The aromas of my dinner of rajma chawal engulfed my senses. Happily, I turned my favorite TV show on ready to enjoy my evening. Seconds later, the character on the show said, “Mom says we can’t eat dinner in front of the TV, we have to eat it together at the dining table as a family.” Next thing I knew, I was sobbing, the mascara turning into raccoon eyes. At that moment, not only did I miss my family but also I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten a meal with another human being. By the time you read this post, it will have been eighty days since I’ve last eaten a meal with another person. That’s 240 meals I’ve eaten alone.

I began thinking about all the family meals I took for granted growing up; the room filled with laughter or teenage angst based on me and my brother’s mood, and delicious food. Most days, those dinners just felt like a drag and I couldn’t wait to be done with them so I could start watching Masterchef Australia. However, at this moment, I would give a kidney to have another meal like that. I began to weep, wondering what I did to deserve to feel so alone in this world. That’s what the current world climate has done to us; it’s made us feel extremely lonely. Interestingly, it’s not just physically but mentally, too. All of us are in this situation together but we’re also experiencing it differently based on our circumstances.

With nothing better to do, I let my mind spiral out of control, and to add fuel to fire, began asking myself those misery-inducing questions, “Do I deserve this loneliness?” “Why am I here?” The second question, I’m pretty sure I asked so I could fall deep into the trap of sadness quite similar to when you listen to sad music when you’re already feeling down. You know, to get that sadness going even “better”. Well, surprisingly, my mind gave a helpful answer, “You chose to be here.”  This thought changed my perspective, it reminded me of Robert F Bennet’s famous quote, “Your life is the sum result of all the choices you make…”

If you’re like me, you’re thinking, “Nah, I never chose Coronavirus to be a thing or to be forced to stay home.” I agree but you may have, at some point, wished your days had more hours in them. And, well, hasn’t that been just the case since we’ve always been home? We all know March had 200 days instead of the regular 30 this year. I’m pretty sure you’ve also wished you could just spend more time with family or be freed from being stuck in traffic.

Growing up in a noisy Indian household, I always wished that I could live all alone on a mountain without any humans for miles. Thank god my dream didn’t come exactly true, I think I would have gone crazier than I have now. But there’s something empowering in knowing that my choices not only led me here but at one time I wished for this; I wished to have my own apartment, I wished to have the flexibility at work that I could take a nap in the afternoon for no reason or even just go for a long walk to grab a coffee. Just realizing in many ways my dreams were coming to fruition changed my perspective.

‘Everything happens for the best’, a phrase I grew up hearing on a daily basis. In times like these, it’s hard to believe it, true we can’t choose how a situation unfolds but we can choose how we see it. Did I wish to be lonely and isolated? No, but I did choose to move across the world to a city I know no one in. I did choose to live alone. These choices have taught me to be resilient, friendly, and outgoing- qualities I’m happy to have. I think sometimes if we see things in the right light we might be able to believe ‘Everything happens for the best’. A story I read as a kid, beautifully illustrates this,

One day King Akbar and his knowledgeable minister, Birbal, had gone hunting. Whilst hunting, Akbar accidentally chopped his thumb. Stressed, Akbar turned to Birbal for consolation. Birbal said to him, “My majesty, don’t worry! Everything happens for the best!” Annoyed by Birbal’s insensitivity to his pain, Akbar had him thrown in prison and continued on with his hunting trip.

In the midst of this trip, he was captured by some forest dwellers who wanted to use him as a sacrifice for a prayer. However, their shaman, on close inspection of Akbar, rejected him as he had a missing thumb and they couldn’t offer God someone “incomplete.” Overjoyed at being let go, Akbar ran to Birbal to tell him that Birbal was right, Akbar losing his thumb had been a good thing. Curious, Akbar asked Birbal ”you said everything happens for the best, what good came of you being in prison?” Birbal replied, “My Majesty if you would have not thrown me in the prison, I would have been captured along with you and used as a sacrifice.”

The essence of this story is even when things are looking bad there is some good in it, especially when we decide to look at them that way. You could choose to look at this story in another way and think, well maybe the King did survive but he’ll forever be thumbless. But I think in times like these we owe it to ourselves to try to find the good in almost every situation. Just as this quarantine has often felt like the most trying time in my life, I like to think that it has also been the best. It’s taught me to enjoy my company and I’m sure once I emerge out of it, I’ll be able to say just as Geet said in Jab We Met, “Main Apni favourite hoon” (I’m my favorite).