Resurrected paneer!

The whole endeavor started due to the goodness of my heart. Sean was going to see Ryan’s water polo game. I requested that he pick up Chinese food on his way back. Since Sean is the pickiest eater alive, he does not partake Chinese food!! After he left, I thought about dinner and felt bad that while we eat kikkoman noodles, steamed dumplings, the poor man was going to chomp on peanut butter jelly sandwich. So I decided to show my love and appreciation by cooking him his favorite dish – paneer. I had made some fresh paneer over the weekend.

After logging out of work I did not flop down with my book like usual. Instead, I chopped my paneer block into little cubes. Marinated them with gorgeous red Kashmiri chili powder, a little oil, some salt and dried kasoori methi. I left the paneer to marinate while I got the ingredients for the gravy ready which was simply 1 cup of beaten curd mixed with a tiny pinch of turmeric, more kashmiri red chili powder, a tsp of cumin powder and a tsp of coriander powder. I ground some cashew to a paste and chopped fresh ginger.

I shallow fried the paneer pieces till they just got a little color. In a separate pan, I strained in the same oil that I used to fry paneer cubes, heated it on medium heat and added chopped ginger. Once the ginger cooked for a few seconds, I added two dried red chilies to temper the oil. And a few drops of water so the ginger stopped cooking. Next I added the curd mixture as well as a spoonful of cashew paste and let it cook till oil separated on medium heat. Once it smelled right, I added water, salt and some sugar, brought it to a boil and then finally added the gently fried paneer cubes. I was very happy with myself imagining Sean’s surprised face and his delight at having a real roti and paneer dinner instead of pbj. I was happy till I tasted the gravy. It was bland. No taste whatsoever. I followed the recipe of a chef I like and watch his cooking videos on my phone obsessively. I tried to make his recipe of dahiwaale paneer, paneer in a yogurt based gravy. Sorry Chef Brar, it was a no go for this Bengali’s taste bud and I followed your recipe diligently!

It was time for damage control. I knew Sean would not like this dish but I was more disappointed because all the paneer that I made painstakingly over the weekend ended up in a tasteless gravy. I first thought I would simply get the paneer out, grate it and make paneer parathas. But I shuddered at the amount of work involved in doing that. Then, my friends, this brilliant woman had a brilliant idea. I had an epipheny.

I heated up a skillet and added a tsp of cumin seeds. When the seeds crackled, I added almost half cup of tomato puree and let the puree and cumin cook on low heat for 5 to 6 minutes, adding splashes of water to make sure the tomato did not burn. In the meantime, I strained the paneer from the gravy and kept the two aside. Once the tomato was cooked and the aroma was lovely, I added a tsp of garam masala to the mixture, and then added the gravy of my previous dish. Mixed the gravy together with the tomato mixture. Next went in some raisins and cashews followed by handful of chopped cilantro. I gave all of it a good stir and let them simmer together for about 5 minutes. When the gravy looked well mingled, I added the paneer pieces. And turned off the stove.

Our Chinese food came home with Ryan and Sean. Sean’s face lit up when he saw the paneer on the stove top. I watched him tear a piece of roti and dip it in the gravy and put it in his mouth. And he said, “Oh, you have outdone yourself today. This is so good!”

Only then did I tell him the story of my paneer debacle. I salvaged my precious paneer. I surprised my husband. I solved a problem. I declare today as a win for Madammommy! 🙂


Messy bed

A quick post before I start work. I am not a neat freak although I like a clean house. My only pet peeve is a messy bed. I can not stand it. I always make my bed. Since my kids were little, I made them make their beds. They cheated, of course. Often, they just pulled the top cover on their unmade bed to give an illusion to mom that they had made their beds. And when I found out, I yelled at them. I also took 2 dollars from them (or was it 5?) as payment for me to make their beds if they had not done it.

Fast forward Sahana’s college years. Her bed, in her dorm room, was mostly neatly made. Even now when she is home she makes her bed. Mr. Ryan is a different story. His bed is NEVER made. I grit my teeth as I go by his room. Clothes everywhere, unmade bed, teenage boy funk.

Everyday I resolve to scold him and I never do. His morning, thrice a week, starts at 4:15 am with swim practice, then he goes to school, after school he directly goes to water polo practice and finally comes home to finish homework and study for tests. I just want to mention here that this rigorous schedule is self inflicted. His parents have implored to cut down on activities. The little time he has, he watches mindless tiktok videos. He does not read other than required reading for school. 😭

Now that you have reference to the context, what do you think I should do? Keep urging him to make his bed so it is ingrained in him for future? Close his door if it bothers me?


According to Covid19, the projection of death and devastation in India is dire. It is heartbreaking, scary, nightmarish. A friend wrote on Facebook that the sirens of ambulance have become part of normal routine in life. The New Delhi bureau chief of New York times wrote south Delhi, where his residence is, has an eerie hush. The silence of the bustling capital of India is broken by sirens of ambulance. And birdsong. My father refuses to watch news anymore, focusing on cricket, movies and music instead to preserve his sanity. My mother is glued to television that is churning out grim projections of the mayhem to come. I can not focus on anything else in my life here in United States – not work, not books, not my family. Of course, life goes on and I have to continue to do my part to live through this but my heart is with the people of my country. Almost every day I get news of friends and acquaintances getting infected. Today a relative died of Covid. My parents have had their first vaccine and are waiting for the election to end so they can get their second shot. Fingers crossed. Temporary crematorium grounds are being created to burn the bodies that are piling up. The fires are constantly burning as bodies pile up.

We saw similar situation in United States just a few months ago. However, my adopted country is slowly recovering. Seeing friends and acquaintances getting their vaccines and gradually venturing out is heartening. For people who do not have family overseas, this is close to the end of a hellish nightmare. For us, Indian Americans, it is a conflicted emotion. We are relieved at our personal safety and that of our friends and family here, yet we are losing sleep over our birth country feeling utterly helpless.

Apart from donating money to organizations that are on the ground helping the sick in India, I am trying to keep despair at bay and sending positive energy that this deadly virus abates, people recover, the exhausted medical professionals get rest and pace of vaccination increases.

Having said that, hearing my friends and family getting infected is difficult. Folks tell me to stay positive and focus on the good. I can not freaking find the good right now!!

If you can, please donate to an organization of your choice who is helping in Covid relief in our devastated country. Of course, do your research on the organization first. 🙏🏽

Tag book post

Lately I am copying a lot of ideas from my friend and fellow blogger The World Common Tater. Imitation is a form of flattery, Tater. I am sticking with that story. I found this fun post on his blog site.

This is hard, though! This is like choosing your favorite child!

What are 1-3 of your favourite books of all time?

  • Mahabharat by Vyasa
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

What are 1-3 of your favourite authors of all time?

  • Jane Austen
  • Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay
  • Geraldine Brooks

Who is your favourite female character from a book?

Satyabati from Prothom Protishruti by Ashapurna Debi

Who is your favourite male character from a book?

Feluda from Satyajit Ray’s Feluda Shomogro

What’s your favourite fictional world?

The land of OZ from The Wizard of Oz

What book has your favourite book cover?

The Girl with a Louding Voice by Abi Dare

What’s your favourite book-to-movie adaptation?

Shonar Kella by Satyajit Ray

If you could make any book into a movie, which would it be? 

The Rising Man and the sequels by Abir Mukherjee

What was your favourite childhood book?

Pather Panchali by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay

Fantasy or Sci-fi (or neither)?

Definitely, fantasy. However, neither genres are my absolute favorite but I would read a fantasy over a sci fi.

I hope some more people do this. I would love to see your answers – says Tater. My choices may not excite folks who read books written in English. But how could I leave out my first love? Treasures of Bengali literature.

The ‘goods’ this week, April 19, 2021

Since I started this exercise, I am making a mental note of what is good and writing it down as soon as I get a chance. I am not allowing a good moment to pass by without acknowledging it. That is good in itself. However, India is blowing up in Covid cases, many flights going to India have suspended their service, CDC has rated India at the highest level of danger zone. So it has been hard to focus on the good lately but I tried and that has to be enough.

The ‘goods’ this week are as follows:

Ryan got his first Pfizer shot. Now both the kids have at least one shot in them.

Sahana had ordered a cap and gown for her upcoming virtual graduation from college. They came and she tried them on. The special day is not going to be what we hoped for but we will make the best of it.

I got to see 2 of Ryan’s high school water polo games. He is a mean defender and he scored 2 goals yesterday. Most importantly, he is so animated and happy on game days.

Our work will transition to one full day a week and I will get to work with my dear friend who I hardly see any more as our schedules are completely different these days.

I read Brother by David Chariandy for the second time for my book club and felt the author’s luminous prose at the core of my heart. Sometimes sheer beauty of words brings tears to one’s eyes.

I am rehearsing for a play that will be sent to North Atlantic Bengali Association in July. It is a short skit but I do enjoy acting and it takes my mind off from what is going on in real life.

I have quite a few good books waiting for me to read. They are adorning my book shelf. It makes me happy to look at them as they hold unknown stories within their pages.

I did some weeding this week. Although only half of the flower bed is done. I will tackle that.

Warmer weather is on its way.

We tentatively went out to eat in a restaurant. The restaurant was empty so we felt comfortable.

Sean and I went for a walk. As we talked I realized, yet again, how much I love him.

As I ground coffee beans for tomorrow’s first cup of coffee, I looked out of the kitchen window and witnessed a glorious sun set.

I am surprised that this list went on for as long as it did. I am glad I am writing this every week. I am thankful for all the ‘goods’ and the fact I am mindful of them.

Happy Monday and have a great week.

I used to be a planner…

I have spent considerable time in my life filling out forms to either leave a country or enter a country or stay in a country. My experience is perhaps not too different from many immigrants who decide to settle in a different country and also travel to different parts of the world. My first endeavor started when I took on the Herculean task of getting an Indian passport in my twenties. And do believe me when I tell you that it is no mean feat. It involves filling forms, producing many, many documents, standing in line, police verification….and the list goes on. Next was getting a fiancée visa to come to United States. Fortunately, my fiancé pushed the papers on that one so I only had to sign some papers and send him some documents. Once I came here, we got married within 10 days and thus began my sojourn to change my status to become a Resident Alien in this country. After several form filling and back and forth to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, I got my green card or Resident Alien status. Although I am not an Englishman in New York, I sang along with Sting, “I’m an alien, a legal alien…” an Indian woman in Bawlmore!

After a year of getting my green card, Sean got transferred to India. We picked ourselves up and transplanted in New Delhi. I was beyond thrilled of course except when we had to come in to US twice a year. You see, if one has a green card in this country, they are required to live here for certain number of days and we were not fulfilling that requirement. The customs officers asked us many questions at the port of entry, nodded their heads, frowned, were nasty to me often and we were completely dependent on the clemency of the officer in question. I started having butterflies in my stomach as I stood in line to enter the country. After a harrowing experience each time, the officer stamped my passport and I breathed.

After 12 years of our marriage, I finally decided to seek citizenship of United States. Travel was difficult with Indian passport. Getting a citizenship involved form filling and trips to USCIS again. However, it was done. I got my US passport and right away I filed papers to obtain a PIO card to enter India without a visa. PIO card stands for People of Indian Origin. It was similar to a green card in US, no voting rights but the card ensured hassle free entry to my country of birth where my loved ones live. After a few years, Indian government decided to discontinue with PIO card and I had to convert my card to OCI one. OCI stands for Overseas Citizen of India which gives the card holders the same rights as PIO card holders. The whole point of writing all is this to show that I ensured that my entry to India was never delayed or hampered. I filled forms, I planned ahead. I was in control for the most part.

I used to worry about the 4 to 6 weeks that would take to renew my passport when the time came. I worried that if something happened to my parents in those 4 to 6 weeks I would not have any means to get to them. Now that worry seems so trivial. I worried about 4 – 6 weeks? I never thought a day would come when I would not be able to go to India for over a year. At the beginning of this nightmare, I was distraught and lived in agony. Then slowly I started realizing that the whole situation is not in my control. Pandemic taught me a valuable lesson to let go of things that I can not control. It was a hard lesson for someone like me, who likes to be in control but I did learn to let go.

I am a planner. I am planning to renew my passport and get my papers ready to go whenever I am able. But I am slowly learning to control my anxiety by chanting, “Let go of things beyond your control. Keep positive thoughts in your head. Let the negative go.”

There are nights when I still lie awake with disturbing thoughts. But then I count waves in my mind, breathe deeply and remind myself to let go. Easier said than done, but I try.

Is it cultural appropriation?

Now that our ‘shaking hands’ days are over, at least for a while, we were discussing how to greet new acquaintances from now on. I suggested Namaste – the Indian way of folding one’s hands together in a greeting. ‘I bow to the divinity in you.’ A beautiful no-touch solution. Add a welcoming, approachable smile and you are golden. My family thought that would be cultural appropriation on Sean’s part because he is white.

That got me thinking. I don’t come from a culture of shaking hands but I have been shaking hands for the last 20 odd years in this country. Was I appropriating Western culture? How was that acceptable and never commented upon? I adopted a culture or a form of greeting that was not my own. So how will it be cultural appropriation if Sean adopts Namaste – a form of greeting that is not his own?


What was good this week.

My sweet coworker wrote an email saying a previously owned Le Creuset Dutch oven was free to a good kitchen. I happened to be on my work email when her email popped up. Instantly, I hit reply saying “Me! Pick me!” She did. I was happy because I kept thinking of buying a Dutch oven but balked at the price. When she wrote back saying the Dutch oven was mine, my first thought was “I am going to make biriyani in that Dutch oven.”

Although that is good – me scoring a Dutch oven, the best part, however, is my daughter’s joy at the news that a Dutch oven will be coming home. She actually squealed with joy and instantly started looking at recipes. Biriyani will have to wait. The new appliance will be inaugurated with Julia Child’s beef bourguignon. And then no knead bread I am told.

It may sound odd to some but my daughter came to the library to browse for her allotted 45 minutes after over a year. Seeing her roaming the stacks and making a huge pile of books for check out was amazing.

I submitted some bureaucratic papers which were causing me anxiety.

I finished a really engrossing, 900 plus pages book – The Evening and The Morning by Ken Follett. It is a prequel to his Kingsbridge series and I commend it to all who simply wants a captivating story set in early Middle Ages.

Sean and I went for a hike and I got to sit by a gurgling river and watch an Irish setter fetch sticks from the water.

I looked up at the blue sky with wispy white clouds over foliage of promising, young green and thanked the universe for granting me this scenery. I felt humbled at the beauty.

Ryan is driving me around. He took us to Indian grocery store and I got served by my favorite Indian gentleman. He has such a kind demeanor about him. I was holding a bag of samosas close to my shirt, he warned me that my shirt may get oil stains as he rang up my fare. I stocked up on Indian snacks as I inhaled the familiar smell of home in that store. Then we got Indian food for lunch.

Sahana’s departmental graduation was yesterday. It was virtual and not what she hoped for, however, it is the culmination of her hard work. In my books, that is good.

Sean and I went out to Annapolis, enjoyed a lovely day, tasty lunch and ice cream.

I will post my ‘goods’ on Mondays to start off the week.

After a year of doing this..

Setting: Breakfast table on a Friday morning.

Characters: A mom, a dad and a 16 year old son who has decided sullenness is the way to keep nagging mother away from him. His plan has failed.

Action: Mom and dad are discussing the very limited office space area in their very tiny house. The teen is chomping on his breakfast, a peanut butter sandwich, with half closed eyes before starting virtual school. The mother and father are unaware that he is paying any attention to the conversation around him.

The adults are almost at the point of reaching a deal in their office space negotiation. Father has to record a video for work, mother has to conduct a class for the library and they are working out the time when one will have access to office space which is in the basement and who will work upstairs in the living room. They both are very accommodating and mindful of other’s needs so it is mostly an amicable process. Although the mother has figured out if she gives the father a hapless look about a decision unfavorable to her needs, the father will acquiesce. Not very often, but she does use that look to get her way sometimes. Anyway, on this day all is going well. The adults have figured out their work space and timing. Both the parents can conduct their businesses successfully at the allotted time. They are about to leave the kitchen table to get ready for their respective jobs when the grumpy teen speaks up in a mumble, “I have….mumble, mumble, mumble..”

“You, what? Speak up.” The adults turn around.

The parents have found that they constantly ask ‘what’ after any sound that comes out from their son’s mouth these days. Either the sentence is spoken very fast or the sentence is said in a mumble – which comes off as completely incoherent. In order to understand the young man, a follow up (or may be more than one follow up) ‘what did you say?’ is necessary.

Anyway, today’s mumble was translated as “I have orchestra in the 2nd period.” The young man plays cello and the cello resides in the dining room which is right off the living room. During orchestra class, he comes out of his room and plays the cello in the dining room. The second period when the musical soiree is about to happen is in the middle of the mother’s class and father’s video recording. Neither of those events could incorporate cello notes during their occurrence. Time for the hapless look, mom decided and perfectly executed. The dad did some quick thinking and juggled his to-do list so he could finish his video recording before the mother had to start her Zoom class. He is truly a saint.

The mother went to the basement to facilitate her class with one ear out for cello music which she never heard. After her class she came up and enquired why there was no music in the house, what happened to orchestra class. The teen, while munching on his lunch and one ear out of his head phones said they had to listen to some music today which he did in his room. They did not have to play music.

So all the readjustments and renegotiations along with ‘hapless look’ were really for nothing. Such is life. Such is working from home when your home is still not perfect work place after working from home for over a year. What are you gonna do? Just laugh!

If you want to read about our office space situation, here is the blog that I wrote about it.