Back in the day, especially during her religious fasts, fried bitter gourd or karela-fry was mandatory on my mother’s plate. A few days ago, I found myself trying to replicate it. It’s a simple recipe but as I was scouring through Asian stores looking for the vegetable, I thought about why I was craving things I disliked, things I never ate or even thought of all these years. Maybe the craving isn’t for karela, it’s for the feeling of home, I thought. But why was this feeling creeping up now? I am not the kind to be homesick, I spent all of my school years in a hostel and have been away most of my adult life too. Also, I don’t like feeling weak or overwhelmed with emotions, this is new to me.
As I chopped away the karela, a message popped up on my screen. A magazine was interviewing my friend back in Nepal about his new year’s resolutions, and he was curious if I had made any. He was planning to buy less and be more thankful for what he had. He also listed out the professional goals he was set to achieve this year, especially because he hadn’t been able to do much the past year. I was shocked, not because of what he set out to achieve but because somehow making resolutions had completely skipped my mind.
Now I am the kind of person who has always believed in discipline as being an essential virtue and the idea of letting go as weakness, so I make resolutions and I keep them. Being raised in a middle-class Nepali family, I was constantly reminded that hard work is the key to success, and therefore on any opportunity to learn or accomplish something, I would give all I had.
My parents kept resolutions too, they still do! I remember my mother decided to go off salt owing to health conditions and I thought that was an impossible thing to achieve. But she did it, even if she had to pack her lunch or leave a party having only munched on fruits. My father still gives himself writing and running challenges and comes through every time. So how did I let myself off the hook this time?
It will be an understatement to say that last year has been difficult for most of us. The daily rising numbers of death, the isolation, social distancing, and the fear of the disease itself has generated widespread psychological trauma. It’s natural that our anxiety and mental health is declining. Psychiatrists all over the world are expecting an increase in mental illness over the next 12 months as a result of the Covid 19 crisis.
Initially, I was a little uncomfortable sharing I didn’t have any resolution but I consoled myself, because 2020 was a rough year, and just because the calendar says it’s January doesn’t mean I have to automatically feel motivated. My friend and I discussed everything we had planned for this year and how nothing on the list was accomplished, I laughed off my failure for the first time, and it wasn’t all that bad. And as we looked through the photos we’d shared and all the online meetings we’d sat through, we realised we had achieved things far more valuable than those we’d planned for.
Through the hundreds of zoom sessions and all the online conversations, we made so many new friends, hearing other people’s stories we learnt to see different perspectives, through the horrifying news we were reminded of what was truly important. We made banana bread and apple pie. We watched films together over a virtual party and for my mother’s birthday, all of us in my family, and all in different continents bought each of ourselves a cake, joined a zoom call, blew the candles and also ate the cake.
This year I am going to tell myself and everyone around me that although discipline is a virtue, being kind to yourself is far more important. And if I find myself giving up or feeling weak, I am not going to be disappointed, this year the resolution is going to be gentle reminders and celebrating working towards the goal and not obsessing over achieving it.
I remember my mom at the dining table with her karela, aaloo ko raas, and rice. I liked to sit and watch her eat. She always offered me some, “thorai chakhera ta herr” she would say but I’d never even take a bite. This time after I was done cooking, I called her to show her what I had made. Initially, she was confused about why I’d cook something I never ate, and I told her I was weak and homesick. She immediately got herself a plate of food too and we pretended we were having dinner together at our dining table back home.