New year is the time when the world goes high on making resolutions. I read somewhere that “A new year’s resolution lasts as long as the first week of January”. Truer words were never spoken. While Facebook is replete with updates from people who resolve to lose weight, be tolerant to fellow-desis from the Bay Area, spend less time Facebooking (ironically announcing it on Facebook), strive to find a higher truth (whatever that means), cut down on spending in shopping, or waste less time listening to Kolaveri di, I wonder how many of these resolutions actually attain fruition. This gives an interesting glimpse into human behavior, where some invisible force throughout the world not only makes us guilty for our actions (or the lack of it), but also makes us announce publicly a list of all the things we will probably never do.
I do not make new year resolutions. I make resolutions, not just during the new year though. Last summer, I made a resolution to cut down on eating outside. I had to make a sudden trip to India because my father was ill, and I had to save for the trip. Not eating out was my only serious resolution, and it was hard. It was hard not because I am a big fan of eating out, but because these days, eating out is a major form of socialization. We have all the time to stalk people and stay abreast of gossip, but we do not have the time to invest into cutting, chopping, and cooking. I did not stop eating out altogether, I just reduced it to once a week, then once in two weeks, until I reached a stage where I rarely wanted to eat out. I started with saying no to outside meets, but yes to potlucks at home. I continued it with making less frequent visits to Chipotle and Starbucks (I used to frequent them every alternate day). I started skipping get-togethers, and with each dinner meet missed, the peer pressure of making it to the next one got worse. I would order a glass of water at the coffee shop if that was my only option. It was about saving money. It was about taking a little step toward a healthy lifestyle. But most importantly, it was taking a major step toward self-disciplining yourself, and sticking to that. I feel I cared more about money when I did not earn it. I started to hang out with people in smaller groups. I would call them up, asking if I can come over for dinner, and always bring a dish or two to share. Every time I went out, I made sure I had some yoghurt or bananas with me. I started rewarding myself by buying things I am passionate about (for example, office supplies and photography gear). I have eaten out once at Chipotle, and have been to Starbucks once since summer. That is more than six months. We went for a little trip on new year, and I had packed some bananas and yoghurt in case we got hungry after the hike. I mentally congratulated myself when I could convince my friend to not eat out, and we came home to enjoy two courses of chicken curry, shrimp curry, and some lentils, all prepared at home. This morning, I put some time into chopping vegetables and making an omelet and some coffee for my friend, rather than head to ihop.
I am not going to start telling you the advantages of not eating out. It works great for me, but that might not be your calling. It works for me because I save money, plan my food supplies better, restrict my socializing (if socializing is equivalent to eating outside), feel less guilty about eating unhealthy, and afford the best quality stuff (the best quality of organic food is still cheaper than eating outside). Most importantly, I feel I have a say in deciding my life, about which get-togethers I want to go to, and which I want to avoid. I like the power of being able to say no. I spend more time cooking for friends at home, and hang out with people who spend time cooking for me. When I was in Calcutta, I ate at home every day. I might not know what food in Oh Calcutta or Mainland China tastes like, but I sure know how good it feels when my mother, grandmother, father, and even my neighbor aunt put in the time and effort to cook something I enjoy.
Since this was not a new year resolution, it did not die by the end of the first week of January. I still have to work on disciplining myself in sleeping earlier, working out everyday, reading and writing more regularly, or keeping myself motivated through the rest of my doctoral study. However, minimizing eating out is a resolution I am going to observe for life. I am going to eat out only when either the food or the company is compelling enough for me, or when I know I am going to die for the lack of food.