One year….part 2


I went to sleep on the night of May 18th of 2021 with a lighter heart. After more than 2 weeks of struggle, baba seemed to have turned the corner. His numbers looked good, he finished his meal and even had a little appetite. Although he had oxygen mask on, he wanted to say a lot to Sahana when she came on the video screen to talk to him. He died the next day, May 19th, 2021. Like my mother, his death was peaceful. He slowly fell asleep and in his sleep he stopped breathing. Everytime I think that they are dead, even after a year, I get a jolt. How is it possible?

Baba liked to get things done. If there was a problem, he had to solve it. He would not rest till he solved it. He loved to talk about astronomy, watch martial art movies and when his eyes were good, read trashy paperbacks. He was no connoisseur of good literature. He loved Bollywood music and loved to watch ‘keora nritya’ during Durga puja’s bhashan. And he loved animals. He was the protector of all the strays in our neighborhood. If any of them got hurt, he arranged their transportation to vet hospitals, made sure all of them got fed. We were wary of our clothes if we got dressed up to go somewhere and baba was with us. His animals crowded around us and jumped on us too to show affection. Ma, of course, screamed at him – “joto adikhyeta!” Ryan loved it.

There is so much to write about him, about my memories of him. But today my heart is heavy and I will keep the words within me for now. When the words come spontaneously, I will write a bigger blog then. Today, on his one year death anniversary, this disjointed blog will have to do.

All these months, I have coped with my grief by giving them a release in my blogs. It really helped. But words did not flow when I started writing this blog. I wondered why. I think the desperate fight to keep him alive, the brief hope followed by brutal, merciless, unbearable pain is something my brain does not want to revisit. If I think back on those days, I start going back down a deep, dark chasm and my brain is perhaps protecting me from revisiting that dark place. Baba was mostly a happy person who liked to live life at large. My homage to him would be smiles, positive thoughts, hope and food – always food.

One year… Part 1.


Our last wishes to each other was “Happy mother’s day” over a video call on May 9th, 2021. She wished me in an enthusiastic voice from her hospital bed. She had a high virus count of Covid infection. Although her tone was light and cheery, I could see she was tired. I asked her how she was feeling, she said she felt fine, just a little tired. I told her to get some rest and we will talk soon. She took my advice to heart, turned on one side and closed her eyes very comfortably. And she went to rest forever.

On one year death anniversary of my mother, I continue to ask why. Why did it end this way? Why me? Why us? And the universe whispers back, why not you?

I wish I had faith. I don’t. I don’t know if she is watching over me. In a way, I don’t want her to. She is free now from all that bound her to this earth including me. I will live my life remembering her love but I want her to be free. I hear energy is indestructible. So I hope her energy is within everything that is beautiful. I think of her every day. Every single day at different times. I cry sometimes, but I mainly smile at her memories. We have had difficult times together, we faced a lot of challenges, there were many disagreements, raised voices. But my brain has sifted through all our negative moments and only preserved laughter. When I close my eyes, I see her smiling face, and for that, I am grateful.

We look forward to inconvenience…


There was a new sidewalk being built on my way to work. That meant sign holders holding up STOP and SLOW signs when I was trying to get to work on time. The first time I discovered this, I was annoyed. I had not taken road work into account and there was a chance of me being late. I am that person who likes to arrive places at least 10 minutes early. On one such day, after waiting for the sign holder to change sign from STOP to SLOW, I inched my car forward to cross the area of road work cautiously. As I approached the sign holder, my grim face cracked a smile. The holder of the sign was a young man who enthusiastictically waved at each car that passed by. His face was animated, hopeful even that a fellow human would connect with him and wave back in reply. His happiness, for that is exactly what it looked like, was infectious and I found myself waving back cheerfully. The next day he was there and the following day as well with same infectious exuberance. I looked forward to the road block and his wave. One day Sahana was driving me to work. As the road work area got closer, I got ready for my daily moment of connection. And Sahana said, “I wonder if my friend is going to be here.”

It turns out, she was equally enamored by this young man’s enthusiasm to spread happiness by waving enthusiastically as he allowed cars to pass by. We both then exclaimed how we loved this little moment and how this simple gesture of a smile and a wave brightens our day. We both agreed we look forward to this inconvenience in our commute and isn’t that strange?

The side walk is complete now and our friend is not there anymore to hold up his sign. I don’t account for the small delay in my commute any more but I do miss the bright smile of my young friend as he waved to me from the other side of the road. I hope he is working on another project, spreading joy to another group of people. I also hope people are smiling back at him, making connections, seeing. I hope they are allowing him to be the bright spot in their days.

Fish head


“Don’t dig too deep into the freezer.” I warned the family after my recent trip to a Bangladeshi grocery store.

“Why? What did you put in there?”

“Fish head. A big head of carp (ruhi).” I gleefully replied.

“Ugh! Ewwwww!” I expected this response from my half Bengali daughter. My white husband skillfully hid his “I am also disgusted” emotion from his face.

You can take the girl out of Bengal, but you really can not take the fish head loving Bengali out of the girl. Fish head was/is my favorite. Even when I was a horribly picky eater, I loved fish head. Macher matha diye dal (fish head in mung dal), muri ghonto (no idea what this is in English), macher matha r chocchori (again, no idea what this is in English). I, however, only got to eat fish head when I went back home. I did not know those were available here as well. So when I found them neatly wrapped and frozen, I did not hesitate. Once I came home and safely ensconced it in my freezer did it hit me that I have never cooked fish head in my life. I only ate them once they were lovingly prepared by whoever was cooking. Till this day, a traditional birthday lunch of a Bengali must include a fish head and payesh (rice pudding). If one has the means, the bowl of payesh would be a silver one as well as the spoon.

Sean has had a funny relationship with fish heads too. He claims those are the reason he went vegetarian. When he got transferred to Kolkata, he had to travel to remote villages of Bengal for work. Wherever he went he was treated royally by locals and was generally the guest of honor. When they served him lunch or dinner, the best portion was given to him – along with rice and vegetables, a huge head of fish generally adorned his plate, looking up at him with dead eyes. This American man was repulsed by the sight of it, forget trying to eat it. But the villagers looked on with such pride that he did not want to hurt their feelings either. He turned vegetarian so he could refuse the fish head. He perfected the art of a huge smile, folded hands, bent head and the words, “Oh I am a vegetarian. These all look so delicious. I will eat the rice, dal and vegetables.” The fish head, at that point, was removed while the women and men tsk tsked at Sean’s choice. What joy is there in life if you don’t eat fish, mutton, chicken? We Bengalis (many of us, not all) live to eat.

Anyway, the fish head rests in my freezer. I think of it often, with equal measure of anticipation and apprehension. I want to eat it and I also am a little unsure how to cook it well. Yes, there are YouTube videos but will my cooked fishhead bring back memories of home?