‘She reminds me of my friend’s mother’…


I wrote about my blocked kitchen sink fiasco yesterday. Today I will write about how it got solved and who solved it. The plumbing company said they would send someone between 8 am and 11 am. I got up bright and early, showered, dressed and waited. As promised, a gentlemen pulled into our driveway around 9:30 am. I opened the door, welcomed him in and just to make conversation, I asked, “Is it hot out there yet?” He said he did not feel the heat like some other people did. I responded I am with him. I am from India and my body can tolerate heat better than the cold. To this, the man said, “Yeah, we dark folks have more melanin to protect us.” I turned around and looked at his white face bewildered but did not say anything. The dude was white!! Maybe not Irish or Scandinavian white but somewhat tanned white. After I explained to him the issue with the kitchen sink and after a lot of casual conversation, he went to his van to get his equipment. I turned to Sahana and asked, “Isn’t he white? Why is he saying we dark folks?” She shrugged. I wondered if he identified as a dark person. Is that even a thing?

Anyway, my wonderful daughter canceled her plans and stayed at home for the plumber so I could go to work which I did after listening to all that the gentleman was going to fix and worrying about how much it will cost me. He gave me an estimate, I informed Sahana, made sure she had enough in her account to pay and left for work.

At work I got a voice message from Sahana. She was trying hard to keep the laughter from her voice. The gentleman, in his late thirties if I had to assume, told Sahana that he loves Indian people. And I reminded him of his friend’s mother who had come from India and who treated him like her son. I am getting up there but this comparison with his friend’s mother seemed little bit of a stretch but I will take it. You know why? He fixed a few things without charge. He went to a hardware store to buy what we needed and he gave a bill that was much lower than what I expected. He also told Sahana that if we ever needed a plumber, we can request the company to send him and he will make sure we get the best service. Why? Because he likes Indian people and I remind him of his friend’s mother. 🤣

Sahana also said they had long conversations about race while he was working and he told her “We immigrants need to stick together.” The man was Italian American. The crux of the story is I jotted down his name, gave him a 5 star review. If (please god, no) we need a plumber, I am calling this ‘dark’ man who thinks of his friend’s mother when he sees me. I really needed this laugh today.

Stat line is flat


Well, hello world! I peeked in to my oft neglected blog after a long time and saw to no one’s surprise that the statistics line of my blog site is flat. For all these days, no one has peeked in to see if mama is thinking. Mama has been thinking but she has been too lazy to put those thoughts down on her blog site.

It is summer in the library baby!! After spending just 2 hours in the children’s section, helping young readers find books (but lets face it, none of the books I suggest are on the shelves), toys, handing them and their parents reading lists, giving them hints as to where the scavenger hunt clues are, giving out tickets for children’s classes, listening to little ones scream because it is their naptime and their care giver refuses to take them home, I fall flat on my face and do not feel like writing. After a day at the library, I come home and surf Instagram to watch food vlogs and animal videos.

I have had some fun times with both my kids. Sahana took me out to celebrate my 10 year work anniversary. I still have to wrap my head around the fact that I have an adult child. I had made it clear to her when she was an angry teen and I had to lay down ground rules that I am not here to be her friend, I am and always will be her parent. But I feel the line is getting a bit blurry from time to time. She asked me what I would have changed, if I could, in these 10 years of working at the library. I did not have an answer right then. But after giving it some hard thought, I realized, there were times I put my responsibility towards work over my children’s activities. It is too late now but I wish I had done things differently.

Ryan at age 17 is a much nicer young man than he was a couple of years ago. He is really fun to talk to and as he grows up, I find his wicked sense of humor very similar to my father’s. He resembles his grandfather as well and sometimes, when he talks I lose my focus as I see baba peeking through his eyes, his smile. He will assume some leadership roles in his senior year at his high school and I think he will lead with maturity, empathy and grace. Very surprisingly, he does not fight me like he used to when I ask to do chores for me. If I ask him to do something, he says ‘sure’ and does it (except for making his bed or keeping his room clean, and that drives me crazy). I am a very involved parent and like to know everything that is going on in my children’s lives but I am learning to stay silent but present so they come to me with questions/thoughts/ideas. I fail often, but I try again.

Sean and I have not had much time to relax together. We both have been working hard. I miss him and often feel lonely. I guess such is middle age. I realized that now that my parents are gone and children are growing up to have their own lives, the person whose companionship I crave and when he is not around, miss is my husband’s. We vex each other often and I realize we squabble more as we get older and crankier but we laugh too, despite and still.

This blog is really not substantial. I am just showing some love to this online journal of mine. Not sure why you would be interested in reading about my children, but some of you do read so thank you. I have some ideas to write more substantial (may be not, but it is my blog so I can write whatever feels substantial to moi) in upcoming weeks.

I want the stat line not to stay flat – it is an ego boost to see the line go up, so please click 🙂 !

Nope, still not pregnant.


My favorite customer came up to me at the kiosk at the library. “Hi, how are you? The printer needs paper.” As I bent down to retrieve some printer paper, he gave me a big smile, pointed at my tummy and asked, “Are you having a baby?” This is the second person within a span of 3 months who asked me if I was pregnant. So, obviously I look pregnant but I am not. I said to him, “Nope, I am just fat.” You should have seen his face. I wanted to laugh.

Since I was too lazy to do laundry, I had to wear a shirt whose fitting has become somewhat snug over the last few months. It used to look good on me when my girth was not bulging as much as it does now. So to play the devil’s advocate, my customer was not wrong in thinking I was hiding a baby in my tummy. But why does one blurt out things like that? Keep that thought in your head, dude! Has the whole world lost its filter like I have? After turning 50, I sometimes say things that have no business being spoken out loud but even I, the new filter less me, would not ask anyone if she is pregnant.

Moreover, see the carefully nurtured lovely streak of Cruella Devillesque white in my hair? See the wrinkles on my face? See the bags under my eyes? And the constant tired look? Those are all signs that I am old. And the belly that you see is not a baby bump but menopausal mountain (I saw that term in a menopausal tea advertisement that Facebook keeps throwing up on my newsfeed).

Anyway, next time you see me just don’t ask about my pregnancy. I assure you I am not pregnant. Despite this faux pax on his part, the customer is still one of my favorites. After that uncomfortable exchange I laughed and talked a bit longer with him to make sure we were good.

In my opinion, life is too short to be upset over these things. Gotta laugh!

Are congratulations in order?


The stairs at our library are killers sometimes. Some days I go up without breaking a sweat and other days, I have to almost bend double to catch my breath as if I just finished a marathon. The woman who came up the stairs was breathing heavy when she asked me where the printer number 3 was. The printer downstairs was not working so she sent a print job to printer upstairs and came up the stairs huffing and puffing to get her print job. We got talking about different things – mainly about the killer staircase. She got her print job and went downstairs. I went back to whatever I was doing on the computer. It was a quiet day and I think I was working on discussion questions for our next book for book club. It is Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, if you are wondering. It is a fantastic, thoughtful beautiful work of art and I highly, highly recommend it. But I digress. Anyway, the sweet lady came up the stairs again and went straight to the printer. I smiled and made a few seconds of small talk. She was very chatty and talked the whole time while she waited for her print job to come out. As the printer started making encouraging sounds of getting her print job out, she looked at me, especially my bulging, menopausal stomach and asked, “Hmmm…do I see a baby bump? Are congratulations in order?”

I was shocked first and then mortified. No, not for my expanding girth (I have stopped caring a while ago), but for her. I knew my answer was going to embarrass her. She just called me fat and I am going to point that out to her by saying, “No, I am not pregnant. I am just fat.” Oh, she was going to be in such an uncomfortable situation in just a moment, I thought in my head. I shook my head, smiled beneath my mask and said very softly, “No, I am not pregnant.” If she was embarrassed, the lady did not show it. She said, “You are not? Oh, look at my belly, cannot get rid of it. Six children will do that to you.” I said, “Tell me about it.” And then let it go. I did not even have the excuse of having six children. I just sport a belly without being pregnant. That is all.

After she left, I chuckled about the whole exchange. Should I be flattered that she thought I was young enough to be pregnant? Or should I be enraged that she called me fat? I felt neither of those emotions. I just laughed about it all and thought it would make good content for my blog.

I am old…


“Sahana, I am getting old!” I proclaimed this morning before heading out to work.

She was deeply contemplating which music to play on her Spotify. But she heard me and reflexively replied, “No you are not.”

“Yes I am!”

“NO, you are not! Why do you say that?” She did look up from her screen – interested now in knowing.

“I pulled a muscle near my elbow brushing my hair. That happens to aging folks. As we get old we have trouble drying hair, get pulled muscle while brushing hair.” I provided fool proof example of my advancing years and utterly weak elbow muscles.

“Pffft….that is not a sign of aging. You simply have so much hair that brushing them gave your arm a muscle pull. This is an example of abundance of your hair not advancing age.”

Bam! She turned the ailment to compliment. One needs to learn from her how to convert criticism to compliment. We both laughed out loud. And I want to remember this moment so here it goes in my blog post.

Baba’s humor.


This morning as I was talking to the girls staying in our house in Kolkata, Gouri and Breshpati, I heard a story that I had not heard before. Today is the day baba died 2 months ago and today was a good day to laugh out loud at his wicked sense of humor as well as his robust appetite and love for food, especially fish and meat.

I have written before that Khushi was the apple of his eye and both ma and baba were truly invested in helping her grow up with all opportunities that they were able to provide. Ma took care of her studies, I take care of funding her education and baba took care of investing financially for her future. One day when baba, Khushi and Breshpati went to the bank to either manage her account or put money in her account, the banker helping them asked baba, “Sir, do you own a restaurant? If you do, where is it?”

Baba was, understandably, taken aback at this random question. The banker clarified his query as he saw baba’s surprised face. He said that several fish sellers come to that bank to deposit big checks written to them by baba and so he wondered if baba owned a restaurant which needed all that fish. Baba laughed, turned to Khushi and said, “Didi, show this kaku (uncle) where our restaurant is.” He then patted his own big tummy and Khushi’s little tummy. He said, “Here! This is our restaurant.”

Breshpati came home and told ma this story. Ma commented, “Did you also tell the man that I live with a mad man? Mad for food!”

As I heard the story, I could visualize baba responding to the question without batting an eyelid. I laughed so hard till I had tears in my eyes.

Lower the bar


The trick is to keep expectations at a minimum from your husband and children. And maintain the bar low. I was smart, I did just that. I had the kids make their own lunches for school as soon as they started third grade. I kept a loose eye on what they packed. Since I bought the groceries for our house I knew the extent of junk food that was available to them. They got money once a week to buy food from cafeteria but Sahana disliked the cafeteria food so she ended up packing her own lunch all 5 days. The deal was, I would pack their lunches on the last day of school each year. That one day, when mom packed their lunch was a day of jubilation. They were excited, happy and most importantly, grateful.

Similarly, both of them started doing their own laundry since they were 11 years old. Once in a while, when they were very busy I did their laundry for them, for which, I got many words of gratitude.

I like to cook so I primarily cooked for the family yet I made sure my husband simply did not expect me to cook ALL THE TIME. Till date, he remembers to thank me for the meals I cook. During pandemic, I became more of a purist – using natural oil for moisturizer and hair care, squeezing oranges for fresh orange juice, making rotis and recently making homemade paneer from scratch. Sean was extremely grateful and told his family in video calls that his wife was making homemade paneer, his favorite. I got kudos from my in-laws for taking such good care of their son/brother.

I was feeling pretty special about my domesticity till last night when I met 2 other friends who happened to be Bengali. As many of you may be aware, when Bengalis meet two topics take precedence over others – food and politics. We were discussing food. I told them I have recently started making paneer at home and I use lemon to curdle the milk. Both of them nonchalantly mentioned they have always made paneer at home and they never buy it. Store bought paneer is never good and did I try vinegar to curdle milk instead of lemon juice? I was slightly crushed.

The question here is, did I mention to my family that homemade paneer is the norm and not the exception in Indian homes out there? Nope, nope, nope. Why would I? I want to see the glimmer of gratitude in Sean’s eyes at the cooking prowess of his queen wife who makes things from scratch just for him for the love that she carries in her heart for her husband.

When the morning starts with bugs in your masala…


I had to start work from 10 am. So I walked into the kitchen at 8:30, perused my pantry, discovered 2 cans of garbanzo beans and decided to make a quick, nutritious and tasty chana masala with them. I had found not one but 2 opened packets of MDH chana masala powder at the back of my Indian spice rack and decided to use at least one up. They should not have been left open. Who did that? (It was me, of course). I chopped onions, grated ginger, discovered there was no fresh garlic in the house to make fresh garlic paste so used powdered garlic (the purist in my cringed), lovingly washed and chopped tomatoes. I got all the ingredients ready, brought out my brand new kadhai and poured just a table spoon of oil to cook. This was going to be the inauguration of my new kadhai which I bought just 2 days ago. Once oil was hot, I put the chopped onions to cook along with a tsp of salt. This is a trick I learned to brown the onions evenly. Once onions were ready, I threw in fresh ginger paste and not fresh garlic paste followed by chopped tomato. After 5 or 6 minutes, once oil separated from the mixture, I added 2 heaping tablespoons of MDH chana masala powder gave it a good stir and let them cook for a few minutes. Once the masala looked nice and mixed, I added the drained and washed garbanzo beans, mixed them well with the spices and poured in hot water. It was meant to simmer for a while for all the flavors to mix in. That was all. Except this awful morning, this simple recipe backfired. I noticed, to my utter horror, little black flecks floated on top as soon as I poured water over the chana (garbanzo beans). Hoping they were cumin seeds, I picked up one on my finger and put it in my mouth. And crunched on it. They were NOT cumin seeds. I gagged and washed my mouth. The packet of chana masala was open for I do not know how many years and was infested with tiny black bugs, which were now floating on my lovingly made chana masala in my brand new kadhai. What an inauspicious inauguration of my much coveted cooking utensil!

Here is the thing though. If the morning starts with bugs in your food, the day can only get better from here, right? Gosh, it was so disgusting!

“Sue them if I die!”


I have written before I did not learn to cook while growing up. I studied, read, played and then worked. I would come home to food cooked for me. Similarly, I did not go to the market to buy fish, meat or vegetables. On a side note, as I write this, it sounds so privileged but trust me, many of my compatriots grew up the same way in middle class Kolkata.

Due to my inexperience in shopping for food, I do not recognize half the fish that was bought, cleaned and cooked in our house. And I also do not recognize the zillion greens or shaak that baba brought home. Baba is a leafy green connoisseur. He can distinguish between palang shak (spinach), pui shak (no idea what that is called in English), shorshe shak (mustard greens) methi shak (again, no idea what this is in English), mulo shak (radish greens, if that is a thing), and many, many others. He diligently bought leafy greens, had our cook prepare them for the family and insisted we all eat it. I hated every one of them of course, turned up my nose and complained. Now, in my middle age, I crave each of them – slightly sauted with garlic, nigella seeds, dried red chilli, some mustard….

Anyway, yesterday I dragged my son and my husband to an Indian grocery store to buy Hilsa fish – one of the few that I know well. I also bought a huge bag of greens which I presumed to be spinach. This morning, as I opened up the bag of greens and inspected the giant leaves and sturdy stalk, doubts crept in my mind. Is this truly spinach?

Sean was in the kitchen getting in my way. In reality, he was making blueberry pancakes for breakfast. I asked him if he knew what those greens were. I made him smell the leaves:

“Is this spinach? This is spinach, right?” I wanted reassurance.

He shrugged, “I have never seen leaves so big.”

Now you have to know, our acquaintance of spinach is truly limited to boxes of baby spinach from the supermarket. Hesitantly, I chopped the leaves and started prep work for my ‘chocchori’ – a bengali version of veg medley.

“Listen, sue the store if I die by consuming these strange leaves. Make yourself some money. Profit from my death.” I gave him sage advice.

“Well, I can’t!” He replied.

“Why not?” I asked, puzzled. In this country you sue the heck out at the drop of a hat.

“You don’t know if they were selling these leaves to eat! For all you know, these may be meant for cleaning the toilet!”

I had just mixed the leaves in a pan with the other vegetables that I had painstakingly chopped and turned the stove on.

I turned and glared at him. He chuckled.

The gender of our ghost.


“I am convinced there is a ghost in our house!” Sahana proclaimed as one of our musical Christmas knick knacks on the coffee table started playing Christmas music without any assistance on our part.

We were having dinner. We all stopped chewing and looked at each other. How, on earth did that happen? After a few moments of silence, Sahana also said, “Well, I do believe there are ghosts and one lives in this house. I have felt a presence. And she likes me the least. She has smacked pies out of my hand!”

Ryan, who keeps a baseball bat with him (or a kitchen knife sometimes, much to my chagrin) when he is alone, silently looked at her for a few seconds. He said he too is a believer, his voice filled with awe and a little fear.

Then he looked up at the air on top of my head and pleaded with the ghost, “Well, you are welcome to stay. Just don’t cause us any harm.”

I said I also don’t NOT believe in ghost. There is a possibility that spirits linger but I advised the ghost to remember that only weak seek revenge, strong forgive and smart ignore so either be a strong ghost or a smart ghost but please don’t be a weak ghost and seek revenge on us.

That statement elicited a chorus of “MOM, DO NOT SAY SUCH THINGS TO THE GHOST!!! She might be provoked to harm us. What are you doing?” This outburst was followed by Ryan looking at the air on top my head again and saying, “Please forgive her. She does not know what she says. Hey Sahana, do you know if our parents killed anyone in this house when we were little?”

I happened to address the ghost as “it” which was not acceptable to my children. “Don’t dehumanize her, mom. You will make her angry!” Sahana exclaimed.

“But this ghost is not human. It is former human!” I justified.

“You called her it again”. Stop doing that. She will get offended!”

“So what pronoun should I use? And how do you know it is a she?”

“Ugh, don’t use it!! Use they/them. Keep it non binary. That is the best option. But DO NOT dehumanize the ghost by calling them ‘it’. They may seek revenge.”

“Well, then they will be a weak ghost.” I shrugged.

“MOM!!! Don’t provoke them! What are you doing?”

The deed was done, though. I had provoked them. The Christmas music thing kept on playing at interval throughout the night as I gnashed my teeth at the ghost.

Next morning my husband said, “Jeez, that thing was playing at night. Let’s turn that off!” I did not find a turn off button on it, so I handed it over for him to try.

Sahana and Ryan are convinced it is our non binary ghost playing a prank. Another Christmas prank.

The music continues to play intermittently. Our non binary resident ghost continues with a prank of their own. Time to take the batteries out of that infernal Christmas toy! And if the music still continues, we will call an exorcist. Ghost, you have been warned…..