Rosalyn D'Mello: Feasting on happiness this Xmas

As the year comes full circle, and family and friends come together for an early Christmas feast, here’s hoping 2017 is a year of happiness

A still from the TV show Drop Dead Diva, from which one line stood out in a recent viewing: “Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life, unless you’re a serial killer.”
A still from the TV show Drop Dead Diva, from which one line stood out in a recent viewing: “Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life, unless you’re a serial killer.”

The enthusiasm from last week has spilled over. Time has been marked by delicate movements — setting out to INA market to buy pork, placing an order for liver, picking it up the next day, so that all of Monday evening was spent with my sister and I role-playing as Goan housewives, supervising each other as we tended to the boiling and the cutting of the meat, followed by the roasting of each diced bit, and finally the assembling over the fire till we were left with a rich portion of Sorpotel, enough to feed a party of 50. Last night, we administered over the Goan green curry chicken, picking off tender shoots of coriander that would lend its hue to the masala, adding a generous helping of grated coconut that would alter its texture, with boiled potatoes thrown in as the finale drew near and the three kilos of chicken was bubbling like the contents of a witches’ cauldron.

After sampling what we had so lovingly concocted, we made a representative Christmas tree with green and pink fairy lights on the wall adjoining my red bookshelf in the living room. It resembles the outline of half a tree, the rest is completed by the imagination. Come Saturday evening, we’ll be ready with our feast.

This heightened sense of anticipation for Christmas day is one of few things I’ve held on to so tightly since childhood, and I still can’t fathom why. I suppose it has something to do with what I mentioned last week, the spirit of grace and generosity that is infectious, and the coming together of family. My eagerness to host an early Christmas dinner with my sister is possibly a manifestation of some need to build a secular ritual that incorporates a larger body of friends and colleagues, to have them share in our excitement.

Last Wednesday, over a fabulous Bihari lunch with Subodh Gupta, an artist and dear friend, we once again reminisced about the overwhelming power of food. Subodh’s ongoing project is a recipe book that brings together his memories of home-made food, for which he had his sisters cook for him at his home so he could “revise” his memory about the various techniques involved in making slightly complex dishes like daal pitha (or what he calls “Bihari wontons”), and intends to cook a “lavish” meal for his artist friends so he can document it. I asked him if that would be a kind of performance, both the cooking and the eating. He interjected and said it was also importantly about celebration. He was spot on.

As the year comes full circle, I realise I do have a lot to celebrate. It’s been the busiest year of my life; a year that has seen me travel more than I ever imagined was possible, and I still have four trips coming up over the next three weeks. I have written more than I thought was within my capacity to conceive, both in my diaries and for publications, sometimes even five to six solid stories a week. This column, which will complete a year in January, has been a source of phenomenal joy. It has allowed me to rediscover myself, my neighbourhood, my relationship with Bombay, and all the beautiful, secretive ways through which one finds one’s readers. Most of all, this was the year my book found its audience, shared pride of place in bookstores, and found its way into people’s lives. The last 12 months have been challenging, I know I’ve pushed myself more than I have before, and have been rewarded with an emerging crop of greying hair. I know that it’s now time to pause. I want 2017 to be the year of reflection and ease, a year for dreaming and breathing, and collecting thoughts and ideas and emotions so they can be bottled into something, another book, perhaps.

As we inch closer to 2017, the time for resolutions is nigh. I’ve never been into these annual commitments, I know my passion tends to lapse before two months are up. But I know that I want to live a happier life, one that is steeped in the mysteries of art and literature, one that does not dwell in superficialities, one that isn’t bound to an aspirational lifestyle. I want to de-clutter my schedule, make more time for family and friends, travel more uninhibitedly, without having to check my email every 10 minutes.

Last evening, as I was picking through coriander leaves, I binge-watched Drop Dead Diva on Netflix. It was the perfect feel-good feminist show. One line stood out. “Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life, unless you’re a serial killer.” I’m taking it to heart. I hope you will too.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D’Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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