It is a happy day!


Ma is not going to grow a year older today. And there is no point in wishing her happy birthday any more since she has crossed the realm when ‘be happy on your birthday’ is meaningless. In the years past, we wrote or made a video the night before so she got our “happy birthday” message first thing in the morning. The message brought on a big smile and a ‘thank you’ in a smile-soaked voice. I do not know where her soul went after her heart stopped beating. I grew up with the Hindu belief that our souls enter a different body and lead a new life after it leaves the old one. And this process continues till one attains moksha or nirvana. This thought is comforting. If that is true, then I hope her next life is much happier than the one she left. Also, the thought that energy is indestructible and ma’s energy surrounds me is also very comforting. But the point is I am not wishing her happy birthday. Instead I am claiming her birthday to celebrate the woman she was, the mother she was.

For the rest of my life I will not be wishing Ma a happy birthday but it will always be a happy day. So today, when tears threaten to blur my vision I have to tell myself it is a happy day. A happy, happy day.

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 May 30th.


I was humming as I weeded. I was surprised when I realized I was humming. That is good, right? The fact that I am singing a song again while doing something?

I went back to work on June 1st. That was mostly good. On occasion I felt I did not want to do this, all I wanted was to go back home, sit on my reading chair and stare into space. However, I refocused on the job at hand and got it done.

My cousin has come to stay with us to help me live through this time. One day I came back from work to find a bowl full of peeled oranges and peeled lichees waiting for me. She went out with Sahana but left prepared food for me to eat. This gesture of caring made me cry and reminded me of ma, baba – but not in a sad way. It reminded me to be grateful for the love and care I continue to receive from my loved ones. I hope I am able to pay the kindness forward.

I was dreading my birthday this year. June 3rd was very, very hard. Yet my friends and family showered me with love. Sean came to pick me up from work with flowers. Instead of coming home right away, we sat on a bench and cried for ma and baba. I came home to a delicious meal of luchi, alur dom, fish fry, payesh, cookie cake and ice cream. Sahana cooked the entire meal under the tutelage of my cousin sister, her mashun. There were gifts of framed photographs of ma, baba in happier times, lovely dresses. And love, laughter, hugs.

My flowers continue to radiate beauty and joy.

I got so many hugs from my family at work.

A friend invited me over for tea. I surprised myself when I realized I enjoyed the evening.

Writing still helps me process and cope. It makes me cognizant of the forward progress in my journey of loss and the path to rebuild around this loss.

Many nights Sahana, Ryan, sister and I play a raucous round of ludo before bed.

On Saturday we went to a beach nearby. I looked for ma, baba in the gentle waves.

I have talked aloud to ma, baba sometimes. Mostly joked with them. I asked them what is the point of being dead if they can not part the traffic for me so I can zoom ahead of other cars.

My circle of love still surrounds me and I try to find ma, baba in each sunset, in the white clouds and the blooming flowers.

A dear friend sent me hug on wsapp on a day I was miserable. I needed that hug and I told her I was having a bad day. She said she was thinking of me and it must have been telepathy.

I desperately need something to look forward to. Searching.

An unhappy birthday


I was dreading my birthday this year. But it came anyway like any other day. I woke up at 4:00 am, filled my travel coffee mug and started the car at 4:30 am to take Ryan to his swim practice. Once Ryan went in to swim, I sat in my car watching the sun slowly lighten up the world. This was my first birthday without my parents and this is the first of however many birthdays I have left that I will spend without them. The irony is, I had planned to celebrate my big 50 with them last year.

Once I came home, I got a call from Breshpati and Khushi. They sang a lovely rendition of “happy birthday” to me. Breshpati said ma always sent a pujo in my name on my birthday so she is continuing the tradition and on her behalf, she sent a pujo for me to wish me well in life. Gouri called me to ask my permission to do a pujo for my parents in the house – if I had no objection. I was so touched by these gestures. These women, who are not related to me by blood, were more than my sisters who are acting solely out of love for my parents and me. I am sad to have lost my parents and feel totally unlucky and unhappy right now but I also acknowledge the blessings of love that have touched me from all corners of life. They will sustain me, I am sure, once this feeling of heaviness subsides.

Help thy neighbor


We were standing at the check out line when I saw Sean’s subtle body movement in front of me and I knew he is getting ready to help someone. I wrote in one of my blogs that Sean is a giver. His love pours over not only his family but all around him – including perfect strangers. Ahead of us in the check out line was a very elderly woman with a full cart of groceries. Among the groceries were two big bags of bird feed. As the woman slowly put her items up on the counter for the clerk to check out, I could see Sean eyeing the bags of bird feed and I detected the familiar twitch in his body. That is when I knew he is going to leap – to help. And I opened my mouth to stop him. Yes, I tried to stop my husband from helping a frail, elderly woman from lifting heavy bags of bird feed on the check out counter. You read that right. Why? Because we are living through a pandemic. I do not know how people would react if you randomly touch their stuff at this time. But before I could pull at his sleeve, he lifted the bags on to the counter for her. I shook my head. The woman and the check out clerk thanked him and the woman asked if he could accompany her to unload her car at her house – in jest.

I heaved a sigh of relief that no one got upset at Sean touching someone’s grocery. It took a long time for the woman to finish since her hands shook as she slowly wrote her check to pay. The employee helping her was kind and wonderful. Although there was a long line forming behind us, nobody showed impatience. My husband struck again. He zipped around the woman, went to the end of the check out counter and hauled the 2 heavy bags of bird feed onto the woman’s cart. I was wildly gesticulating at this point to stop touching other people’s stuff. The woman thanked him profusely and he offered to take the cart to her car and put the bags in it. She said she could do it and appreciated his offer and help.

When he came back to me I said I truly appreciate how he helps everyone but can he not touch other people’s stuff randomly please since we are in a pandemic? He smiled and said he supposedly had asked the woman’s permission before touching her groceries. I had missed that conversation.

I have known Sean for 26 years now and I have seen him going out of his way to help strangers who cross his path. The help in small scale could be getting luggage down from overhead locker for someone, entertaining babies so harried parents could get some reprieve on a long plane ride, giving up his seat to others in need including coveted aisle seat in airplanes (who does that?) carrying groceries, and in bigger scale – staying with a young mother with an infant in Colombo airport when militants tried to bomb the airport, lying on the ground with the baby between them as bullets passed over them and then accompanying her home safely, holding up a half upturned car (along with a few others) with the driver in it till rescue came. There are zillion instances, big and small, of how Sean helps. And I am in awe of how much he gives. Truly. However, it has fallen upon me to somewhat keep him under control during pandemic. His first instinct is to pick up a fallen glove on the road and shout after the person who he thinks has dropped the glove. I am the one who swoops down to stop him from touching the glove, or litter, which he picks up regularly to throw in a trash can. “DON’T touch!!! Pandemic!” I have been shouting regularly these days.

This is an ode to my husband. A truly good man. And although there are times when he drives me up the wall, I consider myself blessed to spend my life with him. I am a better person because of him. The world is a better place because he is in it. And today is his birthday.

Sweet 16!


I woke up thinking about the passage of time. My youngest will be turning sixteen in 2 days. I read some blogs that I wrote in the month of February in years past around Ryan’s birthday and this one brought a smile to my face. I am so thankful I captured some fleeting moments and some pure innocence of my children’s childhood in this blog post. Send some blessings his way for his birthday. I am a big believer in positive energy.

https://what-mama-thinks.com/2012/02/24/you-are-having-a-boy/

Here she is, world!


I read somewhere that we, parents, are building cathedrals as we raise our children. No one remembers the cathedral builders when the building is complete, yet our imprint stays on for lifetime. That thought is lovely and overwhelming in equal measure.

When my tiny daughter was placed in my arms 21 years ago, I was overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising this small human. I needed to ensure that she stayed alive, she stayed healthy, she grew up kind, responsible, happy. Was I up to the task? I don’t know whether I was up to the task, all I knew was that an inexplicable love surged through my heart when I first saw her. Buoyed by this overwhelming love and tenderness, I resolved to give this child of mine all I had. The new born turned into a toddler, a delightful child and willful as well. A child who constantly pushed the envelop. A child who made sure I was one step ahead of the game because she questioned her boundaries – always. A child who fell in love with written words, like her mama, at a very early age. A child who always loved school and loves till this day. Then she became tween: a very creative, bossy tween. Oh, so bossy! And quirky. I remember volume knob on the radio in our car had to be turned to a multiple of 5. Any other number bothered her. Then came the teen years. Like any other teen, she had fits of rage from time to time and felt completely misunderstood. Her father and I watched in despair, unsure. However, the periods of emotional turmoil were often juxtaposed with sweet moments of affection, intelligent conversation, nuggets of random facts that she liked to subject her family to. And poetry! She wrote deep, thoughtful, beautiful poetry during those years which left me wondering about the depth of her perception and thought. The tumultuous teen years, which I lovingly refer to as ‘the lost years’ were mercifully brief. From those raging years emerged a young woman with a certain maturity and sense of responsibility with an analytical and thoughtful mind.

I held this little girl’s hand and waited for her school bus to take her to preschool, I read to her and then with her, I helped her with homework, packed her lunch, kissed her wounds, both physical and emotional, laughed with her, played with her, listened to her thoughts and one day, all of a sudden I realized that her thoughts were spreading wings. She was ushering in new ideas into my horizon instead of it being the other way around. She was reading more complex books on diverse topics and she was slowly opening my eyes to new ideas and possibilities. That is when I realized she has overgrown her mama. She has truly grown up. 21 is just a number.

At first I thought I would write this blog about parents building cathedrals as they raise their children and when they come of age, the building is done. But no, the building, if I use that analogy, is far from being done. My husband and I have built the structure perhaps, but the real building will be completed by the newly minted 21 year old herself. As a parent, my hope is, we have given our child the right materials – in the form of love, support, encouragement, opportunities, values, beliefs and morals to complete her cathedral the way she seems fit.

Here she is, world. Here she comes. Give her a chance so she can shine her light. Spread her empathy. Shower her love.

Happy 21st birthday, Sahana.

Quinceanera


As I held the soft, warm bundle that were you, my heart just filled with this overwhelming, melting, oozy feeling that I have never ever felt before. A feeling of intense love for your tiny being, a feeling of complete bewilderment that your perfect body grew in my own, a fierce desire to protect you from all the evil in the world – a combination of all these and many more. Oh, and relief too, when the neo natal doc pronounced you healthy. Even now, when we laugh together over a shared joke, I look at your crinkled eyes, your wide smile and all of a sudden, think back to the moment when I held you for the first time. I can still feel that moment of wonder when I realized I am a mother to this tiny being in my arms. I remember I turned to every single person in the delivery room as I held you gingerly, and thanked them profusely. I thanked them for giving me you, a little pink bundle of perfection.

You are fifteen today. Almost a woman. Yet sometimes, when I enter your room to wake you up for school or swimming practice, I see in your sleeping face the baby that your daddy and I brought home. I move your hair and plant a kiss on your cheeks. You smile a little, in your sleep. Perhaps, even in your state of blessed unconsciousness, you feel my love?

You were born on a Thursday, the day of Goddess Lakshmi according to the Hindu mythology – the goddess of wealth. As we brought you home from the hospital, the landlady of our apartment in Delhi, stopped me to see your face as she thrust in your tiny hands an envelope full of money. She said, ‘Lakshmi has come to you on a Thursday!’ Your dad and I laughed.

Your dad boasted while you were still nestled within my body that he is an expert in babies, coming from a family of six siblings. I, being an only child, often expressed doubts about my abilities to keep a baby alive. I admitted I was clueless and all the books I read provided only theory. Your dad said, ‘Don’t worry, I know everything about changing diapers, bathing new borns. I will teach you!’ I, having never even seen or held a new born, believed him.

Then came the time to bathe you, for the first time. I handed you over to him and sat nervously watching. His hands were shaking and you were slippery. It was clear he did not know what to do with you, despite his bravado 🙂 . I almost died a thousand deaths in those few minutes in the fear that he will drop you. After five minutes, I could not bear the agony any longer, I took you back, ‘I can do this. I will do this!’ He handed you back and I cleaned you – fearlessly. As I look back, I realize motherhood came to me naturally. Taking care of you became my second nature, I did it with ease. Your daddy was of course, a huge help.

Your daddy and I decided to be with each other for many reasons, we discovered we completed each other in many ways. You, my dear girl, brought even more joy in our lives, than we thought was even possible. I have so many happy memories of the two of us sitting around you and watching you for hours, laughing over your facial gesture, gently sliding our finger into your closely fisted little fingers, tickling your tiny little toes and marveling over your belly laughs. I still can hear it!

We suffered from the agonies that all first time parents suffer from. We analyzed every cry, we tiptoed to your room when you were sleeping to make sure you breathed. We debated and read everything we could lay our hands on whether to lay you on your back, on your tummy or on your side when you slept. We asked innumerable questions to veteran parents and got patronizing and indulgent smiles. We proudly held you out for people to admire (you were really a very cute baby) and I frowned inwardly when people wanted to hold you. I antagonized a few family members by asking them to sanitize their hands before holding you. I really didn’t care what they thought. Your safety from germs was my primary concern.

You grew like a sunflower nourished by all the love not only from your parents, but your grand parents, uncles, aunts, neighbors, friends and teachers. People near and far loved you dearly and enriched your life with their happy presence. And you enriched theirs with your baby talk, toothless smiles, curly haired cuteness.

You made us parents for the first time. We learnt to be a parent by making mistakes with you. We learnt to create boundaries, we learnt when to give in, when to stand our grounds.

At fifteen, the worries remain for us. The reasons have changed. The overwhelming love that we feel for you for just being YOU remains, sometimes due to the conflicts that love is perhaps not as evident to you. But that first overwhelming intense love that we felt when we first held you follows you around faithfully. It will always follow you as long as we live. We do not sometimes, and may not see eye to eye always, but the love for you is permanent.

I want you to grow up and soar high with that knowledge. On your birthday, and for ever, do know please that you are intensely loved and lovingly cherished. I hope on your birthday, you will take a few moments to feel the love that surrounds you, make it a part of your essence and then when you go out to the world, spread the love on. We all know the world desperately needs it.

Happy birthday, my love, my dear, dear girl. Spread your wing, you will always have our love to fall back upon, if you so need, as your safety net.

Shine on!


Most important conversations in my family occur during dinner. This one did too. While telling us the ‘highs and lows’ of his day, Ryan’s face fell and those sparkly eyes darkened.

“I had a very low time today. I felt bad about it for most part of the day”. He said.

We waited quietly for him to continue.

“Some friends called me dim and not smart like them because I don’t belong to the high level of math that they do. I only work on grade level!’

He must have seen my face because he quickly said to me, “Its OK mom! I feel better now. I have already forgiven them in my heart. I thought of Jesus on the cross when he looked up in heaven and said ‘Forgive them father for they know not what they have done!’ I followed his example and I forgave them!”

I was angry. I was angry at those children who made my son’s heart hurt. I was angry at their insensitivity. I didn’t want to acknowledge that they too are seven year olds, and they speak their minds. They haven’t perfected the art of diplomacy yet. My first reaction was anger! While my seven year old son’s first reaction was sadness and then the spirit of forgiveness. I was humbled instantly.

Ryan’s spirituality is intense, honest and simple. With the precious innocence that only little children possess he has gleaned the core truth from the unnecessary complexities of faith espoused by dogmatic religious fanatics. God, to him, is like a universal parent to all. A parent, who is omnipotent, omniscient. When he goes to steal a cookie, behind mommy’s back, he stops himself thinking, even if mommy doesn’t know about it, God is watching. God won’t give him a punishment but he will be disappointed. Like most children, he aims to please, and like most, he fears the disappointment of grown ups and God.

I feared about the intensity of his faith at one point. I have said before, true faith is a thing of beauty but there is a fine line between being faithful and being high handed about one’s belief. I want my children to grow up with a mind which doesn’t fester in narrow minded thoughts but one that lets in the fresh breeze of new ideas and beliefs. I want them to not simply accept, but question, argue and be inclusive of all that is right and all that need to be righted.

Ryan’s thoughts on the role of women and homosexuality is so poignant in its simplicity that it indeed makes one think ‘What is so complex about it?’ He believes God loves all and all his children are equal in his eyes. So why can’t women become priests in most religions and what is the problem with a human loving another, no matter what gender? Seriously! What indeed is the problem! If a child of seven years can look at the issue with such pristine clarity, why can’t the learned grown ups? Why do we analyze God’s love so? His simplicity in faith is something I aspire to achieve and the world would be a better place if more and more people just focus on their love for God instead of judging others’ love for Him.

It took me time to understand my boy. I remember reading a book to him when he was no more than five or six, where a pigeon takes it upon himself to drive a bus and gets in all sort of trouble. The last question of the book was, should the pigeon be allowed to drive. The obvious answer to that question was an emphatic ‘no’ for all the mayhem he caused. Ryan responded with a ‘yes’, he should be given a chance to drive. Everybody deserves a chance and maybe the pigeon will do better next time.

His thoughts were, and still are, unexpected. I listen to his responses, his explanations on life and its working and pause to ponder upon it. He has a depth in his thinking which belies his age. He has that unique combination of wisdom and innocence. He asks me if ‘other than me’ do we have any maid service since most of his friends have cleaning ladies to clean their house. And he asks his dad, a week prior to his eighth birthday,

Dad, am I who you expected me to be?’

The one word that comes to mind when I think of my son is joyful. He is so utterly and completely full of joy in his little life. He has the ability to find joy in the simplest of things, like a line of ants marching by, or a wild daffodil growing in our backyard, or the action figure that he takes to bed with him. It seems like he possesses an inner light that keeps his soul shining brightly. I often wish I could borrow some of his light to lighten my inner being on a particularly dark day. He does share his light with me so I can send positivism out to the universe I interact with. He is like a drop of golden glitter on the canvas of my life and the glitter keeps spreading and glowing, making my life sparkle with joy.

He came home on Valentine’s Day with a bunch of little cards from his little friends and one big anonymous card. It was a written by a child, that was obvious. It had a red heart inside. The message was short yet meaningful! A second grader had written to him:

Ryan, thanks for being there!

That is the kind of man, I hope he grows up to be, who will be there for another in his/her time of need.

I asked him on the eve of his birthday, “How does it feel to be growing up Ryan? How does it feel to be you? How has the ride been so far?”

With his usual cheer, he replied, “Great mom! The ride so far has been just great. I had to make a few pit stops once in a while but I filled myself with gas, and then I was ready to go. I was back on the ride again – all the way to heaven!”

Hope you have a long, joyful ride, son. Hope your ride to heaven is of course, very long, but never monotonous but filled with all the wonders, all the joy, some challenges, some sorrows but predominantly happiness and color and spirit that you carry in your heart and that you radiate to the world around you.

Happy birthday, child. Shine on!!

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