Do this.

Think of the 3 most creative activities you can think of. It could be a profession. It could be a pastime, it could be art. Whatever. Whatever comes to your mind. 

What came to your mind? 

I sat the other day in an evolved ‘iron horse’. A train. The good old Bombay suburban electric train. 

Yes. The local, after a really long time I found myself in a local. 

Hold on. Before we proceed further, I have a responsibility I must fulfill. I have to establish before I set off punching keys, that there is no endangered carnivorous beast here yet. This is not about the Virar Local. And there really is no Tiger. 

Yet. 

I don’t want to create widespread disappointment and disillusionment. The Tiger will certainly come and when it does, I shall stand up on the rooftop of Air India building and shout till my voice becomes hoarse to announce its arrival. And I shall shout loud enough so you can hear it.  

For those of you reading Pathe for the first time and haven’t yet become familiar with it, a Virar local was to pull into this platform. Yes this very platform from where Pathe travels. There have been overt suggestions to this effect here and here, but the train seems to be terribly, terribly delayed. This has caused a lot of anxiety, disappointment and restlessness among the general public. And I have lost significant sleep and, this may well be hard to believe, hair.

And as the man responsible for its arrival on this platform, I have to ensure that I don’t mislead people eager for it when they hear me talk about Train and Local in the same breath. 

So go back in your chair from the edge. Relax your muscles. Let the hair on the nape of your neck settle. Sip a little water if you have to. 

And let’s get on with the rest of this post. Some derailment, I tell you! 

So I was in a local from Santa Cruz to Churchgate a few days back. And as I watched the stations flash by, I was reflecting about how in our professions we allow very little room for creativity. Of course we aren’t considering the obviously creative professions that involve some form of art – music or acting or writing or other such things – but regular office work. 

There certainly is scope for creativity – not denying that at all. But we don’t consciously implant it. Ingrain it. Some of us do it reflexively. But it isn’t a considered application. Its never a KRA item, if you know what I mean. Most of us tend to convert any work into a series of defined steps and in fact minimize scope for innovative improvements. Soon those defined steps rule our 8 or 10 hours of work and slowly, we become machines. 

That got me wondering – what are the activities that naturally requires creativity? There can be many depending on the kind of life you live and how your typical day pans out. But back to my question to you.

What were the three creative activities you came up with?  

Damn. I knew it. I knew you would miss cooking.  

Now, a huge chunk of people just throw in things and make something just to get by dinner. That kind of  ‘cooking’ is not what I mean. There is a different kind of cooking. A kind that you will know only if you have practiced it. A kind you can relate to only if you have expereinced it. Yes. There is a whole different dimension to cooking that I am trying to highlight.  

It is a state of mind.  

If you have reached that state, attained it, achieved it, even if it was just once, then you know what I am talking about. 

To you cooking is an experience. Not a chore.

And when you approach cooking with this state of mind, then I’ll be damned if you didn’t feel a buzz in your head, a tug at your heart and a song on your lips. That’s the precise point when you are experiencing it. Creativity, my friends, has kicked in. And if you find joy, it is because you are using fundamental logic – a recipe, to create and innovate, then I’ve driven home my idea. 

Cooking is probably one of the oldest extra-ordinary creative activities. What’s more, it has tremendous applied value! 

Let me take this thought one step further and I’ll then leave it there for you to think about. 

Simple creativity is applied at different levels when you set out to cook.  

Example 1: You open the fridge. Check what you have – an assortment of vegetables and perhaps eggs, meat and so on depending on your veg/non-veg orientation. Now with the available list of materials, you have to decide what to cook. That needs to also factor in assortment of masalas and other ingredients you need for cooking. And at every stage if you are the kind of cook that applies thorough thought, you would apply some level of creativity and judgment at each stage. Quantity of ingredients, their quantity, duration of cooking, degree of heat, and so on.   

Example 2.  You feel like eating something spicy. Or tangy. Or fried or roasted. Creativity sets in. Check available items that can be concocted into such a dish. 

But when it comes to cooking, there could be something far more significant than just simple creativity. 

Actually the word creativity besides being quite a boring and a much abused word, tells us only half the story. Let me put my thoughts in a different way – also reasonably boring and oft abused, but I believe I can make my point better on why cooking is a much evolved indulgence, nonetheless. 

The Left-Brain Right-Brain analogy.

 A few steps back then?  Ok.

When I said we tend to break work into series of steps, what I meant was we tend to make most of our 8-10 hours of work, a predominantly Left-Brain activity. Logical, methodical, rational, analytical, objective sequence of activities. This downplays our creative, intuitive, wacky faculties. 

Some forms of art are heavy Right-brained activities. Singing, painting and you know the rest. 

Each of us tends to be either more left-brained or more right-brained, as you know. Whole-brained, by the way, is the way to be. True intelligence, balanced, and stable is achieved when you can indulge both hemispheres and apply their combined output in various situations.

A perfect jugalbandi of left and right marks a balanced heightened state. That is the ultimate state to fancy. And if I could hazard a more debatable line, this balance can help you achieve physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of being as I found out here!   

Taking this forward, any activity that combines the effort of both hemispheres encourages this jugalbandi is a good thing. And increasingly I realize that one inconspicuous activity – Cooking, can help you indulge in a jugalbandi and get that balance of left and right.

Use Logic, reason and all that in using a pre-defined recipe. Use imagination, innovation, to create your own innovation from the recipe.

 And that’s why it’s an incredible hobby. And if you end up making lip-smacking new dishes, you are unique my friend – you could be a very evolved human being! 

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