what they do for an adrenaline rush. In January this year, the Chigurupatis ran the World Marathon Challenge, becoming the first couple to complete this punishing race in which participants must run seven half-marathons across seven continents in seven days. Uma is also the first female to have achieved the milestone. All the more commendable is that they ran it to celebrate Krishna Prasad’s 60th birthday, while the average age of the other runners was 35. They began in Antarctica, flew to Punta Arenas in Chile, then ran in Miami, Madrid, Marrakesh and Dubai before ending in Sydney, all in 6 days and 18 hours. It’s earned them a place in the Guinness Book of Records as well.
Uma has stories aplenty about these adventures. “In Antarctica, the weather makes the arrival and departure of flights unpredictable. So, we had to wait for news of the flight that would ferry us back leaving the mainland before we began to run. That way, by the time we finished the flight would have landed, saving precious time,” she says.
“We slept mainly on flights and carried energy bars we could eat because waiting for airline food to be served meant losing sleep time,” she says. In Dubai, their daughter Priyanka came to cheer them on and also arranged biryani for the whole contingent. “It was our first proper meal in days and all of us were just standing about the airport tucking into this biryani,” she laughs.
In Sydney, it was a midnight run and each competitor was assigned an escort. “Somewhere along the way I lost my escort was alone in a dark wood,” Uma recalls. Without panic or terror, she traced her way back to the marathon route and completed the run, with her husband Krishna Prasad by her side.
Before the World Marathon Challenge, they’ve done marathons on every continent — the Australian outback, the North Pole and the Gobi desert, which Uma remembers for its unnerving emptiness, save the odd animal skeleton. The latest is possibly the most arduous challenge they’ve taken on. What sort of training does that take? “We do yoga and maintain general levels of fitness, nothing extreme,” says this super-fit woman. Both she and Krishna Prasad believe it’s mostly in the mind. “It’s about will power and focus,” says Uma.
Their love of running was first sparked off when Hyderabad hosted a 10K run. Krishna Prasad decided to encourage his employees to participate and joined in to set an example. Interestingly, it’s the Medoc Marathon, through France’s famed wine district, that got them hooked on to long distance running. They’ve been running since, never looking back. To that it’s worth raising a glass of KRSMA Cab Sauv to be sure.
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