In over 33 years of loving each other and 31 years of living together, Vaani and I have never cooked together. Which is, I have never attempted learning cooking. 😊
Now, with the COVID-19 lockdown situation, for the first time, I found myself hovering around the kitchen and asking Vaani if I could learn to cook from her. It sure was a bit unusual as I asked her that; I couldn’t believe that I was ready and willing, finally, to learn cooking!
But there has to be a first time for everything, right? Plus, apart from being my BFF, my soulmate, Vaani is also a great teacher! So, I told myself, “let’s go do this”!
I made half an adai last evening for dinner – spreading out the maavu on the tawa. And this morning I “understood” how a vegetable korma is made – I chopped the veggies, stirred up the gravy and basically soaked in the entire process. I even ran my understanding through our daughter Aanchal (who herself loves to cook) in Singapore and she signed off in approval!
I am very amused that I am doing this. I have always been the housekeeper at home. I find cleaning a deeply meditative practice where I engage wholesomely with the process of cleaning up, dusting and polishing surfaces, often doing the dishes too. Even so, somehow, I have always postponed the idea of learning cooking. I have learnt to make filter coffee some months ago. But being with Vaani in the kitchen and watching her cook, assisting her and learning from her – well, that happened for the first time today!
And I am lovin’ it!
On a spiritual plane, this “event” reiterates to me that everything happens in its own time and at its own pace.
There’s one more learning on offer here – from the overall COVID-19 situation. If you think about it deeply, it is forcing the whole world to sit down in one place and just be. You see, everyone has been so conditioned to running amok, imagining that if they don’t hurry, if they don’t rush and grab whatever they think they deserve, they are going to miss the bus or that something grave is going to befall them or that they will lose some thing. So, everyone has been on this spree, this crazy race to become. Become more visible, become richer, become more recognized, become more successful…which is everyone has been trying desperately to become someone else, to become better than the other…everyone, in some way or the other, has been on this becoming trip. In the past decade, social media has only fueled and grown this frenzy, this becoming angst. And then COVID-19 comes along and, in less than a quarter, shuts down the whole world and is forcing everyone to be.
Isn’t it amazing? Don’t you see what’s happening? The whole world has surrendered; it has been forced, in fact, to capitulate – to jump off the becoming treadmill, to being home, just being!
It is possible that many find the transition from “becoming to being” a very difficult one to make. But let me tell you this, from our own lived experience, just being is not complex. It is simply being present. It is all about bringing your full attention to whatever you are doing. It is only when you are present, in the moment, in whatever you are doing, that you are non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering. It is only then that you are happy despite your circumstances. Now, just being is an art – you have to train your mind to be that way; this is what Vaani and I have learnt through living with our bankruptcy for 13 years now. This is the quality that has helped us to live fully with what is – not complaining about what we don’t have, but celebrating whatever we have!
And it is this choice to just be, in this COVID-19 lockdown scenario that is expected to last for a long while, that led me to embrace cooking – a space that I have consciously avoided getting into for over three decades now. This gives me one more beautiful reason to be with Vaani and to learn from her. I hope to learn quickly. And I also hope to soon raise a toast to Life and to COVID-19 for giving me a new, immersive experience to thrive on!
Note: AVIS and Vaani are the happynesswalas. They believe their Life’s Purpose is Inspiring ‘Happyness’! They are going through a fascinating, Life-changing experience – a crippling bankruptcy!! If you would like to invite them to inspire your team(s) or explore other opportunities, please look up: www.avisviswanathan.in and www.avinitiatives.co.in.
“I am a bird. And I want to fly.”
When she was barely six, Nandini Nair recalls writing down this aspiration for herself in a school assignment that invited each student in her class to share what or who they wanted to be when they grew up.
Over 25 years later, Nandini recounted this memory, in a Conversation that she had with me in the second Edition of our Happyness Reboot Series on Wednesday, 4th December. Happyness Reboot is a live, reflective, non-commercial Conversation Series curated by Vaani and me that explores human stories and discusses the opportunities, issues, challenges and emotions that truly impact Happiness at the Workplace.
In this Edition of the Series, we explored “Me Time” – a basic necessity and primary responsibility that everyone consistently ignores!
The truth is that almost everyone, at some point in time, feels like they are running on a treadmill, chasing meetings, chores and deadlines endlessly. They often feel they are sleep-deprived. And even as a sense of feeling incomplete and unfulfilled is gnawing at them, they are searching for a quiet place and time. Some people even feel they are heading for a breakdown!
These are a few reasons why we believe you must create time – your own “Me Time”, for your Happiness, to be you, to lose yourself in whatever you love doing!
Nandini is a fine example of someone who has managed to pull off this amazing feat of creating and sustaining her “Me Time” consistently over the past decade. Here’s why I say this. Nandini is a young, dynamic, Indian Revenue Service (IRS) Officer, who is currently a Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax. But despite her high-energy, high-pressure work routine, Nandini finds the time to immerse herself in art and dance. She’s no amateur; she holds shows and performances as any consummate artist would!
How does she do it, I asked Nandini, pointing out that several people in her position may have well discontinued doing what they love doing citing work and family pressures.
Nandini’s reply showcases the understanding she has about what Life is and what she wants out of it:
- “To me, my art, whether it is theatre or dance or painting, is not just another hobby. It offers me a ‘great escape’ from the stresses of everyday Life. While theatre helps me meet new people from diverse backgrounds and enhances my awareness of the power of community, dance – even as a daily practice – is an opportunity to be physically and spiritually expressive. And painting for me is a private, intensely personal, experience; each of my paintings is a ‘rescuer’ that has helped me during my troubled, anguished times…each work of mine has me, my feelings, deeply embedded in them.”
- “Without my art, I would have gone mad!”
- “I don’t have all the time that people imagine I have to do many things. I am not a very systematic person either. I simply create the time when I have to do what I have to do – whether it is my art or whether I am fulfilling my professional responsibilities.”
- “I don’t like stereotypes. I don’t believe that long hours mean greater productivity. As long as you are completing what you are setting out to do, you are doing great.”
- “Which is why I am not just an artist or an IRS officer…I am clear that I am a bird and I want to fly…if this means I will keep trying new experiences that enrich me and allow me to express myself…I surely will find the time, I will find the means, to do all of them.”
This clarity is indeed remarkable. Nandini refuses to allow herself to be boxed in by society’s views of how people must lead their lives. Society imagines that a working woman will not necessarily be able to do multiple things beyond fulfilling her professional and family roles or that everyday living pressures will suck your Life out so much that you won’t have the energy or time to indulge in immersive experiences like art or music or whatever it is that you are deeply passionate about. But Nandini’s I-am-a-bird-and-I-want-to-fly outlook throws social stereotypes out of the window. So she always finds the time, her “Me Time”, to be who she truly is – and to, well, fly!!!
Vaani and I totally relate to Nandini’s outlook. We too have evidently busted stereotypes by being the happynesswalas even though, in a worldly sense, we are failed entrepreneurs! On Wednesday evening, I also shared why we both completely understand and champion the value of “Me Time”.
To be sure, in 2004, when I was 36, my diabetologist had served me a wake-up call – my sugar levels were horribly high, my cholesterol was showing a worrisome spike too, I had a tobacco habit, I was drinking daily and, at 95 kilos, I certainly was over-weight. Shaken up from my stupor, I embraced a meditative practice called mouna – observing silence for an hour daily – which helped me drop anchor in a time of great stress and strife. Mouna transformed me. Physically, it helped me focus on my health; I lost 22 kilos in six months back then! It was mouna too that helped me and Vaani understand the transient nature of Life and helped us learn the art of being non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering. It is through learning this art that we discovered the ability to be happy despite our circumstances.
And it was mouna that brought me back to writing. You see, I am first a writer; I have spent most of the years in the first decade of my career as a journalist. But the lure of worldly success, the challenges of entrepreneurship, the tribulations of trying to save a sinking business – all these had weaned me away from writing for almost 15+ years. But as we descended into our bankruptcy in 2007, when fear and darkness engulfed us, mouna reminded me of what I was missing – writing! I found writing therapeutic and a deeply immersive daily practice. I started with writing this Blog, which I sustained daily for 10 years on the trot, without missing a single day! I still maintain much of that prolificity though I do take reflective pauses. My return to writing led me to publishing my book, Fall Like A Rose Petal, in 2014. And through doing all of this, Vaani and I awoke to our Life’s Purpose – Inspiring ‘Happyness’!
So, simply, “Me Time” has changed the game for us. It introduced mouna to us, it is our anchor, it inspires us to Happiness, it sustains my daily writing and it has truly aided and abetted our survival through this enduring, tumultuous, 12-year phase of our bankruptcy. It has helped us stand in the midst of the everyday battle of Life, in the whirl and madness of the chaos that surrounds us, and has taught us the ability to be unmoved.
Which is why, I concluded Wednesday’s Conversation by sharing a key learning from our own lived experience. I said that intelligent living simply means recognizing the perishable nature of Life and choosing not to postpone Happiness. It means focusing only on what matters most to you, on what you love doing. A simple beginning can be made by investing in your “Me Time”, in one hour on yourself daily – start with your health and with what you are deeply passionate about, what makes you come alive! When you do create that one hour for yourself, you will, magically, see how you gain control of the remaining 23 hours of the day!
Note: AVIS and Vaani are the happynesswalas. They believe their Life’s Purpose is Inspiring ‘Happyness’! They are going through a fascinating Life-changing experience – a crippling bankruptcy!! Look them up here: www.avisviswanathan.in and www.avinitiatives.co.in.