Homecoming game – a poem by Sahana

This is the most poetry reading I have done since my twenties. Poetry of my daughter. I couldn’t be prouder. This is another of her poems I loved.

Homecoming game

Sure, they were singing; they always sang when the band pulled out old favorites.

Stinking jackets sticky with the hot lights of the field and face paint dripping down,

Screaming “Sweet Caroline” with all the tender finesse of a feral pack of racoons.

The thudding percussion, ringing loud through bared teeth and war cries

Pulled tight collars tighter to ward out any threat of wind,

Arms and tongues loose at every play and every call,

Voices sprinkling from above over the field before the game was even over,

Hot summer rain of what was meant to be support, but left a chill in the bones, a tickle in the throat —

It always felt brand new, every home game. Always felt like the suffocation was the fun of it,

That the ritual of limp hotdogs in starched yellow buns were some tradition to be maintained,

Long lines for shitty food and wolf packs on the prowl stalking the sidelines,

Side-eyeing the team and the pep parade held aloft by their short skirts and bright bows.

The sweat of the stands pooling below the bleachers, school spirit into school swamp,

Some cigarette ash could blow them all away, and it’s not like it hadn’t been tried, once.

Tired hands on a barrel, confetti in school colors stuffed tight into the chamber,

The press of familiar weight on slumped shoulders, a voice saying “Give it here, son,

“Don’t do something you can’t take back,” and a quiet release. But the drone of the announcer

Wails on, ambulance screams at every missed tackle, at the crushing force on a field of dreams.

Hopping back on matchstick legs for a shot at the victory sign at the end of the field,

Winging hope to heaven on high, recruiters silent, stone-faced, with his dad in the stands,

Chewing on fingernails and debt dethroned, a lump in his throat. Sleep scorned eyes

Seeking out ready arms, quick prayers, a Hail Mary, for an end to an already long night,

Shade cast over the firm set of his jaw, steady breathing, quick movements.

And a quiet, suddenly, a chill falling in sooner than he knew possible.

Lights off, stands empty, field ripped up and muddy. Sure, they sang when they knew the words.

When the band, electric and flowing, hazarded the first few aching notes.

The sun was a surprise, she mused.

Not unwelcome, for the chill it banished, but a surprise still

Tired Times – a poem by Sahana

Sahana has been writing a lot during the pandemic. She shared some poems with me and gave me permission to share with the world. Here is one.

Tired Times

It’s been hard to leave my bed,

Not because I’m depressed,

But this time because emerging from the cocoon of warmth without a shell,

Kafkaesque, to protect the softest parts of me,

Means I risk getting hurt, tearing something on a sharp edge,

Loose threads being tugged away without my knowledge or consent,

By the news or the flashing screen of my phone, lighting up with notifications

That just bring me dread now, honestly, after years of craving their validation.

It’s the shit I don’t wanna see, don’t want to know how many we’ve lost,

Don’t want to feel the weight of the lives we’ve built crumbling before my eyes,

Feeling like my metamorphosis was forced into an untimely pause.

I had been blooming into something, I’m sure of it.

Something bolder, the way I had always hoped,

No chip on my shoulder, learning how to walk again,

No hand holding this time, there was no need

No pressing expectation holding me by the throat and pinning me to the wall,

Rather, gentle hopes, laying me down, soft hands holding cheeks,

Looking me in the eyes and telling me I could.

But she couldn’t stay, hope was needed in other people’s hearts and I had a home to go to.

But when my mother, father, brother, huddle outside my door and ask to be let in, I can’t speak,

The pincers in my mouth choke down any cries for help and

The weight of my body pulls me through my bed on the floor,

Devastating dreams and I want to wake up,

But I know waking means looking in the mirror.

Waking means seeing that it’s real.

It means, knowing and going through the same paces,

Wanting to live the life I had in my grasp and had taken away from me.

I pace in a liminal state, subway station, under the earth,

Waiting for the character development or even better, an eventful end.

But the dreams don’t stop and the living doesn’t either,

Almost at the break of dawn at every turn, but the sun slips back under the horizon,

So I sit with the tired times, and wait for a new morning, sometime.

Double As and one A+

There was a celebratory air in my home in Kolkata today. As I chatted with ma and baba this morning, right after “tora kemon achish?” (how are you all), I was informed Khushi’s report card is out and she has done very well in school. I saw baba’s face on the camera grinning from ear to ear, while I heard ma’s proud voice in the background, “She got double A in all subjects, A+ in just one.” By baba’s side, with a lovely gap toothed smile stood 7 year old Khushi, looking at me through the computer. My usual Thursday morning suddenly became festive.

She is a 7 year old little girl. Her successful report card for one semester may not seem worth celebrating to some. However, when one knows the relentlessness of her mother to ensure that Khushi receives quality education despite all the obstacles that is thrown in their path, one can not help but doff one’s hat in respect. Khushi’s mother, Breshpati, barely knows Bengali alphabets. She can not read. Once she had Khushi seven years ago, she made a resolution that her child will have every opportunity to education and resources that she lacked. She was employed as a maid early on in childhood so her two brothers could attend school. Her daughter, she vowed, would have a different life. Hearing the hope in her voice as she held her new born in her arms, I enlisted myself as a soldier beside her to help achieve her dreams for her daughter. The real work was done by her mother. Breshpati worked in people’s houses as a domestic help for livelihood yet ensured that her day afforded enough time for her to take Khushi to her tutor’s house for lessons or to her dance class or to her drawing class. Khushi’s birth in a financially strapped family was not going to take away opportunities from her – that was her mother’s promise.

Schooling during Covid has been especially challenging. Schools went online. It took Breshpati and my parents quite an effort to understand the technology. Little Khushi figured out how to attend classes before her grown ups did though. She attended school from our living room, neatly attired in her school uniform and did her homework with the help of her tutor, a lovely young woman who also comes from an impoverished family, and with the help of my mother.

Attending school

Every morning she sits next to baba as he reads the Bengali newspaper and tries to sound out the difficult words along with him. He helps her with the words if she stumbles. Ma makes sure her penmanship is good and her grammar is perfect. When we video chat with them, they proudly summon her to greet us in English. She asks us, “How are you?” And my parents marvel at her lovely English pronunciation. She recites for us sometimes and dances too. She loves performing and is a natural in front of canera. The adopted grandparents look on with unabashed pride.

When I heard about her good result, I asked my parents to buy her a gift to celebrate her success. Her mother chimed in, “No didi, don’t give her anything. Let us see how she does in her final exams.” We compromised on a chocolate bar while promising a bigger celebration after her final report card, which I believe will be equally good.

I am not sure what is in store for this little girl. Education is not the top priority in the neighborhood she lives in. Girls marry young and become young mothers. Her mother, however, talks of endless possibilities for her daughter. She tells her child she can become anything in life, just get an education. She lays out the only path available to Khushi that will be her ticket out of poverty. My parents and my family here are cheerleaders and supporters.

That little girl is surrounded by love and support. That may just be enough to see her through. She and her mother fill me up with hope.

5 cents! Just 5 cents will do.

I wanted to be a journalist for a while. No, scratch that. When I was really small, I was told I wanted to be a doctor. So I wanted to be a doctor for a while. Pssst… I am from India. We are all told we want to be doctors, engineers or government officials in high positions. So I wanted to be a doctor till I was 14. Then I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to write. My language teachers boosted my confidence by grading my essays very generously. I was buoyed by the idea that I could write well. Then I went to college to study literature. I hope you already know where this story is headed. You guessed it, heart break, shattering of dreams.

I had to sit for an entrance exam to get into this coveted college. I had to write essays and all. I got in. My self confidence, already high, went up a few notches. More so, when at the beginning of our first semester, a professor congratulated our small class by saying only ‘creme de la creme’ got admission in that college. Then classes started. Then I met my classmates. Then I saw their brilliance. Then I realized I was nowhere near their level of intellect. My merit was average, if you are kind you can call it slightly above average (only if you are kind). I hung in there though, finished my undergrad and even got a Master’s in English literature. I still held on to the dream of becoming a journalist. I went to a renowned newspaper in Kolkata hoping to get an internship. The sub editor asked me to write a paragraph, which I did. He picked it up in disdain and almost threw it down, saying I was not good enough. I was crushed. After that I did some free lance writing for free in a Bengali newspaper. They gave me passes to go see music events and theaters, I wrote reviews for them. I remember waking up on Wednesdays with trepidation. The reviews got published on Wednesdays. I remember the thrill of seeing my name in print. I never got paid.

Life went on. I gave up on my dreams of making money by writing. I still loved writing though, just not the kind of writing with mellifluous language that was popular in India when I was a student. I started this blog as a parenting blog while my children were growing up. Writing for myself was joyful enough but then a few friends started telling me that they loved what I wrote. They could relate. I basked in their love. Sure there is no monetary gain from my blogs but if readers, albeit a handful, liked them then I am a writer, I told myself. A few years ago, my friend, who also writes a blog, upgraded his blog site to premium level. That meant he could earn money if his blogs got hits. I thought about it for a while. A tiny flicker of hope rose in a corner of my mind. The hope of making money by writing was never extinguished, only dormant, I realized. Could I earn money too? Would my blogs invite enough readers so I could get advertisements on them? After a lot of deliberation and after a lot of encouragement from family, I went premium as well. I check my earning once in a while, I see a big 0 where it says earnings. I just want to earn 20 cents from my writing, maybe 10, oh ok, just 5 cents. Is it too much to ask? Then I can say to myself, “Look I did earn from my written words.” That will be a little dream come true.

I will stay premium for a year. One year, people. That is all you have to help me make my dream come true. So hit my blogs, share them. Flood them with hits so advertisers pay notice. 5 cents. Just let me earn 5 cents from writing.

Readers, consider your power. You have, within your grasp, to make my dream come true. My dream of earning 20…er…10….oh fine, 5 cents from my blogs. Hail ye mighty, all powerful readers of my blogs.

Oh, this blog is so desperate but I will publish it. What do I have to lose expect for my dreams?🤣

I did read somewhere that flattery will get me everywhere. 😜

Neighborhood grandfather

I consider reading as a means to freedom. Freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Reading takes you places that you did not think existed, reading introduces you to new ideas and lets your ideas soar. Reading sets you free. I was concerned my youngest child did not take to books as my oldest did. After many pushes and shoves towards books I finally realized that I can not shape him into any mold, instead, my job will be to expose him to new ideas via means that appeal to him and let him spread his wings on his own terms – discussion, research, news on television, non fiction books.

If you read my blogs you probably know, my young Ryan is a deep thinker. Since he was little his thoughts were different – he probed deeper. His teacher, in a recent meeting, reconfirmed our perception of him as one who thinks outside the box. Ryan seems to be an exception to my rule that reading sets one free. He has set himself free by observing, evaluating, thinking and reading books that appeal to him.

At dinner, the other night, we were discussing dreams. He was asked, “What are your dreams, Ry?”

“I don’t have dreams, I have goals.”

“Well, what is the difference?”

“You can dream but they don’t seem that solid. But you set your goals and you work towards achieving them. I set goals.”

Coming from an eleven year old, that sounded somewhat precocious. We asked him what his goals are then.

“My goal is to become a neighborhood grandfather.” He solemnly replied.

“Errr…what?!?! A neighborhood grandfather?!?!” His father and I exchanged bemused glances.

“Yeah, you know. I am going to be that grandfather in the neighborhood who is always there for someone who needs help, advice.”

“But you are just a child. Why are you jumping to old age and grandfather? What are you going to do in between?” It was hard not to laugh.

“No, no! There are many goals in between that. Being a neighborhood grandfather is the ultimate goal. Before that I will go to Stanford, swim in the Stanford swim team. I will open my own business and create lots of jobs. I will help a lot of poor people so they can have a good life. I will marry someone nice and have kids. And then I will become a neighborhood grandfather.” The fork rested on his plate as he got a dreamy look in his eyes. “Or maybe I will become a professional baseball player or an Olympic swimmer. I will be famous, I will earn a lot of money and I can help even more people that way.”

Dreams and goals got entangled at this point, but we smiled at our child as he dreamed on and set goals for himself. As I see my two kids grow up, I glance upon the innocence and beauty of childhood. I feel myself a mere observer and perhaps a chronicler of these beautiful times of their lives. I write them down judiciously so I can offer these moments up to them when they are all grown up. When asked about aspirations, a child mentions a profession – teacher, engineer, scientist…..
My child’s aspiration is to be a neighborhood grandfather. Personally, I think that is a superb goal. We need neighborhood grandfathers to bring back the human connection which we seem to be losing fast in our digital age. Grow up to be a neighborhood grandfather, child. Bring people closer. Bring them out to the porch again. Re establish the connection.

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! 🙂

Chasing my dreams! Wait, what are they again?

A friend recently wished me ‘May your dreams come true!’ When I hear such a wish, I say a thank you, I do feel gratitude towards the person for wishing me well, but to be completely honest, I don’t think about what the wish was. I feel happy for having a well-wisher and reciprocate the good wish.

But today, my friend’s wish made me wonder about my dreams. What are they? All I could think of was dreams FOR my children. I couldn’t think of a single dream of mine, a personal dream, a personal aspiration. In the process of growing up and becoming a mother, my personal dreams have been left somewhere along the way.

As a young woman, I dreamed of studying theater, that didn’t work out due to circumstances. I took up other jobs to earn money but they were just jobs, they were not stepping-stones to fulfil any dreams of doing something with my life, being someone! They were jobs, not my passion. Then came marriage and children. I got busy being a mother and without my knowledge my personal dreams gave way to dreams for my children. My dreams are my children grow up to be healthy and happy! Oh, did I forget successful? Yes, successful too, in finding happiness, that is.

To be truthful, I felt at a loss for this lack, in my life. But then after pondering some more, I thought was dream different from aspirations? I dream of going to Spain one day, I want to see the Angel falls, I would like to visit Yosemite. Can those be considered my personal dreams? And are aspirations what I want to be in life? I posed my husband this question. He aspires to be a better father, a better husband, he aspires to serve more people in his daily work, see a farmer grow his own crop to sustain his family, a mother open a small business to earn more money, one more child receive the light of knowledge. His dreams? To travel together and see the world. I now have to figure out what I aspire to be. All I could think of was I aspire to be less judgmental, more patient. I aspire to evolve and learn and grow in kindness, love and acceptance of others.

He led me to the right track. Aspirations need not necessarily mean success in the material world. I am not saying that is not important. Making something out of one’s life is fulfilling indeed. I am trying to say that qualitative not quantitative aspirations may bring us that elusive inner peace that we all strive towards.

Upon realizing that my dreams are all FOR my children, I made a mental note NOT to live my dreams through them but to be the wind beneath their sail when they embark upon that journey of pursuing their dreams.

Having written the above paragraphs on a rare Eeyore day, when the sun must not have been shining, I thought on my lack of dreams some more.  I do NOT want  this blog to become one of the sacrifice I made for the sake of my children. I did NOT make any sacrifice at all. It is my absolute good fortune that I have the opportunity to stay home – raise my children, read good books, write blogs (alright throw in some of the chores). My husband can’t wait to trade places with me one day. I am no martyr when I say my dreams got left behind somewhere. I realized, on a lovely walk with my dog on a beautiful, sunshiny day, this was my dream all along and I am living it. I dreamed of marrying Sean, I am living it. I dreamed of traveling, I lived it and hope to live more of it one day, I dreamed of having children, I was blessed with two healthy children who fill up my life with joy….mostly, and lets admit it, frustration sometimes.

I ask myself a question when  the existential angst creeps in my mind (blame it on those gray days, when the sun doesn’t shine on my face). I ask myself if I could change anything in my life at the moment, what would it be. I come up with ‘nothing’. ‘Nothing’ is good, ‘nothing’ makes me take a deep breath, appreciate my life and move on.

But before moving on, I want to raise a cup of cheer to the universe ‘Here’s to living our dreams, people of the world. Let’s chase those dreams, whatever they may be!’ I want this post with this thought that I found very beautiful:

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
Henry David Thoreau