A dream that I do not remember.

I dreamt of ma last night. I never remember my dreams and I did not remember the specifics of this one either. I just remember the last shot/frame of the dream. Ma was looking at something over my head, in a white georgette saree with black border and tiny embroidery done in the body of the saree. She had her signature big maroon bindi on her forehead. Her skin was glowing with its usual healthy glow. Her body was partially turned. She was not necessarily smiling but her face looked content. When my eyes opened and the vision disappeared, I thought, “Huh! She is dead!” Even with that reaction though, I was not plunged into deep despair. There was a lightness in my heart in the morning because the essence of that dream still lingered. This was the sixth time I dreamed of ma. And yes, I keep count.

I was narrating to Sahana my dream and the snippet of it that stayed with me. I said, “Interestingly enough, it did not make me cry like usual.”

She smiled. “Take the wins, mom. Just take the wins whenever you get it.”

As I pondered over her words, I realized ‘taking the wins’, indeed, is the meaning of contentment perhaps. I will take the wins whenever I get them.


Fusion marriage, fusion food.

Masoor dal

In my opinion, the dal, pictured above, should be enjoyed with fragrant, white rice with a dash of lemon and thinly sliced potato sticks. If potato sticks are not to your taste, (although I cannot imagine how anyone can NOT like jhirijhi alu bhaja, potato sticks in English), you can substitute them with egg plant fritters (beguni), or potol bhaja (don’t know English for potol, it is a small green gourd like vegetable and oh-so tasty). If nothing is available, or you are too lazy to fry anything, boil some potatoes and an egg. Mash the potatoes with some mustard oil, and mix in some chopped raw onions and chopped green chilli. My husband would not choose any of the options I mention above. If I don’t make rotis or don’t have store bought chapatis at home, he would slice some bread, toast it and dip it in dal. That is still acceptable to me. I look away when he dips his grilled cheese sandwich in dal. Or he slathers nut butter and jelly on my carefully and lovingly made alu paratha. He does many other permutations and combinations, mixing my Indian food with food that he grew up eating. I was a food purist. Certain food had to be eaten with the right accompaniment, but he has worn me down over the years.

Today I broke my own rule. I made a gorgeous grilled cheese with this delicious three cheese sesame bread, poured tamarind date chutney that I use for chats (Indian street food) and happily dipped my grilled cheese into ‘very Indian’ chutney. It was delicious and I am a convert.

Our marriage fused two different races, two cultures and now food. It is all great but I maintained the sanctity of food all these years. Eat rice or roti with your dal or dip grilled cheese sandwich in hearty tomato soup, not chutney.

Today I gave in and what a wonderful fusion it turned out to be. 😀

Bird bath

Familiar birds, while growing up in Kolkata, were crows, sparrows and magpies. As the winter turned to spring, we heard the sweet cooing of cuckoo birds but s/he hid from us. All we heard was the sweet call which became synonymous with the arrival of spring. Once in a while we spotted ghughu pakhi (dove), or Bulbul or Moyna. I do not know the English names for those. When we lived in Delhi, we had 3 resident peacocks, who, sometimes, sat on the railing of our balcony and cried out loudly, making us flinch. Peacock calls are horrible to human ears. There were parrots too. For a Kolkatan, sightings of parrots and peacocks flying around freely were wildly exciting!

In USA, I came to recognize a few other types of birds that were unfamiliar to me – cardinals, blue jays, pileated woodpeckers, robins….. I am not a birder, in the sense, I don’t know the names of the different types that I see in the woods behind my house. But they give me immense joy. During warmer months, I sit on the back deck and look at the frenetic activities of the cardinal couple who go about their daily lives in front of me, or the furious blue jay, whose motive in life is to pick fight with anyone in his/her sight – be it another bird or a squirrel.

After the loss in our lives, my friends and coworkers enveloped us in their love, kindness and generosity in forms of food, plants and gifts. One friend gifted us a bird bath. For a few months the bird bath languished in our basement till Sean asked me if I wanted it set up and where. I wanted it in my backyard. He set it up but we did not fill it with water. It became part of the landscape in our backyard. It snowed a few weeks ago, and the bird bath filled up with water once the snow on it melted. And that is when my heart lifted. I was doing dishes over the weekend, lost in my thought, when I happened to raise my head and look out the back window. There were two puffy robins sitting opposite to each other taking turns drinking from the bird bath. There were 5 other birds waiting for their turn, sitting on the fence. I exclaimed to Sean, “Come! Look!” He came, stood by me and watched the shenanigans of the puffed up little birds trying to take turns in their very own water bowl. Most of them were orderly and followed rules, one tried to peck the others to get ahead in line. There is always that guy/gal.

Once the birds discovered there was water to be had in our backyard, they came back. On these days, when joy and happy feelings are scarce, these birds drinking water from the bird bath made both of us smile. As I got ready for work on Monday, I reminded Sean to fill up the bird bath for our thirsty visitors.

“I filled up your bird bath.” Sean said, when I got back from work that day.

Simple delights!

A mysterious surprise!

This box appeared on my desk at work today. I did not sleep well last night, so I woke up tired as usual. Contemplated life over coffee, looked out and glared at the cold weather, completed Wordle on the 5th or 6th try. Dragged myself to shower, put some eyeliner, slapped on my mask and stepped out into the cold, muttering how much I hate winter.

At work, I clocked in, exchanged pleasantries with some coworkers and walked to my desk. And there it was. A gift from a mysterious giver. I asked a few usual suspects if they had gifted me a box of chocolates. None of them had. I wondered all day who this kind person was? Who knew that I need a little picker upper today? That act of love carried me through my work day. And I must write it in my blog to remember, down the line, how gestures of kindness matter.

If you, the giver of chocolates, are one of those who reads my blog – I appreciate you. You made my day. Much ❤!

A song

I could not fall asleep last night. My anxiety caused me to hyperventilate as I tried taking deep breaths. This morning I sat on my couch and saw the sunlight hit just the right way on our beloved indoor plant. The green of the leaves sparked joy.

I laced up my sneakers, plugged in the earbuds, turned on my Playlist to Rabindrasangeet and went out to walk in the woods. The cerulean sky, the cold on my face, the green grass despite the patches of frozen water on it, and the bare branches standing tall with the promise of life within it gave me peace. There were many birds out today, all puffed up against the cold, hopping on the fields, looking for grub. They took flight when I walked near them but did not go too far. I think I saw the bushy tail of the neighborhood fox in Sage’s path but I may be wrong. It was just a glimpse. I emptied my mind of all the anxiety to soak in the treasure in front of me. And it worked. My breathing calmed, my mind found temporary peace. I store these scenes in my mind to draw upon them when I have anxiety attacks as bed time approaches.

As I made my way home, baba’s favorite song came on my Playlist – Jokhon porbe na mor pa er chinho ei baate….

তখন কে বলে গো সেই প্রভাতে নেই আমি
সকল খেলায়…
সকল খেলায় করবে খেলা এই আমি, আহা
কে বলে গো সেই প্রভাতে নেই আমি
নতুন নামে ডাকবে মোরে বাঁধবে
বাঁধবে নতুন বাহু-ডোরে
আসব যাব চিরদিনের সেই আমি

A rough translation of this stanza is this:

Who says I am not present on that dawn. My being will be present in the universe. You will call me in different names but being is forever.

I have asked a lot of why’s and where’s since the dreadful month of May in 2020. It has been 8 months looking for peace, for meaning. I realized I find most peace (at least temporarily) if I believe the energy of my parents are now mingled with each and every aspect of beauty in nature that unfolds in front of me if I care to ‘see’. Baba sang this song a lot. I heard but did not listen. I listened today.

Don’t do it..

I spoke sternly to my hand as it slowly reached for the bottled mango Lassi on the refrigerated shelf in the new Indian grocery store that I went to explore.

“Don’t do it. Don’t you do it. Think of the added sugar. Think of your ever expanding mid section!”

My head reprimanded my hand. But guiltily, almost unwillingly, and in slow motion, my hand did grab the plastic bottle of Lassi and put it in the shopping cart. My face almost had a sad expression as I looked at what my hand had done. Right next to them were Indian sweets, among which were silvery Kaku katlis which I adore. I touched a box and moved my hand away. Next to them were Motichur laddus. As a little boy, Ryan used to love those. We called him our little Ganesh for his love of laddus were similar to the elephant headed God whose supposed love for those laddus is legendary. Ryan, however, has betrayed me and grown conscious of his sweet intake. However, I use him as an excuse in my mind when I pick up a box of laddus. “Ryan likes them” I say to myself. Ryan declines to eat a single one and so I eat them all. Can not waste them!

I exerted extreme self restraint and did not pick up either the Kaju katlis or the laddus. I felt Sean’s silent criticism of my choice of picking up sweet mango Lassi as we walked the aisles filled with ingredients, spices, snacks, soaps, oils, body lotions from my home. I picked up some green chillis, some turmeric and masoor dal. Looked for samosas and failed to find them. The new grocery store lost some points right there. Why won’t they have fresh samosas when I wanted them? Anyway, as we walked towards the check out counter, I slowly reached into the shopping cart, picked up the lone bottle of Lassi and put it back on the shelf.

“You don’t want it?” My surprised husband asked.

“Let’s get out quickly before I change my mind.” I walked faster, putting distance between myself and the shelf that held the goodies.

As we got in the car, Sean said it is fun to see me in an Indian store. I am, supposedly, like a kid in a candy store. The analogy is apt, but it is more like an immigrant in a store full of things whose sight, smell and taste bring back very fond memories of home. It is a wistfulness of what we left behind. It is also a joy to hold a tiny part of familiarity in our hands.

Yes, that is my mom.

“That is your mom!! What? How?” – this question has been posed to my white passing biracial son since he was in preschool. I sometimes wonder how it made him feel. By kindergarten, he was so used to this question that as soon as I showed up to volunteer at kindergarten luncheon, he would preempt the question from his peers by announcing “That is my mom. Yes, she is brown. She is from India.”

Once I was waiting in the hallway of a high school to pick up Ryan after a middle school concert. He came out with a few other kids. One girl, upon seeing Ryan greet me and come towards me, exclaimed, “Ryan, IS THAT YOUR MOM?????” And then, with the insensitivity of a 13 year old, she followed up that exclamation with, “No way! But you are white!”

Ryan and I will continue to baffle this easily confused world but I hope one day, the world will integrate colors enough to exclaim less when it sees us together.

Last night, as Sahana, Sean and I tackled the New York Times spelling bee, we got talking about how perception of parents follow us in our lives. Sahana said, “Tell me about it. My friends have told me all my life your mom is so pretty. OMG! Who wants to hear that all the time? Leave my mom alone!” She laughed. I have heard her say that before and we have laughed together about it.

Here is the thing that amuses me – different standards of beauty in the two countries that I belong to. In India nobody would give me a second look. I am old now but even when I was young nobody looked twice. My experience was very different in USA, at least in the part where I live.

I read a few books about biracial individuals who try to find where they belong. Good Talk by Mira Jacobs is a great book to read on this issue.

After 8 months


January 19th marked 8 months since my father died. January 10th was 8 months since my mother died. This journey of coming to terms with what life means now, without the presence of those who gave me life, has been an uphill battle.

Life, at least now, holds no joy.

I pretend. A lot. I pretend to act normal.

I am very mindful to keep my grief guarded so the person I am interacting with does not feel uncomfortable.

I dread going to bed.

I stay up as long as I can so when my head hits the pillow my mind does not race. I am truly terrified of nights and the solitude it brings when all hurtful feelings takeover.

I search a lot for answers and only find peace when I see beauty in nature.

It gives me solace to think that my parents’ energy is, perhaps, part of this beauty now. Or maybe their soul has been reborn in another body. Who knows?

On January 19th, as I sat quietly in the morning thinking about ma, baba and all the ‘why’s’, I saw this sunrise. And I thought “How fitting! Baba would have loved to see this. Maybe he is part of this beauty now. Maybe they both are part of this splendor.”


I am listening to Rabindrasangeet (songs written by Rabindranath Tagore), as I sautè chopped onions, add fresh ginger and garlic paste, spices, chopped tomatoes to the dal simmering on the stove top. Along with the aroma of my very familiar food, memories are wafting towards me of days gone by. Each song that comes up in my Spotify Playlist evokes different memories. Memories of people, memories of moments, memories of a slice of life that I have lived, memories of sunshine and happiness, memories of heartbreak too. Music does that to one’s soul. I did not listen to music after my parents’ death. We listened and loved similar songs and I have innumerable memories of singing along to those in our shared moments together. Listening to those songs alone was simply too painful. I have slowly allowed music to seep into my life again. I realize with astonishment how life truly goes on. How I am living and laughing too at times. Sleeping at night however is a different matter altogether though.

Ma, for the life of her, could not carry a tune. Did that stop her from singing out loud along with songs that played on our radio? No, it did not. I am not a connoisseur either but I can recognize correct notes. I, of course, never said a word about ma’s singing abilities but I did laugh inwardly. I was mean to her singing prowess – in my head.

Baba, on the other hand, was quite a crooner. He would close his eyes when his favorite song came on the radio and croon along with a lot of emotion and actually sung quite well. But more than his singing, I enjoyed hearing about his memories associated with songs that he loved in his youth. He would talk about them sometimes. I tried to picture him as a young man, hanging out with his friends from his engineering college, going on trips, Durga pujas of his youth, a snatched memory of his mother or father.

My mother and father have become memories now. As the songs pour into my soul, I remember our shared moments. Music, today, was bitter sweet.

Tea cups

The reason why I am writing this blog is simply to delay the inevitable. I am all dressed and ready to go to the supermarket to buy groceries for the week. It is my day off and I do all the essential chores and errands on this day and before I know it, the day is done. It is almost funny how I procrastinate on chores. I did my morning Wordle (have you fallen into the wordle trap yet?), then I did the New York Times mini crossword, then I watched videos of Ariana DeBose because she is so gorgeous and so talented. Then I felt guilty for being on my phone for half the morning without ticking off any item on my to-do list. So I got my bottom off the couch, showered, dressed and almost put on my sneakers to head out. However, I discovered my Fitbit is out of charge. Why should I move a muscle if I don’t get any credit for it, so I am charging my Fitbit. Sean asked me to write an email to one of Ryan’s teachers. I fired up the computer to write that mail and now I am scribbling/typing on my blog post. Once my Fitbit is charged up I will go buy food, I promise!

I want to write down what I realized this morning while grabbing my coffee mug for my morning cuppa. Every morning I wake up, press the button on my coffee maker even before my eyes are fully open and browse my WhatsApp (when the cobwebs of sleep have not cleared from my brain, I still instinctively think there will be the usual message from ma waiting for me in the morning). The coffee maker makes my coffee, I reach to the cabinet where we keep our mugs, I don’t even look which one I grab as long it contains substantial amount and pour the coffee. Only when I have had a few sips do I glance at the mug and never give it a second thought. Now, I am not a tea drinker. People often assume that since I am from India, I enjoy tea. I don’t. I drank tea – milky, sugary tea as a young person. But I never enjoyed it. It was almost a cultural thing to do, a ritual almost. When I moved to USA, I tried coffee, I liked it and stuck with it. However, I have discovered herbal tea now, thanks to some of my friends. Especially Bigelow orange spice black tea. On very cold days, either at work or at home the idea of holding a hot cup of tea in my hand seems very cozy. So I do that. I heat some water, reach for a mug. But here is the difference. When I am about to pour hot water in a mug to make a cup of tea for myself, I choose the prettiest mug that I have. I actually pay close attention to aesthetics of my mug, I love to see the gradual transformation of the color of water as the tea steeps in it and changes the flavor of the hot water. The transformation of color in a pretty mug gives me a simple joy. The taste of the tea almost becomes secondary. It becomes, again, the ritual of making tea – an act of self care.

Do any of you do this? Take more care to choose your tea cup than your coffee mug?