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In one of our impromptu meetings last Sunday, Sheila was all excited in narrating how she, for the first time in her life, walked through a paddy field! Yes, despite spending nearly all our lives in a major rice eating country of the world, this too has become a kind of novelty for us, the city bred people.


We were seated among a group of friends who now live much apart and were lucky to see each other face to face after a span of 4 long years! This brought up an interesting question. What new things have you learnt / done or attempted to learn / do beyond your professional work in last 6 months or so? It could be anything small (or may be small for others but big for you) like learning a new phrase or something life altering like quitting your job to set up the foundation of your organic farm.

As I threw the question among the group, I almost immediately saw everyone’s face turning blank with the exception of Sheila who already spoke about her accomplishment. To liven up the atmosphere I suggested as many examples as I could, taken from the leaves of everyday life (or I thought so at that time, I was proven wrong later). Some of those were having dinner at a newly opened restaurant or in the same vein cooking up new dish at home, meeting someone interesting, dreaming something new even if idle, buying a new fashion accessory never tried before so on and so forth. However, not one person in the room responded. With a positive fear of sounding rude and presumptive I presented my list of new things attempted in last 45 days or so (six months seemed to be too lengthy a time for me to remember all the things I attempted for the first time). I had to because I could not have backed off from answering my own questions! So, once again with thousand apologies, I present my list of first attempts here:

  • In the reading department – My Life by Jerome K Jerome, a collection of letters and essays of Rabindranath Tagore not read before, Indian Art & Sculpture by Abanindranath Tagore (translated by Sukumar Ray), short stories and essays of Syed Mujtaba Ali.
  • In the purchasing department – this is closely associated with the following pointer, so don’t consider these irrelevant – bought real saffron threads from Kashmir, preserved Spanish olives, Dijon fruity mustard (no I haven’t disowned Indian homemade mustard sauce, still prepare it from scratch every time I require it) local version of outrageously expensive gruyère cheese (turned out to be a bad buy), wooden oval lightweight dinner plates etc.
  • In the cooking department – prepared dry fruits pulao with real saffron and not with alternative like marigold colour or artificial food colouring, my version of shrimp spaghetti, niramish jhol (a special soup sans any non-vegetarian item) mango smoothie with mishti doi, badam (used an assortment of various nuts combination) kheer (thick creamy milk) sherbet and others already forgotten.

I was in the positive fear of blabbering on myself. Luckily at that point I heard a somewhat timid voice from behind. Yes, someone from the group came for my rescue. After much hesitation he narrated his exploration, something new he hasn’t attempted before. It turned out that he and a couple of his colleagues snuck past the security to climb a highrise building yet to be formally inaugurated. They saw the face of the city from atop. This in itself was nothing new. His own office building as well as the building in which he owns an apartment is a skyscraper. But that they managed to deceive the ever so vigilant eyes of the security personnel was a novelty for them and made the experience all the more thrilling. I told how this reminded me of O Henry’s famous story, The Voice of the City. Thankfully, at this point the discussion veered off to a different direction and I was extra cautious for the rest of the evening to not to raise “uncomfortable” questions.

Nonetheless, I kept on wondering, aren’t we supposed to ask this question to ourselves everyday of our lives, what new have I done / learnt today?


Image Courtesy:

Christopher Michel