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AREL Sahota, 11

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About AREL

Through this photography project, Arel Sahota discovered something about his mother. What is the discovery that prompted him to exclaim, “It’s like seeing your lost cat after 5 years!”?

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Featured Caregiver:

Mother, Sheetal Rani

Dish of Choice:

Keema (minced meat), matter paneer (peas and cottage cheese curry), chol (rice), lacca paratha (whole wheat flatbread), mango lassi


Have a listen to Arel's reflection in this journey of documenting his mother cooking a scrumptious meal or read on in the transcript below.

Interview with Arel
00:00 / 04:15

Shiyun: I have a question. How did you decide on what to cook for this project?


Arel: We were just like watching this netflix show and then it suddenly came on the screen and my mom was like “Hey! Maybe we should make this and it is very simple to make and it doesn’t take that long”... even though it was a 4-hour, it was like a 4-hour thing (laughs)


Shiyun: I think you are one of the rare families who decided to (Arel laughs)... cook a full course! And it took 4 hours. During the workshop you were talking about the chapati, and that you really wanted to have that, because it was something that your mom used to make -



Arel: But then she stopped, because I wouldn’t eat it, I would just like waste it and that’s something I kinda regret, because back then I was a very picky eater-

Shiyun: Picky eater?


Arel: Yeah after that I didn’t really finish food, I really didn’t like eating home-cooked (food) back then.


Shiyun: What did you eat?


Arel: I was stubborn, and I didn’t- and now I regret cause like now I have to take vitamins because of my diet, like when I was a kid, and I don’t like that.

Shiyun: How… how bad was the diet when you were a kid? (laughs)

Arel: All I ate was just chocolate and chips. I don’t like it (the vitamins), it’s so disgusting.

Shiyun: You used to eat only chocolate and chips?


Arel: And my parents would be shouting at me all day. I was like “I don’t care”


Shiyun: So in the last four  years right… That’s when you started eating like a proper human being?


Arel: Yes


Shiyun: Ah okay… congratulations


Arel: Thank you (laughs) I should be on TLC right now (laughs)


Shiyun: If you were to describe your mom to our listeners right, how would you describe her?


Arel: Strict, lovely, erm…what do I call a mom who sets goals for you? Like ‘if you pass your PSLE I will get you this phone’?


Shiyun: ... mom?


Arel: Yeah mom (laughs)


Shiyun: So she sets out tasks and goals for you


Arel: Yeah. And if I don’t get them correct I don’t get anything

Shiyun: You shared with me once that you were very happy with this project, because this is the time you saw your mom talking and smiling a lot


Arel: Yes. Because it has been like a very long time since we got together, and normally like my mom, she gets lonely sometimes and like I’m at school, my sister’s at school, and we’re all (busy). Sometimes she’s working and then like there is no one to really like be there for her when she needs it. But now I’m kinda happy that my stepfather is here, because he is there to be with her. He is there to like spend time with her, you know? And I really enjoy that.

Shiyun: Is there any new discovery you have made, through this project?


Arel: Ermm my mom can be nice, as in, as in… she’s not always strict?


Shiyun: Is that a new discovery?


Arel: Yes, it’s like when you see an animal that is- it’s like seeing when you find your lost cat after like 5 years… yes


Shiyun: So you do have memories of her being so jovial and happy-


Arel: Yes

Shiyun: -5 years ago

Arel: I don’t know. When you grow up, it’s suddenly like- you just feel like your parents just hate you 

Shiyun: (laughs) I guess it’s all in the interactions?

Arel: It’s cause like when I was young, everyone used to be like “awww so adorable, so cute, what a fat boy” (laughs)

Shiyun: When did you feel that phase came? When you said you just feel like your parents hate you kinda thing?

Arel: I don’t know, everyday I would get scolded, and I will realise I will always do something wrong


Shiyun: So in this project, you felt that you were a lot free-er?


Arel: Yes! Because I was happy to see my mom like not strict as always. She was happy to let me help. Because normally when I ask her if she needs help, she says “no” but I wouldn’t listen cause I have nothing better to do at home, so I will go and just help and then my mom would be like “I just said no! Why are you here? Just go back please, I work faster alone” (laughs) 


Shiyun: Ooohhh


This project was completed in 2022. Photography mentored by Larry Toh.

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