The “goods” in the week of July 26th.


Not just the “goods” but the best thing this week was Sahana’s birthday. Although it was a week day, we went out for dinner and watched a movie. I love to celebrate birthdays and this was the birthday of my special girl. I can not lie, the day was bittersweet. I shed a lot of tears and also felt an immense surge of love for life with Sahana in it.

Ryan finished his 6 weeks of summer biology on Friday. He ended up with decent grades and judging by his incessant chatter on the subject, some knowledge.

Sahana wanted a beach day with family for her birthday. So the four of us went to the beach on Friday.

Our youngest driver drove us to our hotel and there were just two white knuckle moments in the entire journey.

Saturday was perfect for a beach day. Sahana and I went to the beach while the boys lazed in the hotel room for a while watching Olympics before joining us.

I read next to Sahana on the sand.

Sean gave me a heart attack when he went to swim in the ocean and disappeared without telling me he was going for a swim. I thought he had drowned. I even spoke to the young lifeguard on duty. The “goods” is he did not drown. He came back and was even sheepish when I told him I was worried sick.

We had unexpectedly good Mediterranean food at the beach. And of course, ice cream.

It was good to be together without any constraints on our times.

I was craving to be near water since the loss. I was able to sit and watch the waves crash relentlessly. There is a belief life is like a wave, building up and then crashing before becoming one with water again. I thought ma and baba are back where they came from after giving me life and a lifetime of love.

Sahana drove us back. As I sat next to her and watched her navigate traffic and heavy rain I again wondered how quickly time passes.

I hope your list of “goods” is long and have a great week.

A birthday blog


I saw an elated face holding up a victory sign from a distance as I was rolled away to recovery room after giving birth to Sahana 22 years ago. That was my ma. Baba was standing next to her with a grin that took over his entire face. On Sahana’s birthday, I kept remembering those expressions on their faces. I do not recall witnessing pure joy like that ever in my life. I remember raising my hand in a weak wave as their faces disappeared around the corner. It is interesting how those little things stay permanently in one’s memory. That moment, when they heard the cry of new born Sahana, was the beginning of a love story. Sahana could do no wrong in their eyes. And as Sahana grew older didiya and dadai became her people. Since her childhood she confided in them secrets that she did not tell me. Didiya was her sounding board, her confidante, her go-to. Dadai was fellow adventurer.

I don’t know if Sahana’s grandparents are watching over her. It is a comforting thought so I like to think they are. However, the lifetime of all encompassing love that they showered upon her during their time with her is deeply weaved within the tapestry of her life. That tapestry will be an integral part of her whole.

This is a rambling birthday blog. What I really wanted to write was how Sahana has grown up to be a giver. Again, during times of joy or grief, certain moments, some actions stand out. I want to write down one such action that shines as a beacon of light in my heart during my darkest hours. Ma had just died. Baba was continuing his fight for life. I had not been able to mourn ma’s death because I was fighting to keep baba breathing. One morning, after zillion phone calls with Kolkata, I was sitting on my chair gazing at nothing in particular. My mind was blank, numb. Sahana was still doing her last few online classes. I saw her pass by me in the living room, then I vaguely remember hearing some noises in the kitchen. I was so lost in my thoughts, I don’t recall anything else till she came up to me and softly said, “I made some comfort food for you to eat. They are covered in the kitchen. Do eat please.” Then she kissed me on the top of my head and went back to her next online class. I did not realize the significance of this beautiful gesture till much later when I had time to think. But when I did think back on it, my heart simply exploded with love and gratitude at this act of pure kindness. She had made white rice, masoor dal, boiled egg and fried potatoes – soul food for Bengalis.

She has grown up to be a giver like her father. Her love language is doing something for her loved ones. And she does so much for me – picking up Ryan from school, shopping for the family, getting food, buying me drinks with her Starbucks discount….

I believe all the love she received growing up has taught her to pass it forward. The love has taught her to care, to feel, to empathize.

Happy 22nd birthday to my favorite girl. Hope you continue in your journey of showering love to the universe. Hope you find success – success that is defined by you.

The “goods” in the week of July 19th.


The whole point of this exercise is to be mindful of little things which enrich my life. It is to be aware of the small picture and not simply live through the moment which was good. The point is to acknowledge them. I thought of skipping this blog of “goods” this week. It has been a long week of routine. This week has been one of remembering and being sad of my loss. But I still had some “goods” and I want to write those down.

I have been hitting my step goal every day. I go for my walks and then during my breaks at work I go around the grounds of our library and end up at the library garden before going in.

I went to the farmer’s market with my friends and bought bread, coconut cupcakes and absolutely delicious strawberry balsamic vinegar.

On Wednesday I was supposed to drive to pick up Ryan from his school after practice, but my angel of a daughter finished her work early and offered to go in my stead. I could go home and relax instead.

My garden looks vibrant with colors. My osteospermum, in other words, African daisy plants lay fallow for many weeks. All of a sudden they are full of buds and flowers.

Ryan finished fifth week of summer biology and talks a lot about what he is learning. He seems excited. One more week to go.

Ryan’s swim practice will end next week. The anticipation of not having to drive him for a few weeks is one of my “goods” for sure.

I find myself laughing with my coworkers more these days. Sometimes I surprise myself that I can laugh again. But that is good. That is moving forward. My parents would have wanted that.

Ryan scored well in his Advanced Placement test of World History. Funnily that was surprising to both of us as he said he did not test well in that subject. He also did not know when the result was coming out. My friend, whose daughter took an AP test told me she got her result. I checked and there it was. I worry about that boy about his organization skills.

I love sitting down with Sahana at the end of our days and exchange customer stories from our respective work places.

Ryan had a swim meet in Virginia this weekend. Sean and I dropped him off at the facility and drove to nearby Leesburg. We walked around the historic downtown and ended up having lunch in a cute restaurant called Shoe’s Cup and Cork. I had a good day.

On Sunday, while Ryan swam, Sean and I walked by Potomac river. I paused by the river for a while and thought about ma and baba.

This week I had a long conversation with my cousin in India. Both our mothers died on the same day within 10 hours of each other’s death. Interestingly enough, these two sisters-in-law were close friends as well and we both remember their giggly youth. We laughed about how they planned their exit together to giggle some more like yester years and eat junk food like they used to. Then we both cried. My memories of our shared childhood is a comfortable place to land when my grief becomes too intense. I told her that.

Ryan got best times in 6 of his 7 events. His happiness at his achievement after putting in hard work is definitely in my list of “goods”. Ma and baba were embarrassingly proud of both of their grandkids. I bet they are bragging about them to whoever will listen as I write this.

There were still moments of sadness during days (and a sleepless night) but there were no I-can’t-breathe anxiety this week.

May your list of “goods” be long. Hope you have a great week.

Petals within pages


“You know the plant is going to die, right?” Sahana said to me with slight panic in her voice, cutting off my effusive gushing over “obstinate ma plant”. In my slightly unbalanced (hopefully temporary) mind, the geranium that I planted the day after ma’s death has truly become her alter ego. Sahana seemed concerned I will plunge back into dooms of despair once the plant has lived its lifetime. I laughed at the panic in her voice.

I was narrating the story to a friend. She asked if I had considered pressing petals of those flowers within pages of a book? I thought that was a brilliant idea. The dilemma, however, was which book deserved the petals of obstinate ma plant? And how did one press petals to dry anyway? The second part was easy since Google has the answers. The difficult decision was which book would ma love to be remembered in? Was it a book by her “pran er thakur” Rabindranath? Manik Bondopadhyay? Mahashweta Debi? Poetry of Sukanto? All of them were her loves but I finally decided on Ashapurna Debi’s “Prothom Protusruti”. My fledgling feminism took flight at a young age when ma first passed on this book to me. Since then I must have read the book and it’s sequels over a dozen times. The story follows the life of a little girl in rural Bengal at the beginning of the 20th century when Bengal society was tightly shackled by social restrictions imposed by upper caste men. The book, while narrating the story of Satyabati, touches on all the restrictions placed on women to limit their freedom – the most important one among many was denying them education. The belief was if a woman touched paper or pen she would be a widow. When Satyabati’s cousin shudders at the fact that Satyabati has taught herself to write, the little girl finds a loophole in that theory right away. How can women touching pen or paper be paap (bad karma) when the goddess of learning, Debi Saraswati is a woman herself? Satyabati questioned each and every tradition that curbed women’s rights and flouted every rule that tried to hold her down. She managed to loosen the chains just a bit for the future generation of women.

Ma too fought patriarchy every step of the way. She refused any kind of limitations to such an extent that I, in my childhood, sometimes thought, “Oh just get along. Give in!” Looking back I realize she was loosening the chains so that her daughter and grand daughter can have space to spread their wings. She emulated Satyabati all her life, at the expense of her own peace and happiness sometimes. I know it is only fitting that petals from “obstinate ma plant” find their resting place in the pages of the book that tell her story.

Baba’s humor.


This morning as I was talking to the girls staying in our house in Kolkata, Gouri and Breshpati, I heard a story that I had not heard before. Today is the day baba died 2 months ago and today was a good day to laugh out loud at his wicked sense of humor as well as his robust appetite and love for food, especially fish and meat.

I have written before that Khushi was the apple of his eye and both ma and baba were truly invested in helping her grow up with all opportunities that they were able to provide. Ma took care of her studies, I take care of funding her education and baba took care of investing financially for her future. One day when baba, Khushi and Breshpati went to the bank to either manage her account or put money in her account, the banker helping them asked baba, “Sir, do you own a restaurant? If you do, where is it?”

Baba was, understandably, taken aback at this random question. The banker clarified his query as he saw baba’s surprised face. He said that several fish sellers come to that bank to deposit big checks written to them by baba and so he wondered if baba owned a restaurant which needed all that fish. Baba laughed, turned to Khushi and said, “Didi, show this kaku (uncle) where our restaurant is.” He then patted his own big tummy and Khushi’s little tummy. He said, “Here! This is our restaurant.”

Breshpati came home and told ma this story. Ma commented, “Did you also tell the man that I live with a mad man? Mad for food!”

As I heard the story, I could visualize baba responding to the question without batting an eyelid. I laughed so hard till I had tears in my eyes.

The “goods” in the week of July 12th.


This week was somewhat mundane. And mundane is not bad. Uneventful is not bad at all after the several events that happened in my life not too long ago. We went back to full time work and these are my “goods” this week.

I am tired. I put that in my “goods” since I am tired because I am back full time at the library and my body is trying to get used to being ‘on’ full time. That is a good thing – this tiredness. Unlike so many I am blessed to have had my job through out the pandemic.

After waiting and watching patiently, my first gladiolus stalk sprouted buds and how deeply red they are! A second stalk seems ready to sprout. And while I am talking of my flowers, I will say they have become my haven for remembering, meditating. Ma is probably laughing at my transformation from a city girl to this suburban woman and baba is saying ‘told you so’. Obstinate ma plant is still blooming.

A friend just came by and dropped off a flowering plant and a card. She bought the plant a while ago but was caring it for me since my loss brought back painful memories of losing her own mother.

A couple of friends messaged me privately to say that my blogs have helped them in their personal journey of grief.

I met a lovely Nigerian woman at work. She arrived in USA two weeks ago with her husband and 2 children. She asked me where I was from as I helped her find books for her children. I said “India.” Upon hearing that, she clasped her hands in front of her in excitement and said, “Oh, I love Indians. I love, love. love Indians. I wanted to marry an Indian. But I married that one instead.” We both laughed.

My best friends are back to me. I have been reading quite a bit. I eased into books with some wonderful graphic novels, then finished The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva and a few others. Now I am reading a captivating historical fiction called The Familiars by Stacey Halls.

On Friday, we went to see an outdoor performance of The Adventures of Pericles.

I asked one of our long time customers how he was doing. Before leaving the library he came to me to thank me for talking to him. He said it helped him psychologically. He is going through a stressful time. Everyone is fighting their own battle.

My uncle managed to procure baba’s death certificate on Saturday. I felt a sense of relief as that was stuck in bureaucratic red tape and then immediately felt guilty for that sense of relief followed by intense sadness and then breathlessness. I was at work. I wrote to my family I was having an anxiety attack. I went for a walk around the library building, took deep breaths, sat in the garden of our library. After about 30 minutes of coming back into the building, I was told my daughter was there to see me. She brought me my favorite drink from Starbucks and gave me a hug. My “goods” for this week is, yet again, love that keeps me afloat. Today is exactly 2 months since baba died.

There is this hole in my heart. I am learning to live around it and not fall in.

May your list of “goods” be long.

Sitting on the sideline.


The loss in my life has changed me. How could it not? Even in April of 2021, I was a woman leading a normal life – parenting, working, spending time with my partner, talking to my parents, counting days to see them. India was blowing up but ma and baba never stepped out of the house. They were staying safe, right? Wrong! Despite all their precautions, despite one vaccine, Covid killed both of them. All at once, life threw me a curveball and I was left devastated. Death is an absolute truth and I have reached an age where death of parents was imminent but the cruelty of the universe in causing the death of both my parents left me shaken to the core. As I rebuild myself and learn to live again with the gaping void in my life, I am discovering new lessons about grief, about the whole process of mourning. I was somewhat aware of the different stages of grief journey and I was mindful when I passed through them. I am going towards acceptance as I write this. The journey, however, is not at all linear. I take a step forward one day only to take 2 steps back the next. But I am on the path and that is good.

As I see life go on around me, I often feel I am sitting on the sidelines alone with my grief. The world is moving on in its orbit and I am sitting at the periphery watching it go by. I am unable to join in just yet. I get up tentatively and sit back down again. The zest for life is absent and the grieving process is so lonely. No one can possibly understand except perhaps if I had a sibling.

I tell myself I am one of many since the beginning of time to experience such trauma and like many others I will come out of it. Not unscathed and yes, changed but I will get up from the sidelines and join in. But right now, nothing and no one has stopped for my grief except myself. And such is life.

Little Bud


My friend gave me a bag of gladiolus bulbs at a time when I was indiscriminately planting flowers to nurture some form of life after losing 2 most precious (to me) lives to Covid in quick succession. I had never had much luck in growing plants from seeds or bulbs but I was mentally exhausted to think about what would thrive and what would not and somewhat fatalistic about planting. I needed to dig holes, separate roots and gently place them in the hole with the hope that it will draw nutrition and grow up to radiate beauty and yes, joy.

To be honest, I had forgotten about the bulbs till I saw young green shoots emerging from the soil. I think I was weeding when I noticed them. They certainly looked different from crab grass and I stopped myself from plucking them from the ground. Could they be…? They were! Gradually they grew to be long green stalks, some grew more than others. They were just that for a long time though – long green stalks. Sean and I wondered if that is the end of their journey. And then we saw some diamond shaped patterns on the head of one stalk. I kept close eye on it. The next metamorphosis that I noticed was a deeper shade of purple just underneath the green. And today, when I walked out to go for my walk, I saw this.

I want you all to meet Little Bud. Welcome! I have been patiently waiting for you. You made me happy and you are one of my “goods” this week.

The “goods” in the week of July 5th.


I discovered cooking with bereshta – fried onions, which I get from Indian grocery store. I bought a bag to sprinkle some on biriyani. There was a lot left. My very clever cousin gave me the idea of using it to cook gravy for chicken, paneer, dal instead of chopping onions and crying a sea of tears. Since I have been crying a sea of tears without chopping raw onions, I did not need extra help. On Monday, July 5th, I cooked a 5 course Indian meal for the week without chopping a single onion. I list that as one of my “goods”. Cooking is a release for me. It is relaxing and yes, meditative.

Sean and I walked around a lake near us. It was a gorgeous evening and the lakefront was alive with laughter, children, music and family.

A friend at work lent me her ear and a shoulder.

From some moments being better than others, some days are better than others.

I discovered a beautiful bracelet on my work desk. A coworker, who has become my adoptive brother saw the bracelet, thought of me and bought it for me. The love that I receive regularly keeps me afloat. The bracelet is lovely and matches my green hair but the thought behind it is priceless.

At work, I discussed some good reads with a fellow bibliophile – a rising 4th grader. She asked for some suggestions. When I told her about some of the books that I enjoyed, her mother said to her, “Aren’t librarians wonderful?” And she replied,”Yes!” The library is buzzing with young readers asking for books. It makes my heart glad to see such enthusiasm for reading in our next generation.

Sean and I continue to go for our walks. Today I spoke about how I am doing during our entire walk. He listened and made comments that were helpful. He is a big part of the healing process along with Sahana’s care and Ryan’s goofiness.

All four of us went to an Indian fusion restaurant near us. I ordered a samosa chat pizza and it was interesting as well as delicious.

My elementary school friend came over to see me after hearing about my loss. We met after 18 years!

2 months ago, ma died on this day. To mark the day, obstinate ma plant developed some new blooms. I thought of her a lot and laughed at some memories when I called home to talk to Gouri, Breshpati and Khushi.

Khushi wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

Ryan dropped over 30 seconds in his 400 IM event and over 23 seconds in his 200 fly event in this weekend’s swim meet. I mention this in my “goods” only because the kid was so stressed about his performance before the meet and after the meet his shoulders relaxed. That made me happy.

We go back full time to the library from July 12th. It will be a change and although I know I will be tired, I am looking forward to it. I have said this before that strangely enough, I get this illusion of my life being unchanged when I am at work.

I hope you all have a good week and your list of “goods” is long.

Shopping


After many, many months I went shopping today. Alone, at least physically. Yet I felt the presence of this one excited woman by my side who loved to shop and often threatened to disown me due to my hatred for shopping. During her visits to America, going to the mall or Walmart or Kohl’s or Target was her favorite outing. And much to baba’s chagrin, she bought the whole of Walmart to take back to Kolkata as gifts for people. Her gift giving was legendary. She bought for her extended family, the helpers in her house, their children, the woman who did her facial – literally her whole universe got gifts from her when she returned from any trip. The weight of their luggage drove baba crazy! To keep their luggage under control, she often left some of her clothes behind. She said, “Dite bhalo laage.” (I love to give).

We did not have money in my childhood. We could only afford to buy new clothes during Durga puja or Bengali new year. I still remember the joy in ma as she flitted from one shop to the other in Gariahat market with an unwilling me in tow bargaining for the best price with shopkeepers when we had money to buy new clothes. Somehow she managed to have enough money to buy books though, year round. As I got older and as shopping malls sprouted in Kolkata, she did go to them. But it was evident air conditioned stores with neatly piled ware were out of her comfort zone, where salesmen and women referred to her as “madam” with cool professional demeanor. She missed the “na boudi, ki bolchen? Eto kom e ki kore debo?” ( no sister-in-law, how can I lower the price that much) of bustling and hot Gariahat market.

Busy Walmart or Target gave her immense joy as opposed to Ann Taylor or Banana Republic. Yet as I walked around the mall today peeking into those stores, I remembered her. She would have loved it.

I have planted flowers in their memory as well as for my own peace. I planted a red geranium the day after she died and I call it my “obstinate ma plant”. I love it very much and keep a close eye on it. But gardening was not her thing. She liked to look at flowers, sure, but she loved material things more. She liked to buy things, not just for herself but for others, mainly for others. My house is full of knick knacks that she got for us from places she went. My closet is full of kurtis and sarees she bought for me. I remembered her as I walked the mall. I had vowed that I would draw the line at going shopping to please her soul because I detest it, I crossed that line. And as I thought of it, I smiled under my mask. That obstinate woman is still getting her way, even after death.