Your life’s greatest achievement could be one step away.
It’s 40 degrees outside and I’m in my kitchen, chopping vegetables for a stir-fry while the daal simmers on the stove.
The smoke from the almost-cooked daal makes sweat beads form on my forehead and drip down my face in rivulets of salt. I can’t even wipe them off as I’d been chopping onions.
Oh, if only I had more hands like the goddesses we pray to in autumn. I don’t know about killing demons, but at least cooking in humid Indian summers would be easier.
I put the next item on the stove and finally feel relaxed. There’s a nagging sensation at the back of my head that I forgot something, but for the life of me, I can’t think of what it was.
An hour later when I finally sit down to eat, I realize I’d forgotten to add the green chilies. There’s nothing left for me to do than eat the bland dish, hoping I’d remember better the next time around.
If you’ve read on until now, you’ll know I hate cooking.
I hate being locked in the kitchen, racing against time as the dishes simmer on the stove, shoving in one ingredient after another, hoping I missed nothing. I hate working for hours on a dish that will be finished in ten minutes.
An unexpected guest changed all that.
This weekend, I invited Nayana, my long-time friend over to my place for dinner. My idea was to order in pizza, watch a movie, and have a lazy Sunday.
When Nayana suggested we make our own chicken biryani, I laughed and told her it was impossible. I’d never mastered something as simple as daal. Cooking something as elaborate as chicken biryani was out of the question.
We had a pizza and movie night as planned, but something kept bothering me. Nayana and I discussed the exact process of cooking the dish, and somehow, when she narrated it, it didn’t sound too difficult.
Maybe I could do it if I tried hard enough?
It was tiny — that spark of motivation — but I held on to it as I walked into the kitchen on Monday, resolving to give cooking one more try before giving it up forever.
I played an audiobook on my speakers and started following the instructions my friend had given. I chopped up the tomatoes, onions, and chilies, and made the ginger and garlic into a paste.
When I heated the oil and poured in the chopped onions, the sizzling sound made me feel accomplished. Earlier on, I used to mess up each time and burn something or the other. But this time, the timing was perfect. Soon, I added the ginger-garlic paste, tomatoes, potatoes, and the chicken pieces, and the sense of accomplishment in my heart kept growing.
The cooking took longer than I expected, more than an hour, but even before the dish was done, the aroma filled my lungs and told me this time was just perfect.
When I finally ate it, I couldn’t help but feel proud of myself.
After that, I’ve cooked the dish three times. It turns out so good and makes me feel so empowered, I just can’t stop.
All my life I hated cooking. What changed?
My attitude did.
Earlier, I had the limiting belief that no matter how hard I try, I won’t be able to cook.
All it took was one try, one easy recipe, and here I am, looking forward to the next time I’ll be able to prepare chicken biryani from scratch.
This made me realize that most of the times, our struggles are harder in our heads. So often, we’re so convinced that the result won’t be worth it, that we don’t even try.
We’re so sure we’ll fail that we let our biases color our journey, making even minor inconveniences seem like big hurdles.
All it took for me to overcome my lifelong hatred for cooking was one attempt at cooking chicken biryani.
How many other major life goals could be just one small step away?