In college I never paid too much attention in my physics class, a required course for my Computer Science degree, and my only goal was to pass. I was not interested in learning the mathematical formulas to find the acceleration of a pumpkin if you dropped it from 8.32 meters high, or what time a feather would reach earth if dropped from the moon.
As a result, I passed physics with a C- and quickly moved on with my life. I graduated college with a degree in computer science and business administration and began working at Apple headquarters in the Bay Area. My days were filled with work. I spent 3 hours commuting from work everyday, and when I wasn’t working at the office, I was working from home.
My days were full of coordinating bug fixes between different teams, and ensuring the software was cleansed of any proprietary secrets before it went to the public. The thought of failure was like a parasite — latching onto me and sucking away all my energy, leaving me only with the ruminating thought of “What could I have done better?”
I only felt rested while and after I cooked myself food. Cooking became my creative outlet, which in turn filled me with energy. It became a form of expression for me that had no rules. It felt like the only part of my day that I was not using my brain, but all my other senses and intuitions that are necessary for evolution. I did not have to worry about failure because I was not measuring my success in the kitchen. The fact that I made it to the kitchen after a long day of work was a success in its own.
In spring of 2018, I left my job at Apple and bought a one way ticket to Colombia, which started my 8 months of adventuring through Colombia and Brazil. I feel lucky that I plucked myself out of my soul-sucking job in Silicon Valley and dropped myself in the incredibly diverse, lustrous country of Colombia because it gave me so much time to reflect on my intentions.
Ironically, one of my realizations had to do with something that I had tried to forget about in college — physics.
Physics did not matter much to me until I realized how much of my life is actually defined by the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that “energy is always conserved, it cannot be created or destroyed.” I see the law of thermodynamics in so many aspects of my life. I see the difference in my everyday experiences depending on my energy that day.
If I am in a more positive mood, I am more inclined to say “hi” to my neighbors, or be compassionate towards the driver in front of me going 10 miles below the speed limit. I will want to transfer my own positive energy to others, by being kind.
On the other hand, if I’m in a negative state, I am more willing to keep my head down and not talk to my neighbors, or cut off another driver. It’s hard to be in those negative spaces alone. The negative energy within me can be converted as negative energy toward others.
Energy conservation is something I realize in my everyday life, but I see it stand out most prominently in my relationship to food. I see this conversion starting off with love. The love that I put into my food as I cook is passed down to the people who eat it. I would like to think that they’re able to pass that love onto someone else, too.
In June, on my walk to the Post Office, I ran into Garry. Garry is a neighbor I met outside of my neighborhood coffee shop — Cortona Cafe. I was on my way to deliver dahl kits as a fundraiser for the Northwest Community Bail Fund — an organization which provides bail money to folks who may not be able to afford it otherwise. The organization caught my eye during the Seattle BLM protests.
When I told Garry I was organizing a fundraiser revolved around my passion, community care through South Asian cooking, Garry gave me $20 and walked away. This random act of kindness from Garry motivated me to continue making my dahl kits, finding new ways to donate to organizations that were important to my community. I ended up donating around $2,000 to organizations like Northwest Community Bail Fund and Yes Farm.
The love that I put into my food as I cook is passed down to the people who eat it. I would like to think that they’re able to pass that love onto someone else, too.
In August, I was slumped over a bench in my neighborhood park when I saw Garry for the first time since June. At this point, I was energetically drained. I was sad, tired, exhausted from the horrific news cycle depicting the atrocities the government and white supremacists had been committing on my community members and fellow Americans by means of the pandemic, racism, and anti-Blackness.
Garry came up to me with a smile and asked me how I was doing. I had to be honest so I explained to Garry how I had found so much joy in hosting my banana leaf pop up meals at my apartment, and I could not do that anymore.
Hosting my pop up meals was my way of transferring my love through food, and to my community. Amidst COVID-19, I felt as if that nourishing part of my life was over. Instinctually, Garry could tell I was feeling deeply defeated. From our interaction, he could tell that I was struggling to adapt my passion to this new reality.
Without thinking twice, Garry told me to drop off some food at his house that following Wednesday. He said he knew I was a good cook from the way I spoke about my passion and he wanted to give my food a shot. He was looking to change his diet to encompass more vegan and vegetarian options, something that I specialize in.
I felt a bolt of electricity invigorate me — Garry had once again jump-started me with the energy to keep on doing the things that charged my battery with positive energy.
The first time I brought Garry food, I was definitely a little bit nervous. I felt imposter syndrome — scared that I would not meet Garry’s expectations of what he thought my food would taste like.
That all changed when Garry opened the door with a smile and let me in. As he transferred my Rajma — an Indian kidney bean stew — to his own tupperware, he shared stories with me about his music career, his life in San Francisco in the ‘80s and his many wisdoms about love and relationships.
His kindness and support replaced my fear of failure with excitement to cook and share my food with him again.
Since that Wednesday in August, I have been delivering food to Garry every week. I have made him a variety of dahls — different types of lentils with cumin fried rice — and all of which are vegetarian. I have not brought him the same meal twice.
Encouraged by Garry’s faith, I am now transitioning from hosting pop up meals to catering. I am realizing that there are so many sources of energy out there and with the support and love of others, adapting to change is possible.
The empathy and care that Garry blessed me with motivates me to cook him and others meals full of love. Even though Garry is a couple decades older than me, the love we have for food, community, and storytelling feeds us with the energy to keep us going, even in the hardest of times. Garry’s continued acts of kindness inspire me to be my best self.
There are hard days, but I feel compelled to convert the kindness I see in my community into love — in the form of the food I serve to others.
Last updated 10/20/20
Read more Mother Tongue: