My 2021 in Review

It is essential to pause and reflect in order for me to rediscover myself through my journey past. Taking a quiet “walk” through the past year allows me to pinpoint where I’ve been clever or careless, confident or cautious. Self-reflection illuminates our strengths and weaknesses. Reflection also requires asking some hard questions: 

Did I put forward my best work? Have I been helpful or hurtful? Was there participation in acts of kindness and embracing each person’s uniqueness in diversity? Have deeper connections been made in my community, both local and global? Has sufficient time and authenticity been permitted in building those relationships? How has each experience changed the course of my life?

How can I improve, shape myself and be more productive and positive? Have I had the courage to reward my change and celebrate the milestones?

Appreciating the Power of Reflection

It may not seem obvious, introspection is powerful. The sort of power that allows us to be vulnerable with ourselves, without becoming negative. It is a chance to gauge whether I am becoming the sort of person I was made to be. Am I reflecting the true image of the One who made me?

So, I took a personal audit, of sorts, of the past year. My hope is to try and identify the highlights – those exchanges and connections that are shaping me into the person I am.

January

I am always in the mindset to welcome my chef friends with a home cooked meal. When chefs break bread together, it is common to serve comfort food. I had the inclination to bring Indian street food to our table. One of the dishes was “pani puri”

What started out as a simple get together ended up with Chef Hugo re-making his version of pani puri and serving it to the community in the Scott’s pub food truck. I was touched by the support of our Luxembourg community travelling near and far on that cold, snowy weekend, enduring the long lines that curled all the way up and around the street.

crowds-lining-for-pani-puri

They had invited Michelin starred guest chefs to participate alongside and Chef Hugo took my pani puri to another level. He inspired the guest Michelin chef to take the recipe to his own restaurant and subsequently showcase this on his table. I was amazed by the creativity, talent, vision, and comradery by this group of friends.

The experience was extremely humbling for me. Simple, Indian street food could go from my kitchen counter to a food-truck, and then to a Michelin star table.

Be slow to second-guess yourself. Even the simplest act can have incredible results. Just keep planting the seeds and watch how others water and grow

February

Learning French taught me that I may not be able to do everything that I think I can! After several months of lessons, I still felt ill-equipped. Frustrated as I was, I could write a menu, a poem for my twin sisters’ birthday. I could greet my friends in French, and order cappuccino from my local coffee shop, Ready?!: “Je voudrais un cappuccino s’il vous plait, très chaud avec un peu moins de lait”!

It worked for me for the moment, and I was in good company of friends who all spoke English and did not hesitate to translate for me.

Learning French taught me that I need to need…others.

Winter also brought the blues. But I managed to weather the grey skies, rain, and snow and continued going for my daily walks, convincing myself that if the population of 630,000 here can survive the weather with acceptance and smiles, then, I too, can do this.

Funny enough, acceptance and gratitude brings in the sunshine!

March

It was time to do something that I had wanted to do for a number of years. To write my book, a memoir of my life and work – a vulnerable and rewarding form of writing. What better time than now during the time of thought-provoking, inaudible confinement? I guess I was planted in Luxembourg to start this chapter of my life.

The title and concept had already been on my mind for years, I just needed to start. And start I did, on the 29th of March. I wrote every day. I wrote from memory. I wrote conscientiously and consistently for three months.

kiran-working-on-her-book

I had to look inside of myself, to do some honest self-reflecting, create a book outline, a “mind map”, research, reach out to my characters for their permission to use their names. I had to commit to not only finishing the first draft but to publishing my first book and to becoming an author.

Learn to become a novice in the thing in which you are not an expert.

April

As exciting and exhilarating as writing was, I was not prepared for the wheel of emotions, the surrendering, the honesty and integrity, the joy, pride, and giving of myself. I began to notice how my writing became more fluid and optimistic.

Writing helped me to deepen my learning that seemed periodical and disjointed.

It opened my eyes to what I had been working on, engrossed in, reading. I learned many valuable lessons and remain focused on continuing to seva, to inspire.

May

Sky, the proprietor of Imperial Hair Concept, extended his hospitality by offering a photo shoot at their salon. This would be ideal for the book back cover. On the day of the “shoot”, there was a party atmosphere in the salon. My lovely Luxembourg family and friends closed their business on a Monday just to pamper, prepare and photograph me!

In spite of the uncertain times, they opened up their space and welcomed me with warm infectious smiles and called me a member of their ‘family’!

kiran-with-her-grandsons

It was hard to be so far away from my family on Mother’s Day. But their love, patience, kindness, and smiles remind me of their resilience, that we can do this together!

I learned that you can depend on family, when most needed, whether near or far.

June

With book deadlines approaching, we decided to get away to complete the writing. Cap Rocat, in Mallorca, was the perfect destination. An incredibly unique resort, set in a converted military fortress, overlooking the Mediterranean. The weather was idyllic, food was delectable and the quiet space was reinvigorating.

But there are reasons why we are nudged to go to places – to meet people and to listen with our hearts when we are quiet and refreshed. It was here that we met Chef Victor, a master culinarian, kind, full of stamina, and liberal with his time with me.

chef-victor-garcia-cap-rocat
Chef Victor Garcia, Cap Rocat, Mallorca

During our coffee meeting one afternoon, he turned to me with great sadness, “Kiran, you wanted to change hospital food, I want to change the meal program offered in my childrens’ school. How can I do this?”

Without any hesitation I responded, “Yes, you can”! We ended up talking excitedly about how we can do this together. With a compelling heart I sent an email to my editor, informing her that I would not be able to turn in my manuscript on time. I had to finish my last chapter with the inclusion of Chef Victor’s petition!

I learned to listen quietly, respectfully, and with empathy.

July

After delivering the final draft of the book, it was a relief to welcome my sister, Primila, to Luxembourg for her first visit. Of course, I was in my element! I couldn’t wait to show her around, visit every inch of Luxembourg, act as guide, experience new food, go shopping, introduce her to all my new friends in the community.

kiran-and-primila
Fun with my sister, Primila

Our time together in Luxembourg was followed by a few days in Paris. What a delight to wander the streets, enjoy incredible cuisine and soak in the summer sun of Paris. Primila hosted us for a first evening at the exquisite Restaurant Le Meurice, where we were cared for with impeccable service.

The time I was able to spend with my sister allowed me to unwind from the work of writing. I was able to turn my attention from the project that had consumed me for months, and to relax with loved ones.

There are times when distraction from routine and from work can be very cathartic. Embrace those times.

August

Our first home leave! California, here we come! Family time, every moment you can get as if to catch up on every moment I was not with them.

I designed and fabricated my first plate at my daughter Sheena’s Laurel Street Art Studio, in San Carlos. My friends were kind enough to meet me at the art studio or at Peet’s Coffee next door or at Delize, just so I could be in walking distance and close to my family. One of my friends even brought her baby to visit with me – aww!

kiran-designing-a-plate

Sheena and I would drop her boys off to school, go shopping, coffee, hair, nails and then back to school to pick up the boys. The fun would begin in the afternoons in the kitchen, cooking with the boys. We would go out to their beautiful organic garden, pick out the ripe and ready vegetables and start preparing meals together. We went to museums, swimming, reading, coloring, walking, playing in the park, the neighborhood toy store and gelatos afterwards.

My heart was full and then some. Building memories creates a sense of oneness, it strengthens our character – they bond our relationships.

Reconnecting is all about storing up new memories and feasting on them whenever I missed my family and friends.

September

Launching and promoting a book is not an easy task, as I learned. So, as we returned to life in Luxembourg, it was a return to the book project. This meant creating marketing material, finalizing launch details, create a website, working through final edits and all of the other details involved in publishing a book.

At times it felt as if my head was spinning. So much to do be done and so much out of my own control. I needed faith. A belief that everything would come together, even when I felt helpless to make things happen. As satisfied as I was with myself having completed my book, I was in unfamiliar territory when it came to getting it ready for its release.

When I feel like things are outside of my control, the natural instinct is to try and take back control. Or, I can learn to trust. A renewal of faith that “all things work together for good…….” The delays in the book’s release was a test of patience, faith and courage. It was an opportunity to see how I respond when things seem to be out of control.

When life seems out of control, it’s just another opportunity to have faith.

October

When things seem to be overwhelming, it is more often than not other people who help to bring back perspective. In all of the work preparing the launch of the book, I experienced some incredible connections.

There was a wonderful party celebrating my good friend Margit’s birthday. I got to meet her friends, who brought a unique Luxembourgish flare. This celebration seemed to bring complete strangers together.

One evening on my way to dinner in the city with my husband, I bumped into a friend, Zenia, who invited me to the opening of her new boutique. A few weeks later we went in support of her new business, Les Sutras. I came away with several new friends and a deeper connection with Zenia.

Then I was able to attend the Luxembourg Fashion Show, where I saw old friends and made some new ones. It was a very social month and completely what I needed. Every connection was an opportunity to share about the book and to deepen friendships. Just catching up with so many people during a short period of time, renewed my outlook.

Friendships not only bring new perspective, but they revive your spirit.

November

Seva: The Art of Hospitality was released on 1st November. I was so proud that my story was finally out there. And excited that the launch would take place while in Rome. We had an incredible time in Roma, where I had the thrill of meeting some excellent chefs, from the Hassler Roma and Eden Hotel (Dorchester Group).

Staying near Rome’s Spanish Steps gave me plenty of exercise. I must have walked up and down the famous steps at least twenty times during the stay. So much so that I noticed each section contained the exact number of steps – twelve! (Counting the steps was a way to distract myself from how tired I was towards the top!)

kiran-on-the-spanish-steps

The walking prepared me for another challenge back in Luxembourg. I participated in Tessy’s “The No Real Big Deal” project to support tree planting. I walked over 40,000 steps in less than a week, which raised enough to plant one tree. This small achievement brought great satisfaction one step at a time, confirming that I can attain goals when I set my mind to it.

November ended on another high note, when I was able to do my first book reading at Les Sutras. My community came together to support me as I nervously read from my book.

Confidence comes not just when we muster up enough courage to do what we fear to do, but when community comes alongside to affirm you and what you are doing.

December

My concerns over how the book would be promoted were answered in unusual ways. First, I was introduced to a reporter with L’Essentiel, a local Luxembourg paper. I was interviewed and had my picture taken with the book. That was a proud moment to be included in a paper intended primarily for local news.

kiran-in-l'essentiel-newspaper-luxembourg

An acquaintance from the UK reached out to invite me onto their global video platform, “Healing Our Earth”, where I got to do what I love: talk about food and my book. The weekly production, based out of London, seeks to bring a global community together through food and discussion. I was able to serve as a panelist for the cooking demos, and was given time to address questions about my story.

As the holidays drew closer, and the pandemic re-emerged, I started feeling homesick. I missed my grandchildren. My coffee-buddy, Amit, must have read my mind. He knew I loved his daughter, Nora, who just turned five. So, he invited me for lunch with his family. There I got to play “Santa’’ with Nora, celebrate her and the season.

The moments spent with Nora, watching her big brown eyes light up and her smile widen as she unwrapped each themed gift from me, brought great joy to my heart and filled a void that my grandchildren traditionally fill.

Life is about the little acts of kindness – showing them consistently, receiving them graciously.

2021 was a challenging, yet rewarding year for me. Writing helped me to deepen my understanding of myself. More importantly, it helped me re-examine what it means to be in community with others. I rediscovered how the small things count for so much: that moment of exchange with a friend, the seemingly unimportant decision and the subsequent knock-on effects it can have, a simple act of faith, as well as the small acts of kindness. (Or even a photo of my grandson reading my book.)

kiran-grandson-reading-her-book

I am filled with enthusiasm and anticipation for 2022, to be able to display empathy, to show hospitality and gratitude to whomever I meet. Afterall, even the smallest of interactions can lead to some very big things.

A special thanks to all of you who have joined me on this journey. You keep me going! I wish you all the best for 2022!

And that’s a wrap!

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