In 2015, for the first time in my life, I made a new year resolution. My takeaway from the experience is that when we look back we’ll know where the majority of our time was spent in the last year. All the big accomplishments or failures will be there right in our cognizance. But there will still be that little list of improvements that matter to us, which we consciously keep putting efforts on. The written down resolution makes us reflect on those.
This year too, I’ve made a resolution, which happens to be an upgraded version of that of the last year’s. To me, that is how it’s supposed to be. Things that are attainable items (like learning a new skill etc.) will probably not reappear in the new list but some of the lifestyle improvements will continue to stay. The current resolution piece has something that goes like this, “eat meals at the table with a glass of water — without any electronic distractions.” That sounds scary just by the name if it, isn’t it? Well, nothing is meant to be a rule to follow at all cost. If I’d found it not worth the effort, I’d drop it. The idea was to mindfully eat for the sake of developing a healthy eating habit (a glass of water with the meal inhibits over-eating and improves body metabolism) and my attempts at reducing my addiction to the virtual world. I admit, I’m addicted to the internet and well, who isn’t these days? Three months into 2016, I can safely say I have been practicing this tiny strategy fairly notable amount of time and I am quite positive about the idea of eating like this. Only the sitting-with-the-phone-away initially feels like the difficult part, but once I settle down, I find so many thoughts that start to flow into my mind, and I reflect on those with so much ease. Recollecting memories of the past, remembering family and friends, measuring pros and cons of our plans, contemplating the future, all these begin to occur in an organized manner. Now that is something I hadn’t intended. It’s a byproduct of my eating at the table. I feel like I am having a little conversation with my own mental self and I enjoy it.
That brings me back to my table obsession, which I think I discovered about myself while having my breakfast today at the table. I was thinking how I have always loved something or the other about my times spent at the dining table and had never pondered over it enough. I remember when I was a kid, despite having study tables inside the room, I’d carry all my books (or whatever project articles I used) to the dining table which provided a bigger working surface area and also a good view of mom, who’d be working in the kitchen. That reminds me, we siblings were even more obsessed about being around our Mother. How badly she wished sometimes we’d leave her alone for we often followed her to her friends’ places if she ever went there for evening chats — which used to piss her off but we never seemed to care. We were like human pets who were skilled only in one task, — ‘follow mom everywhere!’
Later, when I went to do my engineering, I lived in a hostel for four years. The layout of the dining area was such that, there was a long continuous dinner table in the middle which could accommodate a lot of members.
I clearly remember, except for a couple of initial days when I didn’t know anyone yet, I’d have eaten almost always, ALWAYS at that long table in the center. Simply because that is where all the fun used to happen with many of the hostel mates sitting together and doing the talking . That was the only place where most of the interesting and lively people of the hostel would sit and crack jokes, and I was not one to want to miss those conversations. I do feel that it was one of the reasons there used to happen a lot more bonding among people in bigger sizes rather than forming many limited cliques. There were countless things about our hostel days that we cherish and long to go back to, but this is something just so very special to me, that I can’t even describe in words.
Then comes the turn of my small and awesome table that we bought after we got married. I was hell-bent on getting a dining table as soon as possible, whereas my husband couldn’t even see the necessity of having one in the first place. Anyway, I happened to find the perfect size and style of a table that I had imagined for the spot I had in my mind as the dining space. For the open kitchen home we had occupied, it sufficed as the perfect visual divider between the kitchen area and the living room and yet allowed a wide enough entrance to the kitchen. Often our friends would sleep over on weekend meetups at our place and then next day there would be a lengthy breakfast facilitating table talks sitting right there in the same place for hours. Those conversations over an extended period of time in the past, I cherish them! When we were preparing to shift from India to Germany, all our household items were to be sold off before we left. And guess what was the first thing to leave our home, the dining table!! One day when I had barely put my step inside the house after returning from work, I noticed some people had already negotiated to take the table away. That agitated the hell out of me. An infuriated ‘me’ stomped into the bedroom, seated myself in the middle of the bed and started to wail, “Whhhaaaaaaaannnnnnn!!!”
“Of all things in the world, you had to sell my dining table first?? How I wish I could sell YOU off somewhere right now!!” I screamed at my husband. We still had about one and a half month time.
A friend of mine in the hostel, who had three siblings, had once mentioned to me that whenever they all got together at home on holidays, their table talks would, as if, never have limits! The two brothers and two sisters would sit past their finished meals and go on talking until their soiled hands went dry (in Indian culture, we eat with our hands) — despite several reminders from the parents to get up and wash them. I found it so fascinating, that I have often imagined the scene in my head. I have always found it fascinating to see siblings so close, like friends. I have three siblings of my own too, but well, I’ve never been friends with any of them. So despite having always eaten together, dinner table conversation among us has not really been a thing. Or maybe I can say I used to be fond of my eldest brother when I was young, I looked up to him as one of the perfect persons on earth. I specifically remember a time when he had arrived from his hostel, mom while serving him lunch asked me if I wanted to join too. Although I had already finished mine, I jumped in to eat again simply because of the excitement of having him back home! In that holiday trip of his, I had eaten every single day with him. But with time, things changed and we have drifted apart — Big Time!! Nevertheless, I still find my friend’s story thrilling to this day whenever I think of it!
Nowadays, I am trying to make it a point that I and my husband eat together, again without any electronic distraction. Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule that we can’t ever do it otherwise. I’ve distinctly noticed by doing this, we start conversing about things that we’d otherwise probably won’t bother talking about. For example, the other day while stuffing food into his mouth he chuckled suddenly and I asked him what it was! He then told me he remembered something about his childhood days with his brother and shared some funny story with me which even made me laugh — that started me off about something from my past. We went on until we had finished our dinners. That day it made me think that we all do it — ponder over various cluttered thoughts in our minds and then if there’s someone in the company we share those thoughts with them — which then initiates a conversation and that in turn connects them together!! Makes sense? Or I’m over-thinking? Maybe I am, but it still holds a point — ‘Human interaction is what makes a bond stronger and where else can this happen better than eating together?‘ I am not saying we don’t talk at other times, my husband says that I am like some yap-yap machine which can go all day. But during the meal times, I feel we do some mindful and sane talks. It’s different and feels quite appealing to me. And therefore, my obsession with dining tables mostly is going to stay.