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A Journey to Heal

Sarabjeet D Natesan

Author: Sarabjeet D Natesan

Date: Sat, 2017-04-29 18:12

The only constant is change.  And it really is.  Change in work, in ideas, in place, in life; moving on, shifting identities, endless opportunities.  However, change can also be at a personal level. To grow, to imbibe and to allow the mind and soul to accept, to agree and to create space and time for thoughts and views. To let go, to understand and to reflect. 

Every day as a parent, as a teacher, as a friend, as a colleague, as a devotee, as a mentor we encounter change; what was acceptable earlier cannot be taken for granted.  Children grow up, students move on, friends can be passing through their own spectrum of experiences, work becomes mundane, faith can be challenged and mentoring can be exhausting.  And we adapt to the changing situation. 

When I lost my mother, I turned to my father and told him that I cannot live any more, that I cannot imagine my life without her.  In my mind was also the fear of someday losing my father and that made me completely inconsolable.  My father, trying to come to terms with his personal loss, still found the composure to soothe me.  He told me that just as my mother had lived through the loss of her mother and her mother had lived through a similar loss, so will I.  He spoke Nanak’s words from the Guru Granth Sahib, ‘Nadiya Wah Vichhanea, Mela Sanjogi Ram’; life is like rivers flowing, they meet only to part and who meets whom and when they part is all orchestrated by destiny.

These words were like a salve, they quietened my agitated mind.  The more I thought about it, the calmer I got and thanked my rivers for carrying me to disparate places in life, for giving me opportunities to think, reflect and change.  My reflections also brought me closer to my childhood and to the memories of my life.  The one memory that came back to me time and again was my mother’s cooking.  Her cooking journey began in Lahore in the pre-partition days and culminated a few months before her spiritual journey began.  She was an exceptional cook and her dedication to making a meal for us bordered on the divine.  She would insist on vegetables being chopped a certain size, a certain way for different cooks.  She was an educator, yet her patience in roasting, basting, cooking given the amount of other work she had to do was inspiring.  She never took shortcuts in anything, she would pound full grain spices into masala powder at home.

My father got her a Japanese electrical grinder to make it easier. Yet she insisted on pounding the red chillies by hand.  Many a times, I would tie an old dupatta around my face, pretend to be a dacoit and pound chillies for her.  It was also my job to make fresh ginger and garlic paste for her every evening. And to set and clear the dining table for dinner. She never once told us that she was tired or busy and that we should just order something.  Even the simplest of meals that she would cook; parantha, curd and a slice of mango pickle would taste heavenly. She never once tasted her food while cooking and her sense of proportions and portions was perfect. If we had unexpected visitors, and that happened a lot because of my father, our food would magically expand.  She could innovate with food and out of leftovers and nothing much else, create wonderful meals.  She credited it all to God’s compassion, ‘Waheguru’s barkat’. We always had plenty to share and it became a part of our life.  Her pickles and achars were always sought after and she always had a bottle to give to anyone who asked for it.  Later in her life, when her health was failing and could not see very well, she would get into the kitchen only to cook for my father for she could not think of the idea of anyone else cooking for him. 

At home, I never really learnt to cook, for it was a constant joy to eat her food.  She never asked me to also, she said that you will learn to cook when the time comes. My interest in cooking started with a packet of homemade ‘garam-masala’ my mother sent with me to the US.  In a lonely and cold foreign country, with one ‘karadhi’ and one pan and only visual memories and a sense of smell, I learned to cook. The aromas of home travelled with me in a masala bottle and helped me emotionally to settle in.  I could not ask her much over the phone for those days phone calls were very expensive and started and ended with ‘How are you, I am fine’.  I would wait for her letters, with small tips and recipes to get by. Once when I burnt a big pot of chicken curry and called her in panic, she told me to take a stick of cinnamon, roast it in a pan, grind it and mix it with the burnt gravy.  And my food was fine again!

Not everybody understands when I say that cooking is therapeutic, healing and that I do it not because I must, but because I want to.  I am told by friends that they only enjoy the process of creating something special; a special meal, a special cook, but I don’t understand that.  I like the mundane, the repetition, the passé; it is in that that I find solace, it is that which ties me to my roots. I have been cooking for years.  Early in the morning, before others wake up, I cook.  Cooking is a spiritual blessing to me and subconsciously I connect with my mother and feel my day has begun well. 

 

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Comments

What a lovely article Sarbjeet.

Thank you, Deepa.

Thanks ma'am for such a beautiful write up. This left me reminiscing over my first brush with cooking at age of nine or ten. An elder cousin of mine, who used to stay in same ancestral property, had just learnt how to cook 'fulkas'. In a rage of immature jealousy I went up to my mother and asked her why she isn't teaching me how to cook. This surprised the traditional middle class household, as boys were not supposed to learn to cook. Although my mother didn’t bother much and thus started my love affair with cooking. I started with fulkas and graduated to making evening tea for everyone, every day. Slowly my mother taught me more complicated folk dishes from 'Nimar' region in western MP, where she came from. By the time I joined by first job, she had made me into an able cook who could cook a meal for ten people without . By the time I joined by first job, she had made me into an able cook who could cook a meal for ten people without breaking a sweat (not literally though). The mention of living far away from homeland and connecting to it through cooking resonates so well with my experiences in England. Staying alone in a small town of England was as big a cultural shock as an Indian brought up in crowed cities could get. By the time clock would strike six all the streets would become deserted, shops would shut and sky would turn grey. Returning from work, the only thing that motivated me see through the evening was the excitement of cooking. Sitting on the bus I would mentally go through the recipes. As soon as I reached my apartment I would dash into the cramped kitchen and would spend rest of my evening cooking. Soon, friends from work started showing up for dinner and every evening I would have new visitor with a request for a new dish. And this (apart from the money) was the biggest motivator for me that helped me see through my time in England. Cooking by all means is one of the most therapeutic of our daily activities. It connects one directly to the most basic physical need of hunger to the most important psychological need of being loved.

My mother is an amazing cook. Your description of cooking reminded me of her detailed preparation. Even a regular meal had at least 2 vegetables or 1 non-veg dish and a vegetable, a salad, a raita or a dahi phulki and 4 kinds of pickles. My father believed in only two things- good education and great food. Needless to say I have had a very delectable childhood. Your article talks about change and how we find ways to cling on to something from our past to brave that change. So the idea takes you back in time to find an anchor as a solution to cope with the change. In effect, we are resisting the change. Life is definitely like the flowing river. But I like to think that it is not our river entirely. It will flow regardless of whether we are in it or not. Every time we try to swim in that river, a big pebble on the river bed brushes against us and the pain is just too much to continue. We drop our anchor at the next bend in that river to heal and gather strength to swim again. Most of the times I find myself standing by its side, admiring and sometimes even mocking at the flow. Or we stop moving our limbs altogether and let the current take us wherever it wants to. In free flow, we start to sink. And then again the question manifests itself- to flow, to swim or to simply watch?

Fully agree to the fact that the only constant is change. As the time passes, we encounter and pass through different stages in life and each one of it has something to offer us in terms of learning. I learned and became a cook for my own self when time called for it- travelled alone to a foreign land. Like mam, I too always looked up to my mother for the delicious food made with an extra ingredient of love and affection. Right from my childhood till I travelled to Canada for the first time, never ever there was a day when my mother dint cook for me except for those special occasions of a marriage or some function. Generally, we take it for granted that the cooking department is fully owned and taken care by our mother and never make an effort to get into the kitchen to see how much skill, talent and patience does it take to make that one lovely dish with that amazing aroma which leaves us mesmerized. As it goes, “sometimes we learn the things the hard way”, I travelled to Canada with that cooker and pan in the bag like what Sarabjeet mam described in the blog. Now, while the recipe can be searched on Google or YouTube, I realized that, it is something more than those recipes, which makes the food tasty. The nuances of the cooking, a sense of the proportion of the ingredients, knowledge of the taste which each ingredient brings in to the food was something I learnt from my mother over the phone, sweating in the small kitchen of the hotel room .Thankfully, the time is different and the calls over Skype made it all easy. In those few months, when I cooked for myself, I realized that it’s the experience and love of a mother which accentuates the taste and makes it delicious which I missed in food prepared by me. It has been quite a few years since my first stint with cooking and with the changing times, I have started enjoying cooking and even have been appreciated by mother for few of the dishes I prepare. But, one thing which hasn’t changed is my love for home cooked food by my mother. Surely, cooking is an art and my mother is a master in it.

Ma’am your article was a wonderful read. You make a point that is soulful and yet so relevant in our day to day lives. Cooking is a passive recreational activity that can be mentored in-house or either by self learning. In today’s stressful times one can find everyday cooking as a major stress buster. While some may associate it to the nostalgia of their home or their kin but what remains common is that the delight of creating something on your own helps you to take a break from the monotony and diversion from your stressful daily routine. It provides a source of joy and relaxation to one’s mind and body. I can relate this to my own example when most of the mornings I used to find my father preparing breakfast for us alongside my mother. We used to drool over his delectable paranthas or baigan bharta; our ecstatic faces would cheer him up to start afresh for another hectic day at office. No celebration at our home was complete without the mouth-watering desserts prepared by my father after his 2-3 hours of diligent efforts. And the outcome (dessert) would be a festivity in itself. Years have passed and my father is no more with us but one of the most important things our friends, family and relatives remember even to this day about him was his passion for cooking. His involvement in the activity he was really interested in gave him the benefit of a positive change from his stereotypical lifestyle. It’s not the channeling of beliefs, neither is it the impeachment of virtue & sin, but it’s the positive outlook towards life that keeps us going. Each person has different motive to do the same work. Among two people sweating themselves out, one might be trying to earn a living for his family while another might be trying to get in shape. An activity that may appear as mundane as cooking gives you a chance to spend time with yourself. A very senior mentor once told me ‘every change is a holiday’; we must embrace even the tiniest day to day change as the opportunity to discover ourselves more.

When I first moved out of home to Chennai for joining a company, the missed the delicious food my mother cooked for me. She knew I was a big foodie. This was also the time when I learnt the subtle delicacies in her preparation which I never valued. After 2 months of eating out I decided to cook for myself. I had trained myself only in boiling eggs till that time. With 15 days I realized that cooking is an art and mother`s dishes are not replicable. Even if I followed each step given by my mom, I could not bring that heavenly taste. Gradually, I also learnt that taste does not come from the “masala” but from the feeling and love for cooking. I developed my own style through my mother`s advice to “imagine the taste of food you want to cook before even you start cooking. This will guide you though.”. I still do that. I am married now and fortunately my mother-in-law is a brilliant cook too. Surprisingly, both my wife and mother-in-law consider me a good cook and love to savor some of my trademark dishes. To me cooking now is something I do whenever I feel stressed and want to put creativity to create something special for special people in my life, and cannot imagine any better complement than my mother asking me: “Yeh nayi dish kaise banayi” (How did you make this new dish?). I simply reply, “Exactly how you advised me to cook”.

‘Life is like rivers flowing, they meet only to part and who meets whom and when they part is all orchestrated by destiny.’ – Reminds me of this clichéd but yet famous line from the movie Forrest Gump – “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” Firstly, my heartfelt thanks for this wonderful write up ma’am. Not often one comes across a write up that invokes emotions but you sure did with every syllable on that beautiful piece of writing. I personally felt that the blog has been structured so beautifully that only on close examination does the reader would realize how subtly the blog highlights the paradoxical nature of life. Though change is inevitable, there are certain aspects of life that do not wane away with passage of time like mother’s love. In modern times, each one of us is stuck in the limbo of eternal pursuits of personal ambitions. Life has become a marathon that never ceases. We are technologically connected to the world but emotionally severed. While man’s thirst for knowledge is quenched his emotional appetite hangs in the balance. It is during such testing times man longs for an emotional connect to define purpose in life. Some find it in their children, some in their passion, some in their spouse and more often than not it is the very thought of one’s mother that brings about tranquillity in life. People resort to different ways of being emotionally and psychologically connected to their loved ones. The blog beautifully describes how cooking was the magic wand that kept you connected to your mother. One could draw a parallel from this blog that so subtly explains that in simple pleasures of life lies real happiness.

Hello Mam, I strongly believe no one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her/his most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cook’s past, the advice and menus of cook’s present, and the wisdom of cookbook writers. Kudos to you Mam for articulating the journey of life in the essence of cooking in such a beautiful way. I on a personal front could not have agreed more probably because of the mere fact that I love cooking. While we are busy with our own lives, striving to be successful; we often come across situations which leave us heartbroken or dejected. In those times every one of us need a friend to find solace in. A friend need not be a living entity, it could be anything sports, travel or as you have mentioned cooking. I would like to share an anecdote to your blog theme – “A Journey to Heal”. In the initial days, while working in Australia and living all by myself, the one thing that kept me going was cooking. The act of cooking always reminded me of my mother’s cooking and the delicious recipes she used to make. Cooking, virtually shortened the distance between me and my parents. I found myself talking long hours with my mom and how to make a particular recipe. While it got me even closer to my mother, it also helped me connect with various communities residing in the same building, as I was able to invite people home to taste Indian Curries. I feel cooking is a medium to connect with your elders, to connect with your peers and to connect with the future generations. And while Indian society associates cooking as a “female thing to do” there is nothing feminine about it. On the contrary it a lifesaving skill, which men and women should possess in this fast moving world. If I were to build on to the blog I would rather say that for me cooking is just not “A Journey to Heal”, it’s the “Pursuit of Happiness”.

I would like to thank you mam for posting such a wonderful and powerful blog. I completely agree with you that ‘the only constant is change’. Change may be easily acceptable bringing in joy with it or it may be very hard to accept bringing in pain with it. In the process of acceptance, we keep flowing in the journey of life. ‘To let go, to understand and to reflect’ – these can be treated as top 3 mantras of living a successful life. Some changes are irreversible and once we lose someone we may not get the person back in our life but what remains always with us is the memory. In the blog it is beautifully described by mam how in her mind came the memory of her mother’s cooking and how she connects herself with cooking. There is a strong connect between the two - a mother and cooking. For every child his/her mother’s recipe is distinguishable. However simple be the dish, as said be it a ‘parantha & achar’, it will still be unique either due to its taste or aroma or may be due to ‘something’ which cannot be explained with words. Cooking can be therapeutic and healing, in fact, any activity can be healing if it is performed with such great emotions and happiness as described in the blog. It gives one a way to stay connected to a person emotionally and spiritually. Thank you once again mam for writing down such an emotional and inspirational blog and describing us how we can adapt to the changing situation.

Thanks Mam for such a beautiful write up. I could resonate with it completely. Through my life experiences I have realised that changes are a part of life and cooking could be one of the way to help you deal with them. Changes could be of any type moving to a new location, dealing with a medical condition, staying away from family. Cooking helps you enter a new world, forget your worries and get immersed in it. I realised the positive effects of cooking and happiness that it could give when for the first time I was away from my home for an onsite assignment in Malaysia for 2 years. I was 22, and had never cooked before. I never felt the need to cook as food was always readily available either at home or at restaurants. In Malaysia nothing was same, I was missing my family, my country and most importantly Indian food. That is the time the idea of cooking creeped in to my mind. I had seen my sister cooking at home so I knew some basics. To perfect the dish, I would either make a quick call to my sister for the receipe , or watch videos online . Although cooking vegetables had become easier, what took time for me was making round phulka’s specially one that would puff. I took help from my friends to learn the art for phulka making. As the days passed by, I started loving cooking and I used to look forward to it after a tiring day in office. It was really therapeutic. I loved cooking even more when my friends were up for dinner. It was a way to connect to so many people, develop relationships, to show that you care in a place where everyone is lonely. And as it is rightly said “The way to anyone’s heart is through stomach”. The appreciation that I would get for a nicely cooked meal would make my day. I always believed in cooking little more than little less, so would always have extra meal for any surprise visits. I have realised cooking becomes magical when done out of love and not when done as a duty. And now I understand why my granny could cook effortless all her life food for us without getting tired for a single day.

A nicely written article that reminds me of 2 facts of life – Change is inevitable and mother cooked is the best food that one can get in this world. As we grow in personal and professional life, we encounter moments/changes that we have to accept willingly or unwillingly. One of the moments that I always remember is when I moved away from my home to purse my passion in engineering. For past 18 years, I have been staying away from home. This blog brought me closer to the reflections of my childhood and reminisced over my mother cooked food. During initial years, I was totally dependent on college hostel mess and then on restaurants for food. My first brush with cooking happened when I travelled to the US. As it was costly to have Indian food in a restaurant in the US, I had no option but to take up cooking to survive. I felt emotional remembering my mother for the delicious food prepared with love and affection. Even-though there are multiple websites available to learn about recipe of any dish, one has to have a sense of using different spices in right proportion to give mesmerizing food taste. So every time I tried to cook a new dish, I used to call my mother through phone or skype – thanks to improved technology making the long calls cheap – to know the nitty-gritty of the cooking. Affection and sheer effort that I had to put to make a perfect dish, made me love cooking. I still remember when my friends had visited my apartment in US and I cooked rice pudding for them. They still talk about that dish whenever we meet and force me to cook again. This always makes me proud about the values that my mother has imbibed in me. Keeping everything aside, one thing that can never change, is the love with which my mother cooks’ food for me. I always look forward for my trip to my home to have food cooked by her and learn more about art of cooking. I must say that the art of cooking is a long journey and only few people can complete the journey to become a great cook.

Hello Ma’am, It was a very emotional read and would have been more so for you to write. Thank you for sharing the personal story and connecting it beautifully to the art of cooking. As I read the wonderful piece, I could not help but see the image of my mother in yours. She too is a wonderful cook and even the simplest of meals taste like heaven. She too is methodological in her ways and is very patient with her recipes, both of which I have inherited in equal proportions when it comes to cooking. I remember my first dish years ago when I was still a kid. I made my favorite curry – It was delicious, but it had so much ghee that I could measure the top layer of ghee on the left over refrigerated curry the next morning. I also took up cooking with my wife. Cooking with her makes my weekend better than visit to a mall or a long drive. Cooking brings out the best in you. As in sports so in cooking I believe, that you can tell a lot about a person when they cook. I have cooked surprise dinners, exquisite cuisines and even mastered some typical Indian dishes like Sambhar. Even though I am at hostel today, I constantly long to go to the market and buy my favorite veggies and cook a delicious meal. While it may not be enjoyable to cook alone, but cooking with someone can be as enjoyable experience as any. And yes, it can be healing. It can keep you connected with someone. It can be the reason of your day starting well and the reason for your day ending on a high.

Thanks for the lovely article Prof.Sarabjeet. Your positivity and choice to hold onto the best of the person you love instead of mourning helplessly showcases immense strength and helps others to make the right choice. I could not help but feel appreciative and count my blessings while reading your piece as we often lose focus of what we have until we no longer do but always subconsciously, fear such a loss. We are who we are because of our parents, the foundation of our existence. They live within us whether we realize or not and carrying on the traditions and habits imbibed by our nurturer imparts a sense of continuity, bonding and love. It brings in the sense of belongingness, shapes our identity, instill confidence and revives good memories making us unique. I can resonate with you when you say while cooking you “subconsciously connect with your mother”. Happiness is in fact, hidden in the mundane routines, repetitive daily actions that creates a comfort zone for us to be truly ourselves, as I firmly believe that healing is a process, not an event. One cannot just wake up one fine morning and feel healed overnight; it does not happen like that, (Unless you are a superhero with unnatural powers). Like, we all as individuals are different, our needs and desires might be vibe with a set of people but it is never the same, similarly our coping abilities and path to recovery are bound to be dissimilar. It is a choice one has to make and I am glad to have come across these realizations through your post. “No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.” –Haruki Murakami

I found this blog very introspective and thoughtful. It reminded me of my school days when my mother used to pack lunch for me. I remember that it was the same food that she gave me every day and how I enjoyed eating it every time during the lunch break as if I am eating for the first time. As I grew older I realized that the food my mother cooked for me has become an inseparable part of my life which signifies and strengthens the bond I share with my mother. Years later, when I started visiting home during vacations (which I am still doing) I enjoyed the same warmth and freshness in the food that she cooked for me. Even today she keeps emphasizing the importance of home cooked food and eating healthy food. The reason why I liked the blog so much is because it explains how we can be attached to our values and tradition by something as simple as food or cooking. I feel these small things which can anchor us by reminding where we come from, are fast losing their importance. I personally feel that the values learnt from the family culture have a huge impact in shaping our personalities and they live with us for lifetime. Having lived in joint family for most of my childhood, I realize this importance now when I am living alone. In the metropolis lives of many individuals like us, things like eating together, cooking at home and spending quality time with family have now become situational and transnational. These things are integral to our lives as they emotionally connect us to the ones who are close to us and we can only preserve them if we start enjoying the simplicity of life.

What a beautiful description of mother-daughter relation. Of all the gifts that God has bestowed upon us, mother is the greatest of them all. While reading your article I felt an immensely strong flow of emotions rushing through my nerves. It took me to my childhood days when I used to stay with my mother and waited at the dinner table to have food cooked by those magical hands. Of course I can so much empathise the feeling of how even a simple dinner cooked by her tasted heavenly. It is said that the best ingredient of cooking is cook with love, which mothers do so effortlessly. At times, I too used to request her to teach me cooking and each time she used to tell me ‘you will learn it when the time comes’. Time came but now I stay miles away from her. It feels sad that now when I cook; I cannot offer her my food. Even at this old age she cooks for my father back at home using the same ingredient i.e. her love. Her incredible love and care has always connected me to her with the strongest bond of emotion that exists. Such a strong telepathy we share that each time I fall sick; my mother calls me and asks me if I am alright. In this hectic life of constant push to achieve excellence, I have indulged in such a busy routine that I cannot see her very often. Days pass by; she calls and enquires about my well-being. I wish I could take a break and instead of letting her know that I am alright, I could see if she is alright too. This lovely and touching article has deeply submerged me in the nostalgia of the simplest yet strongest bond I have ever felt!

Thanks for sharing such a beautiful article with us. Your blog took me to an year old memories, when I shifted to a foreign country with knowing zero chutney skills. I was excited to explore a different country and at the same time scared of the thought of spending meal less nights. It was not just me but my husband as well for whom I had to cook therefore I could not afford to be a mediocre at this skill. As I shared the delight of moving abroad with my friends and family, everyone one had the same question in mind whether they asked me or not – who will cook for you. The person who was the most worried was my mother. I started getting regular calls from my mother, where the conversations used to start with cooking and end at cooking. May be she started regretting her decision of keeping me out of the kitchen when I was younger. My first few experiments with cooking were disastrous but gradually I got a grip of it the way I got of a cricket bat, when I started playing cricket as kid. And slowly it became better with practice. I took cooking as learning any other sports and used to set goals for myself every day. One particular day I would focus on my chopping and on other, on making the 'chapattis' round and so on. Cooking to me turned out to be a fun game and I started enjoying it and today I stand confidently in front of the world and am proud of the fact that I can survive independently in most harsh environment.

The article has made me revisit my forgotten past - I take pleasure of reciting the same; however these musings bring me back to the reality with the realization, which is a highly meaningful yet apparent paradox of Life- “The only constant is change”. I completely agree with you! Throughout our lives the experiences that we gain , the thing that keeps us focused, what constantly pushes us to live this day to its fullest and then makes us eager to live for another day is change. Continuously and relentlessly it reforms and deforms everything around us. It conspires to deform and reform our inner and outer self, while we always become the victim of it, we never really start to hate it and very surprisingly prepare ourselves to accept it. My story, like most of my friends presents a cliché – A boy going out his hometown for the first time, starting a life of his own, adapting to his first job in a new city and wrestling with his challenge and deadlines discovers how much he misses his home, his parents and his home-cooked food – a mamma’s boy. When I joined Accenture’s Hyderabad Delivery Centre, in short this was my story and eventually I had to learn cooking since I could not live on the local food. While it was challenging for me in the beginning, my mothers’ constant support and help over phone gradually let me adapt to the situation. My stay in Hyderabad was short- about three years – and so was my cooking stint. I took a different job and came back to my home town, came back to my old life and slowly started to forget about the time, but after reading your blog, all my memories of that time flashed in front of my eyes. However short the time was that I spent cooking and chatting with my mother over phone-taking tips and discussing common tricks of cooking, I think deepened our relationship more. Today, after so many days, when I think about that time, I feel nostalgic – incessant force of change has brought me to a new phase of my life, but I wish this little memory to ever last in my mind and never change – but can we really resist the change?

Thank you Ma’am for sharing your view on this thoughtful topic. I can closely relate to it. I lost my mother in early 2015. My mother was the source of strength to us. She was very humble and kind hearted. She never complained, rather she took pleasure in serving us more than our need. I felt a big void in my life and especially in my father’s life after her passing away. We had number of discussions and in one such discussion my father quoted the Bhagavad Gita’s excerpt - “For one who has taken birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain” and added “wounds are healed by spending time with children.” At that time my boy was just 2 years old. We as a family now try to spent most of our time together. We take special care of my kid, my sisters’ kids. We continued the traditions my mother established in the family like preparing puran poli (an Indian delicacy) on holi festival, daal bati on Naag panchmi, special decoration on Janmasthmi, prayers and sweets during Diwali as she used to, celebrating birthdays / festivals / special occasions in family. This has become a constant part of our way of living. Though the void can never be filled, instead we derive positive energy by continuing above traditions. My friend Kingshuk Ghosh as aptly put in above comment – “healing is a process, not an event.”

A great read Ma’am! I enjoyed reading every bit of this article as I could personally relate to a lot of things. My mother is a teacher and father a businessman and because of their profession they faced a big challenge in maintaining a work life balance. I spent most of my childhood with my grandparents as my parents had to leave town owing to their professional commitments. I was around 9 or 10 years old when I started helping my grandmother with the household chores including cooking. Both my mother and grandmother are exceptional cooks and I used to long for their home cooked makka rotis and sarso ka saag ,and you said it rightly that the food was therapeutic and soul satisfying. When my mother got the posting back in town after 2 years I had become a little bit of cook with mastery in tea, Maggie and dal-rice. I could see the eyes of my mother filled with tears of joy when she ate the dal rice cooked by me.I still treasure that memory. However, it is impossible for me to match their culinary skills even to date. Since I have been living away from my home for over 15 years now, the cooking skills that I acquired in my childhood still come handy and I don’t leave a chance to cook for my family whenever I am with them. All they say is ‘God bless you with a good life and a good wife who will not let you miss us’.

Thank you for this hear warming post ma'am. It made such a good read after a tiring day. I could almost imagine you talk as I read this article. It 's beautifully written and almost got me teary eyed towards the end. My father passed away when I was a toddler and since then me and mother shared a very special bond. The thought of losing her to time someday, kills me. While I know it's every human's fate, I don't know how I would ever be able to cope up with it. I was deeply touched by how you have managed to find a way to connect with your mother through cooking. This is surreal and so consoling. I already feel less anxious. I hope I would be able to do something like this when time tests me. Although my mother is barely a cook, I now know that there will still be ways to feel one with her when she would not be with me anymore.

It’s so beautifully written that I was transported somewhere else by those words and jolted back to reality in the end. I was left pondering for a while with too many thoughts in my head. I loved the flow of the article and how seamlessly you have switched from one idea to another. Started your article by talking about changes and then you moved to a topic about a personal change. Using that narrative to come to the main topic, it is written in a fantastic manner. It kept me engaged and I enjoyed reading it immensely. Talking about the content, I highly appreciate how personalized the writing is. It helped me connect easily in every part whether it is regarding changes, death, family or cooking. Though written in a simple manner, that paragraph where you talk about the conversation with your father is very powerful. ‘Nadiya Wah Vichhanea, Mela Sanjogi Ram’ is very deep and something which everyone of us needs at some point in our life. It is empowering and reiterates the impact of words have on us. At a personal level, there were many things that I could relate to. I enjoy cooking at home and your words reminded me the time I spent in the kitchen with my mother. It reminded me how much my father appreciates my cooking. It reminded me all beautiful memories with friends and family that we had over good food. You have mentioned many characteristics about your mother like not taking shortcuts and every making simple food taste heavenly. My grandmother was very similar in that way and I lost her recently. Your writing made me think of her cooking habits as well as her life in general. In short, your article is a lesson for us to hold on to our roots and learn to cope with the changes in life. Though certain phases are very difficult to be dealt with, they make us what we are. Your article was not just mere words, it was an experience and a lesson that I am fortunate to have today. -Shweta U. Shetty

A very heart warming blog, indeed! Ma’am, you managed to create such a beautiful imagery with your words. I could in fact imagine the teenager you running around the kitchen dressed like a dacoit, grinding chillies! And I am smiling as I write this post. What is it about food? The relation of food to home to ‘Ma’ is almost organic. No matter how good a meal at a fancy restaurant might be it will lose any day to Ma’s simple curry and rice. The blog refreshed my childhood memories of me bugging my mother as she toiled in the kitchen. I vividly remember a memory of my mother making rotis while I told her that I didn’t want to eat. She looked at me first with annoyance, and then the look faded away and turned to a smile (I was a cute kid after all!). She asked me to sit and she made small rotis, which would fit in my toy casserole, and I ate them with joy with my favourite strawberry jam! As I grew older, I found new ways to bug her. The long phone calls discussing in detail the recipes of authentic Bengali dishes. But she did it with utmost patience, even as I struggled to tell the difference between toor dal and masoor dal. It is my mother’s birthday today and I made Kheer for her (A Bengali birthday ritual). Standing in the kitchen on a hot and humid evening for 2 hours straight while the milk thickens can be painful for most. But surprisingly, it wasn’t for me. I was in my best mood while I made it. And I must say the look on her face when I fed her a spoon this morning was the most rewarding feeling ever! Thank you ma’am for refreshing such wonderful memories from childhood and pointing out how it is the little joys in life that really count.

I would like to say right at the outset that I am moved beyond words by the sheer depth of this piece written by Sarabjeet ma'am. As I went along reading every word and line that followed it almost took me to the kitchen that she so beautifully explained where her mother used to cook those ever so delicious meals or the grief of losing her mother that she puts across so effortlessly in words. For a moment, I had to pause and reflect as I was feeling the agony and pain of the writer itself, such is the command over the language and the free flow of thought that this article possesses. It is worth noting that we as humans resist change even though we know change is the only constant and that is the only way we will continue to evolve. Be it a change of workplace, a group of friends or altering our life to adjust to the changes it brings with it when we lose our near and dear ones. Within a flash, I was taken back to the time that I lost my grandfather to one of the deadliest diseases that exist without a cure even today and how tough it was to adjust to this change. As a kid, having spent scores of hours a day with my grandparents, as my parents attended to their commitments I was attached to them beyond words. When tragedy struck, I grappled with this loss and the change in circumstances and life taught me that nothing is forever and it's all an evolving process. Yes, the fine example of cooking stands out as being therapeutic among other things as it ties with itself the rich heritage of our being and takes us back to the sweet memories we all have made in our own kitchens fooling around as kids when our mothers and fathers worked tirelessly to provide us with that perfect meal. What binds us all together in this diverse world are these memories and we cherish them like none other.

Change may be the only constant but did it change any after all? Nature gives striking examples on dealing with change that disrupt our comforts or may even challenge our existence. One can chose to be the birds that fly south for winter or to be the bears that hibernate in their habitats. Now who changed here? Though as ‘Nostalgia’ would be the first word to recall on reading this article, there is much more to it to be perceived. The author’s journey to heal has many an excerpt from one of Dr.Christian Bernard’s offshoots “The celebration of being alive” which gives one a fresh perspective and courage to deal with difficult times. As rightly quoted by the author, Life is like an agile river set off to meet its destiny, yet still carries the traits of the terrain through which it flows, like the silt that make the fertile plains. Similarly the author seeks refugee in the culinary skills of her mother which lingers all along making up for her absence. She recollects the passion and dedication of her mother in carefully blending and seasoning all the ingredients and dwells in the aroma of moments of her botched up early attempts of cooking, salvaged by her mother and finds solace in them. How did this happen? A mundane chore like cooking gave a healing touch to the most excruciating wound. Is it the taste, aroma or the flavour of the culinary feats that remind her of her mother? or Is it the passion and dedication she emulates to feel her mother, that creates the spiritual connect? Not only legacies transcend over generations to re affirm their presence all along in this sojourn but also recipes and memoirs form irreplaceable gems in this fine jewel of life. Virtually with her mother reflecting in every dish she cooks and every memoir she dwells, I imagine the author asking change with a smirk of her face “I agree that you prevail but did anything change after all?”

This is such a beautifully written article and I could picture your memories in my head. Thank you for sharing the beautiful quote from Guru Granth Sahib - Life is like rivers flowing, they meet only to part and who meets whom and when they part is all orchestrated by destiny. It will stay with me forever. I have also suffered the loss of my dear grandfather nearly 12 years back. He died in an accident and my experience was something similar to yours. He passed away just a week before a family get together that he was eagerly awaiting. I have such fond memories of him and I reflect upon it very often. Even after so many years, it brings tears to my eyes. I am told that I am very much like my grandfather and maybe that’s why we were so close. He always taught me to be humble and grateful to small things in life. He is someone who not only preached his philosophies but also lived up to it. He took care of 22 underprivileged kids in the past and also adopted a Muslim homeless boy; something that probably received a lot of criticism from relatives and society at the time. He was very helpful in nature and treated everyone equally. It is qualities like those that sets a person apart from the crowd. Though he is not around today, he certainly lives with me every day.

The article is started with a beautiful thought that change is inevitable. Everything around us is changes very fast and whether we like or not, we have to adapt to these changes. We encounter changes both in professional and personal life. I agree with madam Sarabjeet’s analogy between life and river. Like river, life is flowing but life also provides us the opportunity to think, reflect and change. In this context she provided her personal story of how she changed herself to embark upon a journey to heal from personal grief and sorrow. This illustrates, how simple thinks like cooking can be used to connect to the roots and derive spirituality and positive energy in our life. Similarly we can find our own journey to find solace in life.

My decision to move to Chennai for engineering, made me miss the delicious food my mother cooked for me. I being a foodie, always relished the rich delicacies prepared by my mother. After getting into an outside world and tired of the monotony of the food outside, I decided to start cooking. Within 15 days I realized that cooking is an art and mother`s dishes are not replicable. But I had the perseverance to pursue this art and would call her constantly to get inputs for various recipes. Slowly and gradually I started succeeding in my endeavor and my friends were delighted to find a new home cook for treating them. And I found a new interest which brought me a lot of satisfaction and peace. I would love to host my friends for dinners and lunches at my room and they would patiently wait for me, while I relentlessly cooked for them. The happiness I got from treating them, was profound and till this date, I could not find any other activity which gave me more happiness than that. Reading through this blog, all those memories of my good old times at Chennai flashed across my mind. The pain of staying away from home and family was soothed by this new found interest in cooking and treating my friends. I totally agree with the author that “Cooking” has a spiritualistic side to it, which lends different experiences to different people.

Thank you so much Mam for sharing such an interesting way to convey the message that “Change is inevitable”. Though we all know that we are changing every day, the people around us today won’t be there tomorrow, new set of people will keep adding up to our journey of life making it more interesting and thrilling, We are not read to accept this change on the first hand. We have such huge inertia that we try our best to resist changes in our life. I personally liked this article because at one stage of life I too faced the pain of losing my loved one. For me, attachment used to be the source of all pleasures and happiness and after the loss I too was inconsolable. But unlike you, I had none to console me so I sought the help of Swami Vivekananda’s “ Work and its secrets” where he states that – The perfect man can put his whole soul upon that one point of love, yet he is unattached. That man alone will be able to get the best of life, who having the power of attaching himself to a thing with all his energy, has also the power to detach himself when he should do so. The difficulty is that there must be as much power of attachment as that of detachment. These words helped me a lot to console myself and learn the art of “attachment with detachment”. It is easier said than done but I have learnt to embrace changes in life and live life to the fullest. When I read this article, I could not help but appreciate the fact that during the process of filling up the void created by your mother’s absence, you reflected on your memories from childhood and you adopted one of her habits which helped you to heal. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the read and I look forward to many such inspiring articles from you.

What an amazing blog, thanks for this beautiful writing, new generation needs such inspiration and touching guidance. In today's world if we see the data from the medical science then we can clearly understand that many deceases (more than 70%) which is happening to human being is psychosomatic, which means deceases are happening to human being is because of mental stress. What it means? This means that we are missing something which is not helping us to heal our self naturally and effortlessly. All medicines are working to our decease only for temporary being, they are not completely healing our body, mind and soul. Again what this means? This means that we have burdened our self in such a way that we forget the real life. In our daily burdened and rat race life we forget the importance of family and the real healing power behind it. If we see the Indian history then we can clearly understand that this healing concept is very old and our societies were designed in such a way that mental illness was very rare at that time. As we are aware that in India there was a joint family concept and peoples are getting the love and healing from almost all people in the family. That was a really a great concept at that time, our family or mother, they were not only cooking food but making love for us. In almost all form whether it was cooking or it was work one factor was common and that one factor was Love. That love was releasing all over mental stresses which we had accumulated during the day and was giving a great healing to our mental and physical body. Today also we are getting food but through machines and in that machine we are missing love of mother and the healing power which was coming from mother in form of food. As mentioned in blog that nothing is permanent except the change. So life is all about change and change. Surely we have to love and adopt the change but also we have to connect our-self, our society and our world in such a way that, in adopting the whole process of change we do not disconnect our self from the natural and effortless healing. Love change but don’t become completely mechanical person, love robots and all new technology but don’t allow them to cause problems to you. Allow love to enter in our life naturally, allow to connect our self with our family effortlessly. Allow healing to happen daily to our mind, body and soul in natural way. Connect with nature, connect with our family not mechanically but physically and mentally. Spread Love and Spread healing.

I missed my mom and her cooking after reading the article. Food was one of the most discussed topics when I was living as bachelor. Change is constant and is part of life very well said mam, change that occurred in December 2005 was moving to Pune for my first job. Soon, I realized having food outside is impossible. After few months I finally decided to get a gas stove and start cooking. I started cooking with tips from my mom, I realized that cooking releases stress. We get so involved in the art of cooking, that we start relaxing mentally & physically. You are right it is actually therapeutic. Seeing me cook every day, my roommates also wanted to learn cooking & they actually started cooking. I still remember my roommate’s mom saying “what did you do? He is a different person, I had never seen him clear his own plates after lunch & now he has started cooing, it’s unbelievable”. The words your father spoke about from Guru Granth Sahib, ‘Nadiya Wah Vichhanea, Mela Sanjogi Ram’. Has so much meaning and wisdom and talks about reality we don’t want to admit.

A mother is the most precious person in the life , every thing in life move around her. Why not … she is the one because of whom we are in this world. That early calls to get up from the bed , making sure we get ready for the school on time. Never got fed up with our cribbing for regular food – she always tries to improvise & bring in something new. But you know what …. You always miss the taste of her regular recipe when you are away , on tour , or having food in hostel mess. And times when you compare your some of your mother’s recipe with the one which your wife cooks – you had it. She is there every where , she would get all her pain / distress but still will be concerned about her children . Mother a selfless soul & very kind hearted with lots of love & care . A mother is the first & foremost friend of everyone’s life as no one can be true & real like her. She is there when ever we needed her. A beautiful article by Ma’am , which reminds that we owe a lot to her . In our busy professional life , specially when you are in some other cities , she would call daily to find out whether every thing is okay & what you had in your food. Some time we get irritated or may wonder why still ask the same question daily . Because she still care for you , no matter you may have turn in to your late 30’s & has been a father yourself. Most importantly she is missing your company , she is missing the friendship she cherish with you !!! She still holds the same care & affection for you. How about I start giving her call daily once , may be a short one instead of waiting for her call !!! May be she feel good & I’m able to rebuild the bond .

Thank you for such a lovely article and making us understand that to accept changes and living with it is the best one can do in life as it is very difficult to let go the familiar and happily embrace the new. As I go through the article, it takes me back to the days when my mother used to run behind me trying to feed me. Despite being a working lady, my mother, like all other sweet moms, always ensured the best for me be it food or any other aspect of my life. Every morning I used to wake up to the sweet aroma of her food and her trying to be a singer while cooking by humming the evergreen Bengali songs. Me along with my father enjoyed watching her cooking and used to wait for the mouth smacking food to be served on the table for us. This article definitely takes me back to the day when I first stepped out of my house to pursue my higher education. My dad and my mom packed my bags and came along with me to drop me to my hostel. Tears were rolling down my eyes really not understanding how and what would I do without my parents by my side. My folks were there with me for two days and with a very heavy heart I bid them good-bye just to begin a new phase of my life, a phase of my life where I had to be on my own and think about myself, both of which were completely new to me. The only moment of happiness in those initial days used to be the home-made nonperishable food that was packed in my bag by my mom. That acted as a starting point of my cooking. Luckily my hostel provided the facility of cooking to the students. I remember my first dish being an egg curry which really did not even taste close to that of an egg curry. I reached out to my mom seeking her help and narrating her how my first try at cooking turned out to be not so good an experience. She listened to me very carefully and patiently and suggested me some remedy to fix the curry. I tried it out and it worked amazing well. From there on I never looked back and always try my hands in preparing new dishes. Whenever I meet my friends, they still remember my cooking and this really makes me feel very good about it. I definitely agree that cooking is an art which demands patience and passion and it really takes a lot to nurture this art. Saying this, I would take the moment to thank my mom for always being my friend, my philosopher and my guide and handholding me to where I am today.

Madam, Sarabjeet D Natesan has beautifully explained in her detailed write up on therapeutic and healing experience by getting to cooking. She has rightly depicted that there are endless opportunities with change in work, ideas, place, and life to move on and shift identities. However we have to let go, understand and reflect on our actions to grow, imbibe and allow the mind and soul to accept, agree and create space and time for thoughts and views. Life is a journey of many ups and downs, with light and dark moments going side by side. Many a times we feel alone with sudden loss of a very dear one from our life and things become worse when things around are not working in favour of us with some sudden change in the surroundings. I have seen people giving up before circumstances surrendering themselves, taking very long time to come out and many a times people goes to a point of no return. I was brought up in a mediocre family in Bongaigaon, a small town in Assam. Unlike in Maharashtra and other industrialized places, job opportunities in our place were very meagre. After doing my graduation in Engineering in the year 2000, I had worked in a small manufacturing company for around eighteen months but had to quit due to some political disturbances in the manufacturing unit location. It was the day of September 11, 2001 when I was sitting on the interview table of a reputed multinational company and was almost confirmed for the new job; the World Trade Centre, in United States was attacked and smashed to the ground. The same day I was informed that I will be called within a week to join and that never happened. The very next week I had lost a close relative who was working as Executive Engineer in Oil India Limited in a road accident. He had always been a brother, a friend, a role model, a mentor, a guide and an inspiration for me in tough times of my life. There had been series of event after that when I had appeared in various competitive examinations across the country and rushed to various companies appearing interviews. Despite all my efforts the results were always disturbing. All these events made me remind the role of my brother (deceased relative) had played earlier in my tough times of life. As I was passing by a book store, suddenly I happened to get attracted to a book, ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. It basically aims at ensuring that the reader achieves a permanent constructive and optimistic attitude through constant positive influence of his conscious thought (e.g. by using affirmations or visualizations) and consequently achieves a higher satisfaction and quality of life. I had gone through page by page of the entire book and at the same time I kept worshipping ‘Hanuman ji’ ,my deity but now with a changed perspective. I started meditating every morning and started talking with ‘Hanuman ji’ during my prayer. I kept on re-visiting my plans and my activities and kept on sharing my views with ‘Hanuman ji’. I had started feeling a strong presence of my deity with me in every moment of my life. Knowingly or unknowingly I realized that I was a changed person and all my pains were healing gradually. I still remember the day when my mother was very much worried about my future and asking me what exactly was I doing to my future and in return I quietly replied that I will be successful soon. Within six months I had cracked three competitive examinations, got selected and absorbed in my current company. I was fortunate that I came across the book which enabled me to reconnect with my deity, heal my wounds and move forward in this world of endless opportunities.

Thank you very much for writing such a beautiful article. I fully agree with you that the life is a journey. You have made such a valid point that is so relevant in our day to day lives. As mentioned by philosopher Heraclitus "There is nothing permanent in life except change". The only constant in our life is change. Every new day is different from the previous day in our life. In the pursuit of happiness we run after the materialistic things and forget to value small things which give us happiness. We have forgotten to value our relationships and came to appreciate it only after losing it. We should stop, take a break and reflect upon what we really want. Small activities like cooking or any other hobby will give us time to ourselves and help us to take a break from the monotony and diversion from our stressful daily routine. Ma’am you have so beautifully explained in your article the essence of relationship and to accept the changes happening in life. If we do not realize this, any change in life may have disastrous affect in life. Changes can be two types; one that take place in nature where we have little or no control over. Second in our personal life, like losing somebody dear to us. We have to face this reality and prepare ourselves for this eventuality. For we cannot reverse the time of tides as it waits for no one. Positive outlook of life will help us keep going and face the changes in life. Our hobbies give us time to be with ourselves and contemplate about the changes in our life. It is very essential that we give ourselves some time in our hectic schedule. Some people do this by praying for spiritual blessings and some pursue some hobbies to keep them grounded.

Almost everyone of us will never forget the taste of food prepared by the MOTHER , the only reason is that in every particle of the food there is love and caring for all . Almost 365 days she pours her love and care into food which keeps everyone in family healthy. I learned one thing by watching my mother that if you love and care some one you need not learn the cooking, it will come automatically. One of the major difference between animals and human is that humans know the art of cooking and they eat not just to live but they enjoy the food . I find cooking is an art that any one can learn only prerequisite is your passion , your love and your care for whom you want to cook, this is the reason why one can not continuously eat in Hotels and restaurants and search for homely food . It is truly said “ Change is the only Constant thing “ in the world, when we were children and fond of the home made food rather food made by ‘ma’ , and the days are now changed and we are now on the other side and became parents . I still remember that I never entered kitchen till the age of 30 but became a fantastic cook for my own daughter , on her wish any dish is served to her within a 30 minutes and it gives immense satisfaction when she says” its Yum Dad” . I consider cooking as a way of meditation where our mind is totally dedicated to make a delicious food for our loved ones and no other thought comes to mind, no phone calls disturbs, no work on laptop. Really cooking is caring and time sped during cooking is like a meditation.

Change which is only constant is not accepted by all. Change makes one feel out of our comfort zone. Accepting change is much more important. Any sudden unanticipated change in life leaves with a wound. It is oneself who has to decide how to overcome this change. There are two ways to overcome change. One can keep on creeping over the change and keep the wound fresh. Other can accept the change and heal the wound. A famous dialogue by Rajesh Khanna in Anand movie defines this change in life very correctly -“Babumoshai, zindagi aur maut uparwale ke haath hai jahanpanah. Usse na toh aap badal sakte hain na main. Hum sab toh rangmanch ki kathputhliyan hain jinki dor uparwale ki ungliyon main bandhi hain. Kab, kaun, kaise uthega yeh koi nahi bata sakta hai. Ha, ha, ha.” The blog teaches how a change can be accepted and a situation can be changed. Mother is the closest person in everyone’s life and no one would like to leave her suddenly. But we are not God to control every event. One thing which is in our control is to accept the change and move on. The author of the blog has accepted and tried to preserve the presence of her mother in her life by cooking. Everyone has a different opinion of cooking. It may be fun for someone or it may be stress. Virtually, cooking made her relive with her mother. In this way the author accepted this change and moved on. She tried to fill the lacuna of her mother by cooking. Author used cooking as a therapy to heal the wound which was created after her mother was no more. There is a good take away from this blog that any change can be accepted in a true spirit. There may be many ways to adapt the change. It is the individual who has to find the best way to adapt change. Change is irreversible and we have to accept this fact. The golden way is to accept the change and lead the journey with change. Adapting a change is not an event; it is a process which is continuous. A deep wound cannot be healed overnight with strong medication. Taking care of wound and constant medication would heal the wound after some time. A wound can be healed but its mark always remains behind. Life can be moved on but the change cannot be forgotten!

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