It s strange times that we are living in. The ever expanding vocabulary because of COVID like flatten the curve, social distancing , the new normal and the fact that Corona virus has been declared a feminine gender in the French language, are a few of the exhausting facts of these quarantine days. At some levels we all are living and walking a part of history. Coming generations would be talking, writing, debating and discussing in detail about these times. These days of 2020 will go down in history.
In the month of February , when we travelled to Tromso and back., I did not imagine that there was a storm brewing in the shape of a global pandemic. Little did I know it was coming our way, and that the entire human kind would be brought to a grinding halt by an invisible bug. When the lockdown began in United Kingdom, I did not feel like writing about my travel memoirs of Tromso. It felt so wrong to be thinking of travel at such a time, when there is so much of trauma, anxiety, loss and grief brought on by an invisible bug.
With the onset of lockdown, I felt lost and restless given the uncertainties’ the disease had brought along with it. I started cooking my way through lockdown, to calm my nerves and to stay positive. I started trying out the dishes and recipes I used to have as a little girl, when I was growing up in India. I am not a foodie nor am I passionate about cooking. Cooking is a chore, a matter of fact of life, I can say with certainty that there is nothing much about it that tickles my fancy. Yet one strong connection or bond that I have with my birthland is food. Whenever I yearn for that connection, I find food to be a very comforting and compelling support. I associate the smell of Pav Bhaji ,Wada Paav and cutting chai with Mumbai, the smell of coffee being roasted and ground, Idli and chutney with Chennai, Aloo tikki chaat to the streets of New Delhi and the aroma of Rasam, Ksheera , chillies,pepper, cardamom and saffron with my mother’s kitchen . When I am travelling , I always try and have one meal or one dish which is Indian, a day. It makes me feel close to India. What I like most about cooking is the experience, the senses and emotions that it evokes while cooking. All the sautéing, frying, and mixing of spices together, awakens the memories of long forgotten days, days filled with warmth, food and wonderful family time. The long stretching summer evenings at my maternal grand parents house, where my aunt would tell us children stories under the moonlit sky while serving us food on the terrace, my mother making a special Sunday lunch of Onion Sambhar ,potato roast, tomato rasam, walking back from work, eating spicy Indo Chinese with a friend or eating piping hot Bhajias from Bhajiaya house, inside the Mahalaxmi temple compound on a monsoon afternoon, overlooking the sea while discussing intensely with a friend about some book which we read recently.
Cooking stirs a deluge of emotions in me , on somedays I find it therapeutic ,and on some it is a laborious task. So at the onset of lockdown , I looked at cooking as an outlet, a means to expend my energy. A way to extend my gratitude and be thankful for my situation, and stay positive.
I have a roof over from my head, I have food to eat, a job to do which also allows me to work from home, I can spend time with my husband,in between work, have lunch, and breaks with him, eat healthy food, with all the technological advancements I am able to be in touch with my family and friends. It is not a bad state, but still I was and am anxious. I was missing something. And then cooking started become exhausting, an endless activity, I felt like I was part of the Ground Hog day movie and living the same day over and over again.
Now after two months of being in Lockdown, and upon looking back, and musing at my misery, I discovered my true desire behind cooking. I feel cooking is my way of trying to grasp on to past nostalgia and to hold on it tightly. I was trying to bring a little bit of cheerful childhood and bygone days back, a slice of familiarity to this unfamiliar ground that I was walking on, to feel a bit of old normality in to these ‘ new normal’ days. Once the penny dropped, I felt less restless. And more importantly felt it is okay to feel restless and anxious. These are uncertain and changing times and change is always not easy.
I realise I am missing the freedom , the freedom to move , the freedom to be able to hug friends, meet them , walk the streets of London, visit museums, have a coffee with friend in a café, laugh out in a carefree manner and be able to sneeze or cough (covering my mouth obviously) and not give panic attacks to others nor have one myself that I might have started a pandemic. (Apologies for this one but could not help it). Is it Freedom I am missing? Not sure
A couple of years back we visited the KGB Museum, in Tallinn. At the end of the tour, the museum has a prompt, for you to think about and ponder and what the word means to you. The word was Freedom.
Freedom , with in reasons, living with out constraints. I would say Freedom is also a Freedom of choice, a choice to make, between two available choices. In current scenario, I see it as I have the freedom to choose, but I do not have the choices I am used to. The virus has taken away many of the choices and options available to us. In a metaphysical sense, perhaps the virus wants us to change our ways and make different choices.
I believe we humans are quiet adaptable and resilient, but we are not invincible. I hope we use the free will given to us correctly and make the right choices collectively for us, for the planet and the universe. Until we find the way to a better health for us and the planet, we keep calm and carry on !!!!!