On how important it is to be selfish and a healthy grilled chicken, quinoa, mango and wilted kale salad

23 May

Just yesterday I was invited to a colleague’s birthday lunch. It was great to catch up with my colleagues ( 8 women and 1 guy) and to say that the lunch was hearty, would be an understatement. In between the talk turned towards what the birthday girl was going to do in the evening. I was told that she had her celebratory birthday breakfast with her fiance, lunch with her favourite acquaintances and friends from work (that would be us) and evening would be devoted to another grand meal with her family of sisters and parents. To me that sounded absolutely perfect. A day planned around food!! What a perfect birthday indeed!

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The topic from there on turned towards how important it is to make sure that one enjoy’s her/his birthday to the  fullest. Birthday is one day where everybody is entitled to having  their wishes granted and being the center of attention. I nodded my head to all of it except to the one about being the center of attention. My modest and fiercely grounded upbringing and related conditioning refused to accept any claim that suggested being the center of attention was a good thing. It’s because being the center of attention was akin to being selfish and being selfish meant being a bad person. No way was I going to be a ‘bad person’. And if that meant, shunning attention and allowing the limelight to fall on someone else, so be it.

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One of colleagues, a young Bahraini girl – 20 something old, known for her love of celebrating her birthdays spoke up. I listened to her in rapt attention. She talked about how she put a countdown on her iPhone counting down days, hours, minutes and seconds to her birthday. Everyday she took pains to remind her family and friends about her up coming birthday, giving everybody enough time to plan something special for her. After all, family and friends were supposed to do something memorable on her birthday as they were in her life for a purpose which was to see her happy. She described with stars in her eyes about how excited she felt every year when it is her birthday month. Each year she saved up enough money to buy herself the gift of her choice. This year too, she had already bought herself, her own ‘surprise gift’!!!!!

GCQ5To me, all of it sounded preposterous. Attaching so much value to one day is equal to setting yourself up for disappointment. Yet I listened to her in fascination. She rambled on about her love for gadgets and precious stones, clothes and branded shoes and her father’s credit card. In my head, I was judging her against my will as someone who was so self – absorbed. I couldn’t ever be like her and  concluded  how different individuals we were. Suddenly the shine in her eyes, the unbridled happiness on her face drove me to think beyond the obvious. While I was this 30 -something, unexcited professional; she was this 2o – something, full of hope professional at the other of the table. What was so different that our worlds couldn’t meet? Why was I so resentful of her happiness which was self-generated and did not depend on anything external? Materialistic it might be, yet it was genuine.Truth be told, I envied her sitting on the other end of the table. I wanted to be enthusiastic like her about my own birthday, about my life and everything around me. I wanted to make each day count until it was my big day. I wanted  to celebrate. Growing up has cost me. It has taken away from me my enthusiasm for self – created small joys.

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No wonder I felt trapped between my contempt for her selfishness and my readiness to trade places with her and her attitude towards life.  What was that exact point in life where I lost my uncontainable curiosity and enthusiasm for life? Sitting there among all the chatter and immensely enjoying my chocolate lava cake, I tried to trace back the path in vain. The change had happened so slowly and in many ways, irreversibly. To watch this girl revel in her selfishness, was the takeaway for me that afternoon over good food and other interesting conversation. As women, after we get married and have children and  how soon we forget that we need to be selfish. The word feels abusive because as wives, mothers and hence caretakers, it has no business being around in our dictionary. But with that don’t we also forget to find joy from within us. Our children, our families become our sources of joy. Ofcourse they are. It is not debatable. But isn’t it important to find our own joy. Our self-generated joys such as gifting ourselves what we think we deserve or spending time doing things we love. For most of us, what we deserve is decided by what our family or children think we deserve.

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Just sit back and think hard. What do you really enjoy? Let that not include (for once) your child’s smile, his/her achievements, your spouse’s appreciation or your boss’s dependency on you for work. What do you as a person enjoy doing/thinking/creating? Make a list and take a positive step towards achieving it. I did my list which I define as my sources of self- generated joys. One of them is developing healthy and tasty recipes. The Salad pictures that you see interspersed along with all this ‘selfish’ monologue is my own creation.  I enjoyed creating it and executing it. Well to tell you the truth, I didn’t bother sharing this salad with any one else. I enjoyed it for lunch and felt good about it. May be I am being necessarily rebellious but this concept of finding my own joy for my own selfish reasons has taken root in my mind. The recipe is so simple that it shouldn’t take more than half hour to bring it all together.

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I would recommend that you use a sweet dressing for this salad as it complements the flavours of the tart mango, the delicious dullness of the wilted kale and the hearty goodness of the pepper crusted grilled chicken. The quinoa provides the much need foundation to hold all the flavours and gives it roundness of a complete meal.

Hope you enjoy this and spend some time contemplating selfishly about what makes you smile and your heart jump with joy.

In other news, my blog has been rated as one of the TOP 10 Blogs cooking blogs in India. Woohoo!! I am thrilled to bits. Check out the post here

Also, this is my 250th post on this blog. It is such a huge milestone for me personally because I cannot begin to explain how difficult it was at times to keep going – developing, creating content, taking pictures of food and presenting it in an interesting format each week. I am relentless about my blogs because perhaps because this is MY space and I am stubborn about not allowing it to wither away!

With this note, wish you all a happy weekend! Be creative.

6 Responses to “On how important it is to be selfish and a healthy grilled chicken, quinoa, mango and wilted kale salad”

  1. Chai a Cup of Life May 23, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    We all need to be ‘selfish’ once in a while, especially us mothers who forget ourselves after putting our kids needs first all the time. For example, I finally decided to get my hair cut and treated after almost a year of nothing (my hair was literally breaking at the ends). I had to justify it to myself that it was a mother’s day gift to myself!! I hope next time you are more excited for your own birthday and treat yourself.
    You know I still have not used kale before, I wouldn’t know who to use it. I guess your recipe would be a great start!

    • Anita Menon May 23, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

      I am so glad you were able to get some time out to fix your hair. Even I find myself justifying a lot when I do something exclusively for myself. We need to stop that and simply give ourselves more opportunity to feel more deserving

  2. Bikramjit May 23, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    more things on the listttttttttt :)
    and being selfish is good .. also if you are happy yourself then you can speread happiness more :)

    and i do gift myself sometimes .. but in my case no one else gifts me so i am left ot di it myself :(

    he he he

    • Anita Menon May 23, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

      Spot on Bikramji ! Only when we are happy would we be able to spread happiness around us

  3. palkachopra May 24, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Lovely post Anita… I quite often feel the same, i think you start thinking a bit too much when you become a mother!! I guess, we all need to chill a little and give some time exclusively to ourselves. For me, it is generally a shopping trip (it really soothes me), also i have always been super excited on my birthdays (so i can relate to that friend of yours- though i don’t go to the extent of reminding everyone that its my bday soon!), but i make it a point that i feel special on that particular day- it keeps me happy and charges me up :)
    And i do wana try this recipe, will let you know how it comes out xx

  4. Deena Kakaya May 25, 2014 at 2:40 am #

    I enjoy making time to read your posts. I smile at how I find myself connected to you.

    Your colleagues attitude felt preposterous to me too, but then I remembered what I was like in my 20’s. I never pinned so much anyone else doing something special for my birthday (partly because I didn’t want to feel disappointment) but I did make sure I was abroad for my birthday, somewhere exciting. I also shopped for clothes regularly and went out lots. Things is, every phase is just that, a phase, what makes me happy has changed,

    It’s not so much about having a toned body and flashy holidays or boutique dresses. It’s watching a movie with my husband, dinner with a fabulous friend, seeing baby ducks on a walk with my boy, having my dad cook for me. Simple stuff. I like a simple life nowadays. I’m so sick of putting pressure on myself no the joys that came about in my 20’s had a price. Not a little one either,

    Congratulations Anita, on finding what makes you happy for now. X

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