It is Durga Pujo time, and despite social distancing norms and mask adoption rules, it is impossible to curb the enthusiasm of Kolkata residents. Pandal hopping and shopping is their raison d’etre. For me, a non-native in this City of Joy, Dussehra – like any other festival – is less about rituals and more about sweets, the sweet-tooth being a genetic pre-disposition and a proud inheritance at that.
As children, we had a very competitive environment when it came to food in our impoverished household. Food was limited and whoever amongst the seven siblings (the eighth arrived in somewhat better times) finished the first serving first, stood a chance to scrape the cooker bottom for more. Speed-eating thus became an acquired survival skill.
As we grew and finally flew the nest, times changed, but I struggled to adapt where food was concerned. Residual insecurities associated with life’s basic needs, combined with the paleolithic brain that all humans carry, made it tough for me to transition. But clearly, apart from the much changed life conditions, social norms necessitated what my coach KR called, a ‘new template’. And hence, the desirability of optimally paced eating was gradually ushered into the consciousness, with partial success at practice.
Festivals, generously sprinkled over any Indian’s calendar, continue to throw new challenges, nonetheless. It is more so this time, in 2020, as opportunities for out-bound activities like pandal hopping and heroic crowd jostling for a close view of Maa Durga are limited, courtesy COVID-19. ‘Home-bound on holidays with sweets in the fridge’ is not a situation you would like to be in, with my kind of history.
On top of that, for someone whose indirect knowledge is derived in large parts from books and academic sources, my chapter landings in the books under perusal could not have been more inopportune.
Only yesterday, James Clear pronounced loud and clear over Audible while citing French Economics Frederic Bastiat – it almost always happens that when the immediate consequences are favourable, the later consequences are disastrous… Ok, I can try delaying gratification, but what short term reward can replace hogging on sweets for nine days! Habit-stacking every flip of sweet-box with a round of push-ups is theoretically possible, but operationally comical, if not inconvenient.
What complicates decision making is the heads-up I deliberately concocted and wrested from one of The Science of Well-Being lectures of yesterday by Dr. Santos of Yale. As I see it, preventing hedonic adaptation by savouring different kinds of sweets throughout the day is the path to my enhanced well-being, at least in the short-term. Intermittent consumption will also ensure that the pleasure is not evanescent, if I may add!
Alas the rational mind, here I am immersed in writing this post as a gratification to displace the sinful pleasure of gobbling a laddoo. Stocking-up sweets for a day at a time, cutting every sweet into at least four pieces, and keeping away from the living room which hosts the fridge, are some other strategies at my wretched disposal, once I am done with this writing.
Colleagues, friends, and well wishers! My honest sharing here is driven by a long-term agenda. Now that you are fully aware of my struggles and imbued as I am with ‘Hope’ (which happens to be one of my top five character strengths), visualizations of you surprising me with sweet delights on our next meeting, cheer me up.
An interesting and relevant fact to note – Positive Psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky has determined how much of our happiness is really under our control: 40 percent.
Here, take it – I gladly place 40% of my happiness in your control!