Freedom is such a relative word. For me, it has always come from something positive – acceptance, independence, standing on my own feet, finding my way around a new place, having friends who are as good as – if not better than – family to lean on, from letting go and from realisation.
I completed three months in Dubai yesterday. Having landed on February 16, I had no idea of what I was going to do here, how things would be three months thereon, whether I would be happy and least of all how I would grow as a person. But, I learned a lot. Of course, you can now come to me if you want to know how to get a house, internet, electricity, and a family visa in the UAE. But, more importantly, I learned that not everyone is opportunistic; there are some really genuine people out there – who will support you, advise you, be with you no matter what. That while it is a big bad world out there, there are some really nice things that you encounter on your way. That when you go out and get a grasp of things that seemed more intimidating than they actually are, you are letting yourself grow with each experience. And – an old lesson – that you need to push on no matter what.
Last week was a pretty low one for me. After all, pressing the restart button on life is no small feat. We had just moved into our new place – a really pretty studio with the tiniest kitchen possible – that had eaten into a huge chunk of our finances, and suddenly commuting to work was getting difficult, not to mention the 45 degree heat of Dubai and the work load. And then, after it all got over, the weekend brought with it a much needed break. Slowly, I unwound; it’s surprising how doing nothing very constructive does so much for the soul.
Friday went in cooking – vada pav and Mumbai-style sandwiches for friends – and a simple pasta with salami strips and parsley for dinner. Saturday went in bidding adieu to Ishaaq as he returned to India. And then, suddenly and not so shockingly, I found myself alone, with nothing to do! And, as I sat there watching Castle back-to-back, with the light outside dimming, the huge windows slowly going dark, all I could feel was freedom. Freedom from worry, the future, the need to constantly have things under control. Slowly, I just let go. I gave up on stressing about what had not yet become.
And, like all my other emotions, I had to make something to let it all go. With some shallow fried chicken on the counter I could only think of a Mediterranean salad of sorts with different layers of textures and flavours – fresh, appetising, interesting, exciting, healthy. I walked to the grocery store and took my time through the aisles picking up stuff I knew I’d use soon and walked back home to make my ‘Freedom Salad’. Juicy shreds of roast/fried chicken are tossed with celery and pungent onions. Chickpeas slow sautéed in a little oil with smoked paprika add another dimension of flavour along with the fresh, crispy lettuce and toasted pine nuts. The dressing is made of yoghurt, red grape vinegar, honey, garlic, salt and pepper and olive oil. Toss it all together and you have a one-bowl meal.