There’s a first time for everything. And it’s been a largely ordinary week. With a few firsts thrown in.
Monday was my first time at being hung up on by a client. Twice. Yes, you read that right. Hung. Up. On. And no, this isn’t high school. This is real-world client-writer relationship material. Astounded is an inadequate word to describe how I felt. It was more like a mixture of shock, awe, delirious anger, extreme frustration and also a huge rap on my writer ego. The only saving grace was that I was in the right, I stuck to my guns for a change, put my foot down and drew a line. And what I got in return was to be cut off mid-sentence with the telephone line gone silent, while I was still patiently explaining my side of the story. The unfortunate part is that, had we actually had a mature conversation I might have managed to put my ego aside and work things out. Working things out is always a nicer solution, in my opinion. It also saves me the horrid trouble of making a decision and saying no. But fortunately, my client turned out to be a child trapped in a full-grown man’s body. Which means I had to be the grown up, grow a pair and take a decision. And what happened next, is that I decided I would never work for said client again.
Then, I felt a wave of immense relief wash over me. My god, it was glorious. Four weeks of dealing with this client, in an obviously far-from-perfect arrangement was literally eating me up in more ways than one. And finally, I was able to say no, this is it. Sure, I got hung up on before I did that. But I also learned to say no, as a result. Another first.
Tuesday has become bust-your-ass-lifting-weights day in my life. I’m beginning to look forward to it a tad more than the sweat-your-ass-off cardio-heavy Zumba class. Something I didn’t think was possible. I am not sure if the difference is visible on the outside (it’s probably also way too soon to tell), but for the first I am beginning to feel leaner, in a stronger, bring-it-on kind of way. Such a wonderful change from my usual cycles of burning flab and feeling thin on the surface, and gaining it all back on the minute I let go. For the first time in my life, I feel like I can tell when the fat melts on my cardio days, and I can feel muscle mass gaining strength on my weights days. For the first time in my life, I feel strong.
The relief of ending a parasitic client-relationship has long-lasting effects. Because I spent the rest of the day in a haze of happiness. Suddenly the day seemed like it had so much time freed up. For the first time in days, I had pockets of time to just sit around and breathe. And do nothing, if I really chose to. But hello, time! I sat and caught up on my neglected reader updates. I did a massive batch of laundry. I sorted out my bills and reimbursement claims. And I cooked two meals. Chhole, dal, rotis and salad for lunch. And dal, rice, aloo sabji and salad for dinner. And I felt good.
There is something truly special about days like that. When time is sprawled out in front of you. When it’s yours to take, to do what you will with it. And when you choose to do something with it, as opposed to just go with it, and the outcome is wonderful even in all its simplicity, it feels good. It feels really, really good. For the first time in weeks, I felt simply joyful. The day and the way it unraveled, pretty much summed up my current definition of satisfaction: cook simple food, feed hungry peeps, and in the process feed my soul. Something about cooking the things you love, even if it means subjecting yourself to a sweltering kitchen, in the thick of October heat can sometimes be joyful. Or maybe that’s just me, on a good day.
I was pretty sure the husband wouldn’t be on board with me and my excessive outpourings of joy, seeing as how it all found its way into large pots of dal. For consecutive meals, no less. But for the first time in a long, long time, he ate it all, without a peep. Without the usual stifled request for a masala omelet (to make it all better) on the side!
Today, Wednesday began super early. With the husband leaving home at 6 am, to catch a flight to Mumbai. What that means is my early-morning sleep, the deepest phase of the night’s slumber, is broken. Because he shuffles around, turns lights and fans on, fishes around for his clothes, can never find his socks and I resort to answering him, in a jumble of mumbles, through palms arched over my face, and one eye poking through. I fell back to sleep, only to have one of those early-morning nightmares that leaves you a little unsettled. I had a large-ish order for three cakes today. And that, is the maximum limit, my little Dona Paula kitchen is capable of facilitating. I usually make one cake the night before, or at least early in the morning before I hit the gym, so I can ease the rush later in the day. But I had chosen to laugh my guts out over an episode of Bigg Boss last night, and Plan B plan had failed on account of disturbed sleep, early-morning nightmares and dragging my groggy self out of bed a whole hour later than usual. For the first time since I have started taking orders, I found myself in a bit of a pickle. And I panicked. Just a little bit.
I decided to just proceed to the gym like my life depended on it, because 1) there’s nothing like shutting the world out for a whole hour and dancing my heart out. The endorphin rush will make everything seem less important, long enough for me to figure out a plan, I told myself. 2) I’m anal about being regular. And virtually nothing, is reason enough to skip a workout. (Yeah, it’s most definitely the latter.) But I figured it out. Swung by the supermarket, stocked up on essentials and came back home to bake. Somewhere in the midst of watching the batter swirl around in the mixer and dusting cake tins, I realised I was in perfect flow. I no longer refer to a recipe when I am baking for Hungry & Excited. It may be that the recipes have become habit, because actions unravel, in the sequence they’re meant to. I have made enough apple cakes to now make them in my sleep. It may also be that a little monotony has set in. But for the first time in a long time, I felt happy baking that same old cake all over again. It’s in moments sandwiched between the thoughtless actions that inspiration finds a seed. And I had a brainwave. I separated some batter, zested and juiced in a good number of lemons, threw in some plums and decided to make a new cake. For the first time in a long time, I indulged myself in some inspired baking.
When the last cake was baking away, J and I whipped up a frittata, loaded with veggies and cheese. Because what better way to get a good healthy lunch in, when you’re short on time, than to pile it all on to an omelette and have it with bread and salad on the side? And these unplanned, throw-in-whatever-you-can-get-your-hands-on recipes turn out to be super. J piled on a handful of cornflakes on the frittata. And it was awesome!
By 2, a whole two hours ahead of estimated time of completion, all three cakes were done. For the first time in a while, I was chuffed. And I had a really good feeling about the lime and plum cake. I just knew it, I could feel it in my bones. In the five minutes it took me to drive back home, I received messages from three people who ate the cake, telling me how much they enjoyed it. My ex- boss who also ate the cakes was heard telling my ex team that the next time someone plans to quit, they better have as good a reason as I did, to take the plunge. For the first time since I quit, I felt like I had received affirmation from someone out there.
I had a good gut feeling about my cakes, after a long, long time today. I tried something new, it worked and it was loved. That something was a part of a friends happy day, and will be a part of the memory everybody in the room will take back. And that makes me immensely happy. Satisfaction is in a cake made, delivered and enjoyed, I think. For the first time in a while I felt all baked out, but oh so tremendously pleased.
For the first time, I realised this is what makes me happiest: putting my heart into the food I make, (whether it is a pot of dal, an unplanned frittata or a new cake) and sharing it with the people I love. And I feel grateful that I have the opportunity to do it so often.