The ‘goods’ in the week of May 10th


It seems somewhat morbid to write about the ‘goods’ in the week that one’s mom has died but I like this exercise and I will try to think about the ‘goods’ despite my loss.

Ryan got his 2nd dose of vaccine.

My friends and cousins in India along with Tribeca Elderly Care service are extending their constant support to help my father get better.

There was a lot of anxiety about bringing him home and I worried if he will survive, but coming home  gave him peace. I am preparing myself for any outcome.

My friends, coworkers, Sean’s coworkers have poured their love and solidarity via food, cards, plants.

Plants and gardening are still giving me immense comfort so I continue to obsessively tend to my little flower bed.

Sahana did go up to Boston to celebrate her Senior week. The kid missed out on so much this year, her last year in college.

The weather has been wonderful so I could sit by the flowers and meditate. That has given me peace.

My coworkers have taken up my classes and urged me to simply focus on myself and my family. I am forever grateful.

Two of my dearest friends came to visit. Their visit brought me much joy. They allowed me to cry and I did.

A friend organized a small offering of peace at our local Kali temple. I am an agnostic but as ma got older she fell in love with Goddess Kali. I decided to offer a puja for her. We have not done it yet, but my friend took that organization off my hands. For that I am grateful.

Sean has been by my side brain storming questions to ask, driving Ryan wherever he needs to be and lending his constant support.

Ryan just compiles animal videos on Tik Tok for me to look at.

I needed oxygen for my dad desperately and appealed for it on social media. Some friends and a cousin who I call angels, arranged for it to see him through a few days if he survives.

A friend shared a beautiful thought – we are all in pain, whether we want to suffer is in our hands. And that is where acceptance comes in. I am not there yet, but my goal is to get there.

I often feel alone in my grief but I know I am surrounded by love.

Be strong


Amidst the beautiful condolence messages on ma’s death, the recurring one is a wish for me to ‘be strong’.

As I see more and more of ‘be strong’ I wonder if I am being strong? I seem to make phone calls to arrange for care for my dad who is not doing well. I am exchanging wsapp messages, text messages, Facebook messages with friends in Kolkata and here to make decisions regarding baba’s care, trying to figure out how to procure ma’s death certificate (seems strange to write that), communicating with Gouri who lives in our house in Kolkata and is crying her heart out, informing friends and family about regular health updates. When all this is done, when Kolkata falls asleep and I am even more numb from pain, I sit quietly, catatonic. Is this being strong or this numbness is extreme shock and extreme vulnerability? What does strength mean in this situation? Does it mean holding it together and getting the job done? If it is that, then I am being strong. But then when do I grieve? When can I just let all this go and scream and beat my chest and just cry my heart out?

I have this undescribable pain in my chest that is simply lodged there. I feel if I have a good, loud cry, the pain may just dislodge but would that seem weak? Also, tears are coming in spurts when a sudden memory rises up in my mind. When her whole life with me plays out in front of my eyes. All those years when we were apart seem such wasted time.

Saying I am in a lot of pain – is that strength or weakness?

This grief is an interesting process.

Thank you Didiya!


We have been inundated with kindness since tragedy struck our family. Along with good wishes, prayers, and after ma’s death, beautiful and meaningful messages of condolences, our friends and community have given us abundant food. Ryan has been very excited about the food part of the kindness. Every time he finds something he likes, he blows a kiss upwards with a smile and says, “Thank you Didiya!” Sahana said didiya would be so happy to see Ryan well fed and satisfied. She loved to see Ryan eat since he enjoys food so much.

I have seen Sahana grieve. She cries often, and smiles with me at Didiya’s fun memories. She has been my grieving partner whenever I have had time to grieve in between arranging for baba’s care. Sean has grieved openly as he held me in his arms and let me soak his shirt with my tears. Ryan is the only one who has retreated in his room. When we got the phone call at night all of us congregated on our bed. Ryan sat there for a long time while the three of us cried. I do not recall if he shed any tears. Then he went to his room. Since then he is less sullen and often compiles fun animal videos to show me. He also asks, “Mom do you need something?”

Today I had an opportunity to ask him how he is coping with didiya’s death. He said with a quiet conviction that didiya now is free. She is not stuck in that house with her mobility issues and health problems any more. She can go wherever she wants, whenever she wants. “I am happy she is not suffering and she is free”, he said. Also it is simply a matter of time before I will see her again. I know I will see her, you will see her. So we just have to wait and be patient.”

Then he said, “And mom, look how strong you are! Didiya’s death showed you what a strong woman you are!”

I wish I could prove my strength some other way, but the conviction of seeing her again made me smile. I told him I feel her in my heart. And he concurred that is wonderful too.

Planted a flower


My mother died of Covid on Mother’s Day. I saw her on a video call at the hospital and wished her happy Mother’s day in the morning. She wished me happy Mother’s day back. Then as they put the oxygen mask back on her, she said she was going to spend some time in her sister’s house and then go home. With that, she closed her eyes to rest. I take comfort in the thought that she died thinking she was in her sister’s house, comfortable. She had no visible discomfort. She fell asleep, lost consciousness and never woke up. For a fiery lady that she was in life, this was a very quiet, peaceful exit. She went gently into the night.

Sahana gave me a geranium plant for Mother’s day. The day after my mother died I did not know what to do with myself. Instead of pacing aimlessly in my living room, I thought I would plant my gift in memory of my ma. Planting the flower given by my daughter and in memory of my mother gave me tranquility. I don’t know what happens after death but I refuse to believe she is gone from me. I believe, at long last, thousands of miles between us is not a barrier any more. Her physical form could not traverse the distance to be with us whenever she wanted but now her spirit does not care about those miles. It gives me peace to think she is within me, surrounding me. A part of her, her gene, is always in me. But that is for the scientists to explain. I am trying to feel her essence, her benevolence, her love around me, enveloping Sahana, Ryan and Sean.

I go out often and sit by the baby flower plant. Within its green leaves, hopeful buds and one single bloom, I find my mother’s energy radiating into my universe.

The “goods” in week of May 3rd.


How can I write what was good this week when both my parents contacted Covid in Kolkata? My ma was put on a ventilator yesterday and then gave up the fight and my baba is still fighting it in the same hospital. Yet, there were ‘goods’ this week and I did not even have to think hard to find them.

We were fortunate to get 2 beds for my parents in the same hospital in a city which is being ravaged by this deadly virus and people can not get hospital beds or oxygen cylinders.

My friends, their husbands, some cousins, and a care giver from Tribeca Care, an elderly care service, are doing all they can to help since I am far away and are surrounding me with love and support. They made phone calls, found 2 beds in a hospital, organized ambulance care, talked to hospital administrators and got my parents admitted so they could get proper care.

Friends poured their love and good wishes on us from all over the world. Since I am a big believer in collective good will, I know a lot of good energy was released out in the universe which touched my parents.

I can not deny the mind numbing, troubled breathing kind of anxiety that I experience but quiet walks with Sean, nutritious meals prepared by Sahana and silent prayers by Ryan made me feel less alone.

Sean’s family messages us regularly to let us know they love us and are thinking of us.

My supervisor at work encouraged me to not think about that part of my life right now, but to simply focus on what was at hand. My coworkers showed their support in messages and emails.

I have not held back my tears and cried often this week. It is a cleansing experience. I wish I did not have reason to cry but I do. And the fact that I have allowed myself to cleanse through tears is good.

In times of trouble one finds out one is surrounded by a loving community, I think that is the ‘goods’ this week. In fact, that is the best.

My mother..


Recently a friend commented that he has renewed respect for his mother after singlehandedly cooking and taking care of his sick family members. He wondered how his mother did all this alone every single day. I don’t remember my mother in that role at all. She stayed far away from the kitchen. She declared loudly that she does not like to cook and only cooks when there is an absolute need. In 70’s Kolkata, that declaration was completely antithetical to the image of an ideal woman and a mother. Did she care though? Nope.

Instead of being a bringer of food, she nourished me with books. She ensured I was fed of course, but she also always made sure I had plenty of books to read. I used to get sick every month with some kind of fever as a child. Although I felt unwell, I did not mind the fever too much because every time I got sick, Ma bought new books to perk me up. They were not classics or anything deep, thought provoking or educational. They were Amar Chitra Kathas or comics of my favorite super heroes but I still remember the joy I felt in my fever ravaged mind as I saw the packet of books in her hands.

My favorite memory of Ma is us sharing the same pillow reading our respective books in summer afternoons during summer vacation.

Once school’s session ended and we got a few days off till next grade, she insisted I read a story book during the time assigned for homework just to stay in the habit of sitting down to work. I loved that ‘work.’ Interestingly, I got a job where reading is actually part of my work.

I remember her reading poems of Rabindranath Tagore to me starting with Shishu and then moving on to Sanchoyita. She guided me into the treasure trove of Bengali literature as she was a voracious consumer of all those treasures.

I remember her teaching me kindness.

I remember regurgitating all my school stories as a little girl while I ate my after school snack and she listening patiently.

My favorite thing about her is her laugh. She has this rumbling, all encompassing laughter which starts in her face and travels through her whole body and being.

She is very gullible. She believes easily and then laughs if she realizes she fell for some trick or pranks by her grand kids.

My Ma is not the one who worked all day to make me food or clean the house or arrange my table. She did work all the time to be my cheerleader, my fellow bibliophile, my confidante, my teacher, sometimes my counselor and also a strict disciplinarian.

She is fighting Covid in a hospital in Kolkata along with my father. I am very far away and can not be with either of them.

If you are reading this blog, do send some healing wishes to the universe for these people that you do not know but who could benefit from good, positive energy.

Happy mother’s day.

My flower bed


Having grown up in the concrete jungle of Kolkata, I yearned to see the lush green in the countryside of Bengal, but we did not have open space to grow a garden in the city. So we bought one or two potted plants and tried to keep those alive. So when we moved to the suburbs in America, I did not know what to do or how to nurture a garden. I was growing two little human beings then as my partner traveled and that took all my energy. Over the years though, I did grow some flowers, some herbs and lately some succulents.

I decided to get my flower bed ready this year for some planting after Mother’s day. The flower bed got no love from me all these months so when I went out there with my gardening tools and looked at the whole bed, I was somewhat overwhelmed. Will I ever get this jungle weeded in time? I decided to set a small goal of one patch at the beginning. So I set to my task of minutely digging out the weeds that had taken over that particular section. The whole flower bed still daunted me so I mindfully kept the thought of wholeness away as I worked on the small patch that I had chosen for the day. As I dug out the unwanted plants from their roots, their was a strange cathartic feeling and a sense of lightness. I was focused on each little green, mindful of every single weed in my chosen patch. Once I completely finished working on the patch, I stood up satisfied. I looked at the whole then. Although there was a lot left to be done, my worked-on section at the beginning of the bed looked beautiful and clean. The whole was not as daunting any more. I vowed to parcel up the whole into composites and focus on each composite each day. While not completely finished, most of my flower bed is weeded and I may be able to plant on Mother’s day.

My life as a whole is scary right now. As soon as my mind veers to the whole, I bring it back to the immediate step, the first step that needs my attention. Dealing with little parcels of the whole is more achievable. I am going to deal with what is right in front of me first and then move to the next small patch in life.

My flower bed has become a metaphor of my life at present.

The ‘goods’ this week, April 26th, 2021


As a library worker, I am thrilled! I am absolutely thrilled that my daughter got an outreach programming job at a renowned library system. She interviewed on Monday, and they called her on Tuesday to offer her the job. It was a virtual interview so I could hear some of her answers. As I heard her coherent, well thought out responses, my mommy heart filled up with pride yes, but also with wonder. She sounded so grown up, so mature and thoughtful. Since this position which she truly longed for  is part time, she also got a job in our neighborhood Starbucks. Her response to the question “why do you want to work at Starbucks?” made me smile. She told the manager that Starbucks has been her reset button since she was in high school. Before an exam or after, before something important or after, during her solo Europe trip, whenever she needed a reset she sought out a Starbucks. At this juncture in her life when she just graduated and is contemplating her place in the big world ahead of her, she opted for her reset and that is why she is looking for a job there. The manager hired her despite this honest confession. For a lover of library as well as coffee, these two jobs seem like a double win for Madammommy.

I destroyed a paneer dish and then resurrected it to be truly delicious by using my ingenuity. Pat on the back because I am all that.

I woke up at 4 am on Monday to take Ryan to his 5 am practice. It was the day before pink moon. However, a brilliant (white) moon followed us all the way to Ryan’s school and then it kept me company all the way home. I kept my eyes on the roads, of course but the company of that bright, white orb in the sky above the lonely deserted road when the whole world was asleep was a peaceful sight. But no, I will not do it every week. I am not a morning person, Sean is. I only took him one morning because Sean had to work late.

We had warm days!! Hallelujah. My old bones need the sun.

I am talking to my mom while dad listens in, almost everyday.

I answered a phone call at work which made my day. The woman on the phone wanted me and my coworkers to know that we kept her sane by providing books and DVDs during pandemic. She was so very kind.

I helped a distraught woman print out some documents at work. When she tentatively asked how much it would cost, I said the print job was free. Her face lit up. She had been paying $5 to $6 at UPS store for printing documents. Her husband lost his job and money is tight. Working at a public library is extremely gratifying.

I make book suggestions all the time, completely unsolicitated. I got a message on wsapp from a long lost friend who read Funny in Farsi by Firozeh Dumas upon my recommendation and absolutely loved it. I think she read my review on my blog site. A couple of hours after her message, I got another message from a colleague who read The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart upon my suggestion and asked when could we talk about it.  She felt all the ‘feels’ as she read the book. She even said she will be open to reading anything I recommend. She does not know what she is wishing for. 🤣

Sahana got her second Covid vaccine shot on Sunday. I am so grateful.

I wrote and posted 8 days in a row which has never happened before.

Happy Monday, my friends. Stay healthy, stay alive.

PS: Ryan cleaned his closet last night. That totally classifies as one of my ‘goods’ for the week. 😀

What time is dinner?


Interracial, interfaith, transnational marriage like ours had and continues to have certain novelties, discoveries, realizations. Realizations about our differing norms, cultures, way of doing things, comfort zones. After a marriage of 24, almost 25 years, we feel like we dealt with most of them but there are times when the differences in our upbringing come to the forefront. One such realization came to me during the holiday season in 2020. It is the question that Sean asks, “What time are you planning dinner?”

I did not grow up with that question or truly planning a meal time during festivals or even during daily life. In Kolkata, when the family got together for any occasion, food was, of course, the epicenter of all festivities but the time when that food will be consumed was anybody’s guess. There were perfunctory questions about  what time is lunch or dinner but nobody knew. We ate when the food was ready. And even when the food was ready, the guests had to be coaxed to the dinner table if they were involved in a ‘jomati adda’ (rough translation would be engrossing gossip, although gossip is not really a proper translation for the Bengali word, adda). The concept of ‘adda’ is so quintessentially Bengali that there is no accurate translation of the word in any other foreign language or even any other Indian languages to the best of my knowledge. During a gathering, food was eaten in a certain hierarchical order that I have noticed – children were fed first followed by the men folk, lastly the women sat down to eat amidst much chatter, laughter and camaraderie.  As many know that in Bengal we eat with our hands. Sitting with others just laughing and chatting long after one’s food has been eaten with sticky fingers is one of my most fond memories. Time, during the days of celebration, was only of importance when one had to maintain the auspicious moments when a puja had to be performed. During the rest of the day, time was relegated to the back ground, it did not control us. We controlled our day. We were propelled during those special days by our needs – desire for togetherness, hunger, laughter, puja, rather than routine. Those days were refreshingly freeing, unbound from time.

My experience in USA has been different with my American family. During most of our celebrations – Thanksgiving, Christmas, there is a specific time for dinner. I observe in the torrential flurry of activities of my extended family, who prepare the big meals for our get togethers, how flustered they seem to get everything on the table by a certain time, all hot from the oven or stove top. Dinner will be served at 2 and that is the goal! I still can not get used to rigidity of time on a day of celebration. For me, the languorous stretch of time defines how a festival or gathering of family should be celebrated.

Sean asks me, always, what time is breakfast or dinner or lunch when I plan to celebrate bhai phota or a special breakfast or a special dinner at home. The question bothered me at the beginning. I felt the day was being segmented by tying meal times within a set time frame so I used to respond, “When it is ready!” That answer threw him off. I realized he planned his activities around the time I will give him for the meal I was preparing. So I adjusted. I give him a time and now I prepare food with one eye on the clock. It takes away the spontaneity of celebration, so when I go home celebrations take on more meaning when the chaos of meal times return.

Masked kids


I used to be quite knowledgeable about popular characters in children’s literature when my kids were little. I had a book worm who liked to spend her waking hours at the library. While checking out books for her, I got to know popular books that children read. The second one, however, was not much of a reader except for Garfield and Asterix. I still kept up with picture books and read to him to instill interest. He was more interested in tumbling around and lining up his toy cars.

While working at children’s desk, I acquired knowledge of children’s literature through my young customers, my amazing and knowledgeable colleagues and of course Google. Still many characters and titles of books that the children enquired about were unfamiliar to me. Often, I had trouble even understanding them. The reasons I could not understand them were sometimes adorable pronunciations of very young customers due to missing front teeth or their discomfort at talking to an adult. Many of them had trouble looking at me while saying the title of the book they wanted. I often asked, “Could you say the title one more time for me, honey?” And while they did, I surreptitiously typed the words I could decipher in Google to get the full title, which I then typed in our catalog search to see if we owned the book.

The pandemic hit. We closed the library for many months and I did not keep up with the popular characters of children’s literature. For example, I did not know till yesterday that the Berenstain Bears now had a baby sister!!Now that we are open and our young customers are skipping in to the library, I face a unique challenge. Masks on them make them even more indecipherable for me. Just the other day, a little girl came up to me asking for several titles. A children’s instructor perhaps would have known exactly what she was looking for. First of all, her mask combined with her cute way of talking made it difficult for me to understand her and on top of that, the titles were all unfamiliar. The poor kid must have thought who was this ignorant grown up and why was she at a children’s desk. She was very patient with me as we worked together to find most of the books she was looking for.

Pandemic brought with it unique challenges. I am adding masked kids as one of them. 🤣🤣

Having said that, my heart truly sings to see the enthusiasm for books in children of all ages who come in dancing and skipping into the library and get instantly lost in the stacks to take home stories. Their joy gives me hope.