Sahana intended to play with his head. One night I eavesdropped on a conversation between the two of them:

Sahana: ‘Ryan, do you realize that this life that you are living now is all a dream of your mentally unstable mind? In reality, you are a patient in a mental asylum and you are dreaming all this?

Ryan was brushing his teeth. The buzz of electric toothbrush stopped as an indignant brain registered this information and then processed it.


Sahana: ‘Yes it is. Mom, dad, me you, Sage, none of us exist in your real life. You are dreaming. One day you will wake up and all this is going to be gone. This is an alternate universe which only exists in your dream.’

All of a sudden a loud, angry exclamation from Sahana:


Ryan: ‘I kicked you and you felt it. That proves it is not a dream, you are real.’

Sahana: ‘Nope! You kicked me in your dream. I yelled in your dream. This is all a dream. You are really a mental patient in an asylum!’

Poor Ryan takes after me in gullibility. He semi believed Sahana and pondered over the possibility of his life being an alternate universe existing only in his unstable mind generated dream. Sahana laughed evil laughter – for a while.

Yesterday, after a trip to the library as we were getting back in the car to drive home, Sahana said something that Ryan did not like. And this is what I heard:

‘Sahana, since this is MY universe, I control it, you better watch out. If I don’t like what you are doing in my universe, I will exterminate YOU from here!’

I was walking ahead. I stopped and turned around. Sahana, for once, had nothing to say.

She and I talked about it in the car today as I drove her to practice. She said, ‘That boy!!! He has now turned my theory to his benefit. He now believes he is a pro baseball player dreaming of this life. He will wake up to his real life, go out and play baseball! It is a win, win! I wanted him to believe he was in an asylum!’

I said, ‘You relinquished the power girlfriend. You gave him his universe. He struggled at the concept. Then he made it his own and found peace in it. Now you are redundant!’

She is thinking how to get the power back. For now, it is checkmate!

Never a dull moment 🙂 !


My first unknown Facebook friend.

I watched the movie You’ve Got Mail while snuggling with Ryan and Sahana. Ryan said, after, “I am never watching another romance movie EVER!!!” and Sahana said, “Awwwww, that was so sweeeeet!!!!” But this blog is not about the movie that I LOVE and have watched more than 6 times. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s chat reminded me of my fear and apprehensions of befriending the first unknown friend on Facebook.

“Join this thing called Facebook!! Now!!! There are many friends from our class there, I have reconnected with them, they are asking for you!” My girl friend from college wrote me an emphatic email. I still dragged my feet. What is this unknown cyber world that I have no idea of? AND I have a fear of technology! But memories of sweet youth and college compelled me to listen to her rantings. I tentatively opened an account and swore not to befriend anyone I didn’t know. I was there just to connect with people I have left behind as I moved on in life.

Another girlfriend from college opened a forum called Books and More. I got sucked in, of course – the magical word ‘book’ does that to me every time. But guess what? In that forum there were those feared creatures!!! Strangers!!! And they were talking to me, or trying to engage me in a conversation. Stranger danger! Red alert! And wait!! One of them was a pesky man!!! Or a boy, I could not be sure. He surely acted as a boy. He called my girl friend, the admin of the book group, Mashi (aunty) and when he discovered that I was her batch mate in college, he called me Mashi as well. Ah, a mere child, harmless, I thought. Then he sent me a friend request and I frowned at that.

Wait, no!! I don’t want to be friends with a stranger! They could rob me blind or send nasty propositions. Ummmm…well…yeah…my inflated self-worth was a bit at play. No, just kidding. I was simply wary of strangers in a virtual world. I still am! Anyway, back to my quandary! What does he want? Can he see that my profile picture has a man on it? I am very happily married, thank you very much! But he was funny and witty and childish. And he made me laugh just like college days! So with shaking hands and uncertain fingers I clicked on the ‘Accept Friend Request’ button. And asked him, “How old are you?” I had assumed him to be a teenager or a man in his early twenties, he turned out to be only a couple of years younger than me. Help!! A grown man! Oh, well, if he turns out to be a jerk, I can always send him into oblivion by the click of a button I thought. He became one of my dearest friends and continues to be so after 5 years. And he is one of the most well read, thoughtful, intelligent person I know.

The friendship would have met an untimely death right at the beginning had I not been Type A about checking and re checking my comments before I sent them. The first time I typed his name on the iPad, wrote a comment and was all set to hit ‘Enter’, I happened to notice that my Apple device did not have his Indian name in its dictionary so it conveniently changed his name to ‘Stinky’. I was about to address my first ‘unknown’ friend on my one and only social networking site as Stinky. The friendship would have had a sad demise, and an early one.

Through him, I met some others, men and women! One friend came to US for work and made the extra effort to come and just see me in my town although his work place was in a different State altogether. My family asked, “So, you know him only through Facebook?” I confidently said, “Yes.” He is now more of a family member than a friend. My whole family embraced him as one of our own.

I made friends over songs, poems, blogs and laughs. I made friends over world cup soccer and Game of Thrones. Some stayed on the periphery, some touched my heart and soul through their brilliance, kindness of heart and generosity. I rejoice at their victories and mourn their losses. They teach me new songs, new poetry, new thoughts. We debate over our beliefs, we laugh over jokes. We have shared stories, made our presence felt during difficult times. We have said those words to each other, ‘You matter.’ We have said, ‘This too shall pass.’ And we have said, ‘Fly, soar’. I have found many real friends in the virtual world. I met them in a reunion last year, some of them, for the first time. The meeting, however, was seamless. My husband, who tagged along, somewhat skeptical of virtual friendships, smiled wide as he met my friends. He laughed along, danced to Hindi songs, read my poet friend’s poetry with open-mouthed awe and came back with their love and friendship.

But I am still wary of strangers. Most friend requests don’t get accepted unless I have interacted and liked what the person had to say on threads of other friends. I do not indiscriminately make friends with unknown people and I would advise against it. Having said that, I value my ‘real’ friends who I found in’ virtual’ world. You know who you are.

Oh, and you can blame ‘You’ve got mail’ for the mush.


Hold on to dreams..

The change is very gradual, almost imperceptible, yet I notice it lately. The silent burst of the colorful bubble of dreams in the young mind of my son. The brush with reality is painful and the realization harsh. Even a year ago, being an Olympic swimmer was a possibility, beating Phelp’s record was not simply a pipe dream but an achievable aspiration. Playing pro baseball was not wishful thinking but a natural progression of life. What else would he do other than play professional baseball? Or win gold medals in Olympics? He has his mind set to two schools when he grows up – Harvard and MIT. But now questions and doubts are casting shadows on those innocent dreams. I am not good enough! Am I good enough?

Those dreams, at the age of nine, at the beginning of fourth grade, are slowly starting to look unrealistic. Although I know this is simply a part of growing up, yet it devastates me to think that he will not casually say anymore ‘I will win one more medal than Phelps in Olympics’ or, ‘Mom, when both Ravens and Orioles want to draft me, what should I do?’ I just want him to dream on – for as long as he can. And who knows, his dreams may well be his reality one day? He is a little bundle of endless possibilities like every other child.

Last night while brushing teeth before bed time he said to me:

‘Mom, the child born by mixing you and dad, (interesting choice of words) that is me, should be super athletic and very smart, right? Dad is super athletic and you are very smart?’

‘Well, you ARE super athletic and you ARE very smart!’ I said. Please note how I avoided answering the ‘you are very smart?’ question! 🙂

He thought about it quietly for a few minutes.

‘Being good at sports is not going to get me anywhere, is it?’ He then asked.

‘Being good at sports is an ability not everybody has. It is a gift. Accept at it as one. And you love playing, so play. We can see where it takes you later. But you want to be well-rounded. You want to do well in school and learn all that you can learn as well!’

‘I am finding fourth grade very challenging. This is the most challenging year of all I think. Can you help me?’ (He just started fourth grade)

The cry for help was so plaintive, so innocent and genuine that I stopped what I was doing and took him in my arms.

We had a talk and planned a plan till he felt confident that we are all in it together, mom, dad, sister too. We are team Ryan and we will help him learn, no matter what. It indeed is a big transition from previous years to fourth grade and his steps are faltering. But he knew enough to ask for help. I am grateful. We have a plan. Bring it on, fourth grade. We got this! 🙂 And we high-fived!

We will make sure those dreams return! We need those bright, colorful bubbles floating around childhood. My mommy heart wants to save all of them, none can burst! So there! 🙂

Teen 2.0

I am attending a training for my work. It, sometimes, is waking me up at night. The work is not difficult, it is simply intense. Yet as I turn on the computer, all I want to do is write blogs. So, instead of working on Young Adult’s readers advisory, I am writing a blog about it.

Me: Sahana, I am going to interview you for one of my classes.

Dying pterodactyl groan accompanied with a word I understand: Why???

Me: Because you are a teen and I need to interview a teen who reads and uses the library. You fit the bill.

Sahana: Yes, but I am not your average teen. I will give you deep answers.

Me: How are you not an average teen? What is an average teen anyway?

Sahana: I am just better than your average teen. I have maturity, common sense and lucid moments. Your average teen does not have those.

Me: Do you think you also suffer from the sin of hubris?

Sahana: Nope, I just say it straight. It is what it is. I am not an average teen. I am Teen 2.0. You know? The upgraded version!

My sweet little teen did not realize how very ‘teenagerish’ she sounded in that entire conversation! I was making marinara sauce in the kitchen for dinner. I did not even feel the burn of an errant spot of hot sauce on my hand, I was chuckling so hard. Silently, of course!


For the love of….money!

Those of you who follow my blog will know that Ryan is a believer. He is a true believer of God and a devoted worshipper of….money. He, since a tender age of 2 or 3, has been strangely attracted to money in any form – paper bills, coins, currency of any country. The word ‘money’ has always brought on that expression of awe and reverence. He is very religious too, no, not the ascetic kind. He is very mindful of the quality of his life on earth and he worries about his existence after he passes on from this material world. He has learnt to merge his two loves – love of God and love of money by sharing his wealth and helping the impoverished.

In a recent discussion with his uncle, he expounded his theory of this happy merge of his two passions.

‘When I become a trillionaire, I will choose someone who does not have any money and make that person a billionaire. However, I will take away his money if he takes drugs or alcohol. He can not do that!’

He does not want money to serve vices. Good thought, I thought and we had a laugh over it.

He has different schemes always for earning. In India, he earned money first by carrying his grandfather’s grocery bags. He refused a rickshaw and politely asked if he could have the rickshaw fare instead if he carried the bags of vegetables and bloody fish. His grandfather agreed. Then he charged his indulgent grandfather for his companionship if there were no bags to be carried. Lastly he charged his innumerable aunties and grandmothers for hugs and kisses. He made a sweet sum at the end of his stay. He gave all of it away to his grandmother before leaving India.

In summer he weeded my flower bed for 5 dollars and opened a lemonade stand. Since he does not mess around when it comes to money, he wrote out a contract engaging Sahana as his junior partner and employee with a 75-25 % contract. And he calculated the exact amount that he owed her, and paid up.

Recently he has cooked up another scheme with friends. They are making book marks and selling them. I came home from work and was told triumphantly:

‘Mom!! Sahana bought 6 bucks worth of book marks!!’

I turned to my daughter, who is currently flushed with baby sitting money and also the money she gets from mowing our lawn, and exclaimed quietly at her generosity.

‘Why did you buy so many bookmarks? 6 bucks? That is a lot of bookmarks!’

‘It’s all good mom! This is all part of my plan. When we grow up and I am a poor struggling writer and he is a successful business man, I will remind him of this day and how I contributed to his start up business. The guy is a softie, he will help me out with my finances. I have got it all worked out!’

Well, then….:)

Believe, Hon!

Are you aware of the stereotype that media reinforces that men forget anniversaries and women get upset with them? Sean breaks that stereotype. I ask him “How long have we known each other now?” He knows the exact date, the exact number of years. I argue of course. “No no, it was this day of that month!” And he provides proofs and facts. I believe him then.

It has been 18 years of living together, raising a family, growing up in love. Life has been full of challenges, time for each other being the main one. The travels, the jobs, the juggling tire us both and romance often takes a backseat.

A few weeks ago, I put on a lovely saree, threw on some make up and went to the kitchen to show him my bedecked and semi bejeweled self, where he was flipping pan cakes for breakfast. “How do I look?” I asked. He quickly glanced up and looked back down at the browning pancakes.

“You look lovely. I like the necklace that you put on. Adds something more to the whole ensemble.” He said.

Sahana gave me the necklace on Mother’s Day and I have been wearing that since May. EVERYDAY! He never noticed!

“I have been wearing the necklace for the last 4 months for crying out loud! You never noticed???? You never look at me anymore? Is this what happens if one is married for 18 years???” I joke. I make it sound light-hearted, yet I am hurting a little bit.

He is, for a second stunned, at a loss, and then he comes back with an answer that he knows will get him out of the hole that he dug for himself.

I notice YOU! After 18 years I don’t need to notice any necklace or earring. I simply look at you, the natural you. I have always said you need no jewelry to be beautiful. I love the way you are naturally.

I grumble and groan. I tell him he is back tracking and covering up his mistake. He says “That’s my story and I am sticking to it, baby!” And laughs.

And I believe him. A huge part of me does. I believe him because it reminds me of the poem he loves, believes and recites. A poem by Pedro Salinas which he read to me when we courted, first in Spanish and then the translation, as I sang songs of Rabindranath Tagore for him.

To live I don’t want
islands, palaces, towers.
What steeper joy
Than living in pronouns!
Take off your clothing,
features, pictures;
I don’t want you like that,
masked as another,
always a daughter of something.
I want you pure, free,
irreducible: you.

Life together is not what it used to be 18 years ago. Our togetherness is spent talking about high school assignments, picking up dropping off children, text messages to each other. Yet, amidst all that, Salinas’s words remain, Rabindranath’s love songs remain. Pablo Neruda’s poem has the associations of that exquisite feeling that he wrote those words to give voice to our love.

September 8

Today, this day was a brimming cup,
today, this day was the immense wave,
today, it was all the earth.

Today the stormy sea
lifted us in a kiss
so high that we trembled
in a lightning flash
and, tied, we went down
to sink without untwining.

Today our bodies became vast,
they grew to the edge of the world
and rolled melting
into a single drop
of wax or meteor.

Between you and me a new door opened
and someone, still faceless,
was waiting for us there.

Pablo Neruda

All it takes is a moment of pause, a moment of looking back, a reiteration of some forgotten lines and I am once again the young woman in love. The heart drips with the oozy feeling of contentment. I smile and he smiles back.

I love it now!

Two American men took their newly wed brides to a baseball game for the first time. The brides belonged to two different countries, one came from India and the other from Peru. The game was a hotly contested one between two rivals. Both the American men were fans of a team from Boston. The women went to experience the all-American game of baseball, and perhaps to get an inkling of why this game appeals to so many in their newly adopted country. They failed to understand though. But not due to the lack of efforts of their very attentive spouses. The husbands bought yummy ball-park food, put their arms around their respective wives and whispered sweet nothings in their ears when they were not screaming at their team’s success, explained the rules and the reasons whenever they got the chance, yet the women found it hard to keep their focus on the game. They looked everywhere, sighed, stretched, looked at their watches and asked how long the game will last. The Indian one, a big fan of cricket, found this game terribly slow, which surprised her husband. Once the game was over and the ball-park spewed out thousands and thousands of excited fans onto the streets of the city, the Peruvian woman said to her husband in her endearing accent:

‘You like this game? But this is SO BORING!’

She spoke loudly enough to attract some looks. Her husband grinned, looked around and said, ‘Shhhhh…..!’

The Indian woman promised never to see another baseball game ever again. What a waste of time, she said. She could have read books in that time, she scoffed at her husband. And then her sly husband did something to make sure that she would start taking interest in the game. After 6 weeks of giving birth to their first child, when she was desperate to lose the baby weight, her husband urged her to join a women’s softball team. As I said, she was desperate to get rid of the extra pounds so she agreed. Being somewhat athletic, she caught on quickly and played in a local team. She had fun. But still she did not watch baseball. Once was enough.

Then she gave birth to a boy who lived, dreamed, breathed baseball. She made an effort then, to learn the game. She started watching it with the husband and the son. She learnt what tagging meant, she caught on to infield fly rule, she learnt about curve balls, sliders, knuckle ball, stealing home, double play, grand slam.

Now she loves it! She is almost as big a fan of the local team as her son. Almost, not quite. She discusses baseball with friends, neighbors, coworkers. She wears the jersey of her favorite player when she goes to watch a game and wonders how did she ever think the game was boring. Each wind up of her team’s pitcher is full of anticipation, each strike by the favored pitcher promising, each ball disappointing.

She went to a ball game recently with the husband and the son (the daughter refused to sit through it). And she thought back to her first baseball game at the ball park as a young bride, as she jumped up and high-fived the man next to her as a player hit a home run. She screamed with thirty thousand other spectators CHARGE, she clapped with them, she danced with her arms high and did the Mexican wave.

As she entered the ball park with thousands of other people wearing the same colored jersey as her, she felt a certain sense of belonging to the city which brought a smile to her face. She took off her sunhat and touched her chest as the national anthem was sung, and sang along.  She noticed a dad with two little girls watching the game with their grandfather. The littlest one, maybe 3 years old, took care of the granddaddy by offering him drinks and putting her little head on his shoulder. She saw on the big screen,  little babies whose parents held them in one hand and held a poster in the other, saying ‘Baby’s first ball game’. She noticed a son and probably daughter in law holding the hands of a very elderly lady as she navigated the steps to reach her seat with a wide smile on her face. She noticed the play of clouds up above and urged the husband to take a picture with his phone. She got teased for that, but the husband took the picture, anyway.

She smiled as she thought of her first game in the same ballpark all those years ago. She has adapted, adopted and grown indeed. She has come a long way.

The man from the faraway land came home.

I lied through my teeth for almost three months.

“I have double shift at work today. I have to leave by 9.00 am’ – was a common one. Every Saturday I would leave home after a faltering, mumbling lie. Walk with a fluttering heart towards Golpark bus stop, the heart rate increased as I neared Ram Krishna Mission. As I turned the corner I always broke out into a sweat of happy anticipation and guilt.

“Will he be there?” He always was. He stood in front of the Ram Krishna Mission, brighter than a sunshine, facing the corner where I would come from. As I turned the corner, his face split into a huge smile and I glittered like a diamond under its brightness.

After sneaking around for a few months, I decided my over active conscience can not bear the burden of this sneaky rendezvous, I needed to tell my parents that I was seeing someone. And the ‘someone’ belonged to a far away land.

So one summer afternoon as I lay next to my mother, I decided the moment was as good as any.

“I wanted to tell you for a while, I met someone I like.”

My mother’s head turned, excitement, apprehension in her eyes.

“Oh, really? Who is he?”

I knew the answer to “who is he” would be the hardest. He belonged to a different country, a country very far away.

I wanted them to meet him and nervously, they agreed. I was nervous, my parents were nervous and I believe Sean was nervous as well, although he does not admit it today.

The day finally dawned when he was supposed to come. Our house was cleaned thoroughly, the tiny living room was given a make over, the curtains were washed, cushion covers replaced, my seventeen cats were reprimanded and asked to be on their best behavior. My mother supervised the work and asked me if I thought the preparations will be up to Sean’s satisfaction. I reassured her he won’t really care. And then there was the question of what to offer him to eat. Although I had been seeing Sean for three months, we really had not shared a meal since our meetings were short and between meals. I had no idea what he ate or what he liked. I was not helpful, I just said, “Oh, don’t fret about it.”

Finally in the evening, Sean’s car entered our narrow alleyway. My mother was nervous and a little angry with me for putting her in this position where I thrust her into this realm of the ‘unknown’, out of her comfort zone. She did not know what to say to a man who was not from our country and did not speak her language! Why did I not find an Indian boy to fall in love with? Anyway, Sean entered our house holding two beautiful and expensive looking bouquets. He extended the bigger one to my mother and the smaller one to me. Neither ma nor I had ever received flowers from anyone, let alone a man. Flowers, rajanigandha sticks, were bought on our birthdays and put in a vase when we expected guests. We were baffled to receive flowers and worried right away if we had two vases handy to put them in. Sean seemed very comfortable. He shook hands with my dad and settled comfortably in the couch. Ma asked in halting English if he wanted any tea. Sean said, “Yes, sure. Thank you!”

At this point, my mother asked me to follow her. I went in towards the kitchen. She turned around to me with and said with gritted teeth, sweating a little,

“Ekta kotha o bujhte parchina!! Ki kore kotha bolbo?” (I can’t understand a word he says, how will I carry on a conversation?)

I said, with a concealed chuckle, “I will translate.”

After hot, milky tea and some halted conversation, mainly around me and how we met, a little about his work, they offered Sean some sweet yogurt – mishti doi, a specialty of Bengal. He accepted and ate it. Later I found out, he does not drink tea and he hates yogurt of any kind! The evening ended, Sean left and we started talking about him behind his back.

“He seems like a nice man. But the accent! Oh the accent! Can’t understand anything! How do you understand what he says?”

I said, “You get used to it. I can understand him fine!”

A trend started. He became a regular in our house. He had a very active social life, yet most evenings he came over to just hang out Indian style, sitting on our big bed with his legs folded under him, mainly laughing and listening, teasing my mother and perhaps observing the middle class Bengali culture through us.

I have been in several embarrassing situations and my parent’s unabashed pride in my achievements was certainly one of them. The pride was sweet, very endearing yet embarrassing. My trophies, cups and certificates were treasured in our Godrej almirah and Sean, once he became a bit more familiar, was subjected to each and every one of them, followed by a lecture on how smart I was and how well spoken and how many debates and public speaking competitions I had won. I was a catch and he better believe he is lucky to have received my attention – this message was delivered in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways by those two who did consider me their prized possession, no matter how little I mattered to the world. I tried to divert the conversation, but I was ignored mostly. Sean showed interest with a quick amused glance in my direction and a meaningful smile which conveyed, ‘Oh you will be teased about it later!’

As our relationship grew and became richer so did his association with my immediate and extended family. My grandmother became Sean’s fast friend. They were often found in a corner in a family gathering, didun talking nineteen to the dozen to Sean about her trips to Belur, about her arthritis pain and other metaphysical discourses. Sean nodded and contributed to the conversation in English. This continued after our marriage and till she passed away to the other side.

A relationship between two individuals does not stay limited to just them, does it? It  spreads its sweetness (or bitterness, as the case may be) to the people related to those individuals. Sean’s zest for life and his ability to spread love and cheer made him a favorite not only with me but with my family. We had our challenges in bringing our love to fruition but I believe our love and respect for not only each other but for those who we love helped us overcome those.

After eighteen years of togetherness I look back on the day when my two worlds met and how they interacted with each other. There was that fear of the unknown, there was curiosity, there was a little pride, there was a lot of stress and there was happiness too. It is with a smile that I  look back and reminisce on how it all started, how we found acceptance and love in not only each other’s hearts but also in the hearts of family who nurtured us.