Wholesome experience of life

New beginnings are full of promise. Even if the weather doesn't always seem like it, spring is in the air and one can hear the nightingale sing, flowers bloom and poetry flow touching hearts and renewing hope.

As the calendar changes and we step into the year named "Vikaari, Yugadi" more commonly known as Ugadi, signalling the dawn of a new year across many states in the country is also a time for fresh perspective.

The festival celebrated on Chaitra Shuddha Padyami is unlike any other. There are "Kavi Sammelanams" or gathering of poets and the "Panchanga Shravanam" or reading the year's almanack with predictions for the future, but it is the "Ugadi pacchadi" with its unique flavour that sets the tone for the days ahead.

The ingredients used to prepare it to have a significance and message that captures the essence of life.

Since we are the sum of our life experiences, here are six attributes of each ingredient that give us new ways to look at the world ranging from bitter to sweet.

Bitter: Let's face it. The taste can make you squirm, but bitter experiences spur our learning. George Cukor's quote on this is interesting.

"You learn out of bitter experience, trial and error.

Life teaches you that. As sincere as you all are, you can't learn it all in school," he says. No matter the number of degrees we hold, haven't we all experienced the fact that some lessons can be only learnt from the school of life? What then are experiences that leave a bitter taste? They can be anything from unfair deals, attitudes, betrayal or obstacles that keep you from realising your ambitions.

Whatever hurts you, confuses you or creates unrest can be bitter but sometimes bitterness emerges out of your own low self-esteem or refusal to see things for what they are. Disappointments, disillusionment and failure are all associated with this. Never forget that lessons from bitter experiences make you stronger and equip you to face life better.

Salty: A metal ion and a non-metal ion fused together in an ionic bond and condensed into a crystalline form are all important to our food. Food without sodium chloride can be insipid and without taste. Salt is an ingredient whose absence becomes very noticeable. It is also something that can cause great discomfort when used in excess.

This ingredient creates a piquant situation where neither can one eat without salt nor can a little excess be tolerated. This is the exactness of salt. The right quantity, neither more nor less will do. We can learn lessons in balance, poise and equanimity. Whether it is emotion, attitude or effort one needs balance as in the case of salt.

Sour: This taste when attributed to relationships defines a feeling of resentment, disappointment or anger. While some experiences probably are that way, most close friendships and relationships tend to sour when unattended to just like certain foods.

Relationships turn sour over the inability to look at the other point of view. The message here is to take care of relationships but when they turn sour and irreparable it is better to call it quits. Sourness creates awareness and prepares you better to face similar people or situations.

Tangy/umami/astringent: Called 'vagaru' in Telugu, umami serves as a flavour enhancer where even as you taste the sweet and tangy, another subtle flavour reveals itself. Attributed to glutamates and unripe fruits this fifth taste was discovered and later corroborated by scientists who found that humans do have receptors for L-glutamate.

When something is really yummy in a non-sweet, sour, bitter or salty way it is indeed umami. This different taste tells us that there may be gratifying moments from uncommon experiences, situations or endeavours just as a taste different from the common and universally known dish is. Being open is the message. Embrace change and new experiences as you look ahead.

Hot: There are situations in life that are quite unbearable and perhaps too hot to handle but what's life without some spice? Like salt, this too is a taste that livens up bland things and appeals to the taste buds.

This even offers choices, unlike salt. You can have less spice, medium spice or hot depending on what you appreciate best. Your experiences are what you create based on your thought, something that life healers have been shouting from rooftops. Mould your thoughts to get the results you want.

Sweet: Universally liked and craved for (even by diabetics who are supposed to shun them), this is clearly the queen among tastes. It is associated with all things nice and experiences that are cherished. Memories, achievement, emotion and success are all sweet.

Like meals topped by the sweet dessert, this predominant taste lingers, is mood enhancing and inevitably associated with celebration and happiness.

The message that one has to strive hard to enjoy the success that leaves you craving for more is undoubtedly the best and saved for the last.

Life becomes wholesome when there is a combination of these tastes in food and experiences along the journey.

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