One morning last week I woke up before the sun was up, went straight in to the kitchen to bake a large batch of cupcakes. While waking up that early is definitely abnormal around here, the large batch of cupcakes was even more so. It was a bit surreal looking out the kitchen window into inky darkness, while around me, the smell of apples baking with flour, sugar, butter and brandy crept out of the oven. Half an hour later, as I watched over 30 cupcakes cooling on my dining table, the husband making chai because I was clearly occupied, I realised I had forgotten to brush my teeth. And in that moment, the penny dropped.
This is exactly the place I have wanted to be in, for as long as I have been capable of thinking of what I want to do with myself, this life. Finding a passion, chasing my dreams, scratching an itch and such like has always quite simply meant doing that something (whatever it may be!) with utmost honesty and sincerity, to the extent that it consumes my entire being, makes me lose myself, to the point where everything else fades into the background and little else matters except that chosen task at hand. It was never about changing the world, inventing something fantastic or becoming famous. It was always this very simple thing that my parents, by way of words, actions and the larger-than-life living examples that they are, have shown us — do whatever it is you love, but do it well.
Time and again, this little nugget of free-gyaan keeps popping up on the internet to surprise me, and each time I rings a bell and makes me go hmmm.
I have my reservations about letting that something kill you, ahem. But I get the spirit, and prefer to take a slightly softer, but similar approach to it. The pursuit of “finding myself” this was the key ingredient that was missing. So far. To find myself, I had to first find that one thing that had the potential to kill me. To make me lose sense of time, place, of myself. That was compelling enough to pull me in, for not just a few days or weeks, but months, days and nights, a whole year and counting. And for the first time in the last decade, I feel like I might have found that in some measure.
2013 has and will always be the year that I let food and all its allied forces kill me. Literally, in some sense, as I overworked myself on occasion, only to spring back and realise what a wonderful feeling it is. So to be baking at an ungodly 5.45 am, obsessing over cupcakes so much that I forgot an important aspect of my morning routine and essential oral hygiene seemed like a fitting capsule of time that rather aptly represents what the whole year has been like. Completely committed to soaking, marinading, immersing myself in one thing and one thing only — food. Awe-struck, in love and totally smitten by the simple and complicated things that can happen in a kitchen. Any kitchen!
At the start of the year I decided I didn’t want to make hard and fast resolutions I would never keep. Instead I made a few nebulous goals that I would work towards. To a large extent, this has worked for me. It has helped cut the clutter (work, activities, social life, relationships — anything I expend my energy on) to a large extent, fine tune my gaze towards those goals and narrow down the focus. It resulted in a bulk of my time, this year, being spent in some culinary pursuit or another. I baked for me, I baked for the blog, I made bread, I sold cake, I wrote about food, I ate at and reviewed many restaurants, new food-based ideas germinated in my mind and in many ways, this has been the most satisfying year in the last decade of my life. The last such milestone, that brought me so much peace and satisfaction was writing my last BA exam. And the comforting knowledge that I wouldn’t have to write another examination for a long, long time to come. Probably, never again, if I could help it.
Part of the reason I haven’t done the customary looking-back-on-the-year-gone-by post, is because the thought of it overwhelmes me. 2013 has been packed with all kinds of excitement, ups and downs, emotions, learnings, developments and the fair share of brickbrats, for me to sit back, unpack the memories, stack them up and re-look at them. I feel like I want to just let it stay, for a change. To further immerse in everything that has been, and see where it will take me. I’m not ready to let go of the experiences, good and bad, and in that sense I’m happy-sad to say good bye to 2013. Happy because it has been such a good year I’m keen to see what 2014 has in store for us, and sad because maybe 2014 won’t compare?
When I embarked on the sabbatical in 2012, I really didn’t know where I was headed. I was unsure, but confident that it was the right thing to do. I vaguely knew I’d spend a lot of time cooking or baking. But I didn’t anticipate that I would unlock this undying love for food. The kind that goes beyond my capacity to trawl a million food blogs, instagram everything that’s in a plate and fill my head with thoughts of what my next meal might bring. Even when I am not doing all of that, I am consumed by the need to know, learn and figure out food, the art and science of it, understand what’s good for me, and develop a natural and healthy habit of what I put into my system. When I am not cooking or baking, it’s likely I am reading or writing about it in some form. In the process, I have been acutely aware of the fact that I am incredibly lucky to be in the tiny sliver of our people for whom food and eating it isn’t just a matter of survival. I am incredibly grateful to be able to indulge in it to the point of turning meal-making into so much more than just putting food on our plates. Just the other day, VC and I were chatting about how aside from my review writing gigs, we barely eat out anymore, because there’s been so much cooking at home. For us, that is a life-altering move. Melancholy-tinged happiness aside, what I do feel is grateful. Just humbled and very, very grateful.
For the forces that be, for the planets and stars and how they have aligned.
For the parents I have, who taught me to choose well. Who always emphasised happiness above all else. Who probably planted the seed for all of this, many, many years ago. And whose entire life of parenting probably culminates in seeing their daughter write this post.
For the hugsband, for being the immense rock (no pun intended, VC, I promise!) that he has and continues to be, for pushing me and taking some of the steps I wouldn’t have, for setting me off on this journey — whether it was by encouraging me to quit work and supporting me selflessly, for encouraging the foodie-forays, for believing in the baking, for designing that website, for being my Business Manager and for all the things you say and don’t say that keep me going.
For the sister who has always been a reason to step it up and do something because at the back of my head, I am always a role model. For her unabashed encouragement through books, websites, love-filled comments, emails and all the trips she makes here. I don’t make nearly half as many to visit her.
For Goa, because none of this would be possible, if I didn’t live here. Every time someone goes into raptures about the choices we made and the life we have constructed for ourselves, that allows all of this and more, I want to tell them that a large part of it is the good fortune that is living away from a big city, away from home, away from your comfort zone.
For friends, within and outside of Goa, from the real and the virtual world, whether you know it or not, so many of you contribute to keeping my energy levels and enthusiasm mostly high. For the lot of new blogdosts-turned-real-life-dosts that I have, I cherish you. You know who you are.
For my ever-so-kind audience of guinea pigs. I have a number of people around me who are unbelievably generous laying on the praise and encouragement nice and thick, I don’t think I’d believe in myself or my capacity to cook, as much without them.
For those of you who keep coming back to read this, even though I’ve barely been around of late. For all those of you who write to me to say hello, to share anecdotes, to ask for cake to be delivered cross-country, and to sometimes check in on me when I go silent.
For the world of blogging, the Interwebz and everything in between that makes it possible for me to sit in a village in Goa, and beam out brainfarts like this one; allows me to devour the gazillion food blogs out there; for me to connect with people in corners of the country and the world I didn’t know existed and find so many kindred spirits; for giving me some of the best friends I have had in all my life.
For 2013, for being the lovely bittersweet (mostly sweet and occasionally bitter) roller-coaster ride that it was, and for showing me what being in the sweet spot truly feels like. For allowing me the luxury to fill these months with all kinds of love, happiness and bliss. For making me see that there is no shame in spending a whole year getting up to no good in the kitchen. For ensuring that my oven is constantly over-heated. For giving my laptop keys little indentations from over use. For making my life so full, I can’t remember the last time I was bored, and I can’t remember a single day when my body didn’t wish for a few extra hours, just to keep up with my mind.
For life and everything it has become. For making this the year I discovered food, rediscovered words, found my voice, made a brand new start, became recommitted to fitness, and just learned to live again.
Thank you, from the bottomest part of my heart.
(I know, it seems like I missed out the customary bit on world peace, heh. But I suppose this is what happens when you realise you’ve actually had a lot to say, but have just not gotten around to doing it. You cram it all into one year-end post, and hit publish before you change your mind.)