Biryani For The Soul (5): It’s not the Quantity, It’s the Quality

Biryani For The Soul (5): It’s not the Quantity, It’s the Quality

I think it was the summer of 2008, I travelled to Chennai, India for a work. I checked into the hotel, arranged my baggage and immediately stepped out. The hunt for Biryani has begun.


So I hailed a tuk-tuk (or Auto, as they are called in India), and asked him to take me to the best halal biryani restaurant. I am a risk taker. So, he took me to a small restaurant in the Mannady District, specifically near the Hazrat Hassan Maulana Dargah.


As I stepped out of the tuk-tuk, I can immediately smell the fragrant aroma of biryani.  The smell went deep inside my soul and ignited a flurry of emotions. I can see content faces leaving the restaurant and eager faces entering it.


Biryani is best eaten with company. So, I asked the tuk-tuk driver to join me and I will treat him the biryani. He agreed.


We stepped into the restaurant, took a table and ordered. I ordered Chicken Biryani while my new found friend ordered Mutton Biryani. Within a few minutes, the dishes came and I was immediately blown away. It was a huge plate. Four people can eat that amount, by Malaysian standards. I couldn’t even fathom finishing the dish.

I looked at my new friend and asked how many people were supposed to eat that amount. He simply replied, “One”. Apparently, in India, the portions are huge. 


The quantity of 24 hours in a day is given to every one of us and it is equal and fixed. It has not changed for billions of year and most likely will not change for another billion years. The question is, what do we do with this quantity of time?


Since the quantity is fixed, we need to use the time given to us in the most valuable manner. It has to be quality time.


Just like biryani, the quantity was fixed. But the chef didn’t pinch on the ingredient. The chef poured his heart and soul to make the best biryani.


Similarly, in life, we expect a lot of everything. We want a lot of time with our children, we want a lot of money, we want a lot of everything! More, more and more.


In my youth, it was always the question of “How much more can I get?”, not “What is sufficient?”. It was always a question of “How can I maximize this?”, not “Am I happy with this?”. I defined success as “more is successful”. Today, I define success as “being happy”.


So, in order for us to make anything into something of quality, we need to ask ourselves, “Does this make me happy?” And I found, in most cases throughout my life, the answer is quite straightforward. The difficult part is decision that follows.

However, it wasn’t only the quantity that surprised me, but also the quality of the biryani. It was an out-of-this-world experience. Every spice and rice mixed well to completely indulge your taste buds.


I was lucky – I received both a huge quantity as well as good quality. But in life, this isn’t always true. When we quantify the time that we spend here on earth, it is a limited period. Everyone receives a different amount of time to live, but everyone gets an equal 24 hours in a day.


Some people are stuck in jobs that they despise and be miserable the entire day, for more money and career progression. And they drag themselves through life.


So, in life and in most cases, we are presented with many choices that guarantees us more of something. Before you make that choice, ask yourself, “Will this make me happy?” And I know the choices will be quite clear. That is when you begin to enjoy a quality life.


The point of the biryani story is to illustrate that the quality of life is determined by your happiness. For me, my happiness is when I get delicious biryani for half the price!