The “goods” in the week of July 12th.


This week was somewhat mundane. And mundane is not bad. Uneventful is not bad at all after the several events that happened in my life not too long ago. We went back to full time work and these are my “goods” this week.

I am tired. I put that in my “goods” since I am tired because I am back full time at the library and my body is trying to get used to being ‘on’ full time. That is a good thing – this tiredness. Unlike so many I am blessed to have had my job through out the pandemic.

After waiting and watching patiently, my first gladiolus stalk sprouted buds and how deeply red they are! A second stalk seems ready to sprout. And while I am talking of my flowers, I will say they have become my haven for remembering, meditating. Ma is probably laughing at my transformation from a city girl to this suburban woman and baba is saying ‘told you so’. Obstinate ma plant is still blooming.

A friend just came by and dropped off a flowering plant and a card. She bought the plant a while ago but was caring it for me since my loss brought back painful memories of losing her own mother.

A couple of friends messaged me privately to say that my blogs have helped them in their personal journey of grief.

I met a lovely Nigerian woman at work. She arrived in USA two weeks ago with her husband and 2 children. She asked me where I was from as I helped her find books for her children. I said “India.” Upon hearing that, she clasped her hands in front of her in excitement and said, “Oh, I love Indians. I love, love. love Indians. I wanted to marry an Indian. But I married that one instead.” We both laughed.

My best friends are back to me. I have been reading quite a bit. I eased into books with some wonderful graphic novels, then finished The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva and a few others. Now I am reading a captivating historical fiction called The Familiars by Stacey Halls.

On Friday, we went to see an outdoor performance of The Adventures of Pericles.

I asked one of our long time customers how he was doing. Before leaving the library he came to me to thank me for talking to him. He said it helped him psychologically. He is going through a stressful time. Everyone is fighting their own battle.

My uncle managed to procure baba’s death certificate on Saturday. I felt a sense of relief as that was stuck in bureaucratic red tape and then immediately felt guilty for that sense of relief followed by intense sadness and then breathlessness. I was at work. I wrote to my family I was having an anxiety attack. I went for a walk around the library building, took deep breaths, sat in the garden of our library. After about 30 minutes of coming back into the building, I was told my daughter was there to see me. She brought me my favorite drink from Starbucks and gave me a hug. My “goods” for this week is, yet again, love that keeps me afloat. Today is exactly 2 months since baba died.

There is this hole in my heart. I am learning to live around it and not fall in.

May your list of “goods” be long.

Little Bud


My friend gave me a bag of gladiolus bulbs at a time when I was indiscriminately planting flowers to nurture some form of life after losing 2 most precious (to me) lives to Covid in quick succession. I had never had much luck in growing plants from seeds or bulbs but I was mentally exhausted to think about what would thrive and what would not and somewhat fatalistic about planting. I needed to dig holes, separate roots and gently place them in the hole with the hope that it will draw nutrition and grow up to radiate beauty and yes, joy.

To be honest, I had forgotten about the bulbs till I saw young green shoots emerging from the soil. I think I was weeding when I noticed them. They certainly looked different from crab grass and I stopped myself from plucking them from the ground. Could they be…? They were! Gradually they grew to be long green stalks, some grew more than others. They were just that for a long time though – long green stalks. Sean and I wondered if that is the end of their journey. And then we saw some diamond shaped patterns on the head of one stalk. I kept close eye on it. The next metamorphosis that I noticed was a deeper shade of purple just underneath the green. And today, when I walked out to go for my walk, I saw this.

I want you all to meet Little Bud. Welcome! I have been patiently waiting for you. You made me happy and you are one of my “goods” this week.

The “goods” in the week of June 28th.


It was a regular summer week with work, summer school, swim practice.

Ryan successfully completed second week of summer biology. Four more weeks to go.

It has rained off and on and I feared my flower plants will drown. They did not and with today’s sun, they are radiant again.

I have kept myself busy at work and that helps to keep sadness at bay. Except when I shelve books, my mind fills up with old memories of my parents.

Sean and I talked more about “what’s next” for us.

I went shopping alone on Friday, a chore I generally despise but I quite enjoyed myself this time. Ma was surely smiling at my transformation.

Talking to Gouri, mashi, Breshpati and Khushi brings comfort. Gouri is so smart, she set the new wifi password in baba’s phone and tablet. She does not know any of her alphabets, never went to school, never learnt to read. I wish she would go to school but she is unwilling. I will continue to drop hints.

Gouri got her first Covid vaccine.

Khushi sends me photos of ma and baba with her. She seems to cherish her memories of them.

Gouri is nurturing baba’s plants. She often sends me photos of flowers.

Sahana, Sean and I went to our sweet, little downtown for a leisurely stroll, dinner at our favorite Syrian restaurant followed by locally made ice cream. The evening was picturesque with strawberry pink clouds casting pink glow on the earth. Ryan stayed home to mow the lawn and waste time on phone.

We celebrated July 4th in National zoo cooing at the antiques of baby panda as she tried to waddle after her mom. She was so sweet.

I brought back a pile of books again from the library. We shall see how much I read.

I have finished the entire series of Downton Abbey. What a great series. What should I watch next and why did I wait so long to watch it? Tonight I hope to watch Downton Abbey movie.

It is amazing that life goes on despite….

That is it for me this week. Hope you all have a great week and your list of “goods” is long.

The “goods” in the week of June 21st


Every morning my day starts by sitting in front of the photos of my parents. And then walking out to see the flowers that I planted in their memory. The photos were taken during our “happy” times, on our back deck during one of their visits to USA. With each passing year, they got frail but we captured happiness and youth and energy and froze it in a frame. Looking at those photos each day is one of my “goods” as I savor those joyful memories before I start my day.

On a mundane but important note, we are successfully maintaining our daily schedule with 2 cars. Each week we sit down and do some permutation and combination of who needs to be where at which time and figure out how we can work out the car situation. We have 3 working adults and one teen who is taking Summer Biology and swimming 6 days a week. On top of going to work we need to figure out his drop off and pick up. And so we have a family meeting every Sunday evening. We laugh.

I finished a graphic novel and am now reading The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. That takes place in my blog of “goods” because my friends had betrayed me for a long time. Since the beginning of this horrendous ordeal I have not been able to focus on a single page of a book. I have written plenty, read none.

Last evening was special when our first born treated us to a lovely dinner with her first ‘real’ paycheck. I get emotional easy these days but as she pulled the check close to her to pay, I choked up. Her grandparents would have been so proud. I also had a pang since I shared all the milestones of my 2 children with their grand parents and this I can not.

Sean and I drove out to water front to have a morning together on Sunday.

Soon we will be going back full time to the branch. I am ready and it will be good for me. It helps if I move all the time. And work is a place where I feel my life is unchanged.

Ryan successfully finished his first week of Summer Biology and is urging a few of his friends not to quit summer classes even though the teachers are teaching an academic year long course within six weeks and the load of work is intense. He got accepted to be a Peer Educator for younger students in his school and I think he is very well suited for this job.

I have started listening to music again. It was bitter sweet since I listened to all the songs that baba loved and sang along. I was cooking as I listened to Hemanta’s golden voice. I cried with every song as I remembered baba’s voice yet it brought some respite.

I get happy speaking to Gouri, Breshpati, Khushi and mashi who are holding the fort for me back in Kolkata. I don’t really want to talk to many people right now. I do love talking to those women. I feel the essence and love of my home through them.

It is a joy to see Khushi’s smiling face peering through the camera.

This morning I got the news the man I entrusted to get ma’s death certificate has been able to collect it. It is strange that it is a part of “goods”. It is though since acquiring it was quite a process.

Obstinate ma plant is blooming a vibrant red.

Sometimes I struggle to write this post as often nothing seems good but when I end up writing it, the list of ‘goods’ surprise me. I hope your list of ‘goods’ is also long. Have a great week, all.

The “goods” in week of May 3rd.


How can I write what was good this week when both my parents contacted Covid in Kolkata? My ma was put on a ventilator yesterday and then gave up the fight and my baba is still fighting it in the same hospital. Yet, there were ‘goods’ this week and I did not even have to think hard to find them.

We were fortunate to get 2 beds for my parents in the same hospital in a city which is being ravaged by this deadly virus and people can not get hospital beds or oxygen cylinders.

My friends, their husbands, some cousins, and a care giver from Tribeca Care, an elderly care service, are doing all they can to help since I am far away and are surrounding me with love and support. They made phone calls, found 2 beds in a hospital, organized ambulance care, talked to hospital administrators and got my parents admitted so they could get proper care.

Friends poured their love and good wishes on us from all over the world. Since I am a big believer in collective good will, I know a lot of good energy was released out in the universe which touched my parents.

I can not deny the mind numbing, troubled breathing kind of anxiety that I experience but quiet walks with Sean, nutritious meals prepared by Sahana and silent prayers by Ryan made me feel less alone.

Sean’s family messages us regularly to let us know they love us and are thinking of us.

My supervisor at work encouraged me to not think about that part of my life right now, but to simply focus on what was at hand. My coworkers showed their support in messages and emails.

I have not held back my tears and cried often this week. It is a cleansing experience. I wish I did not have reason to cry but I do. And the fact that I have allowed myself to cleanse through tears is good.

In times of trouble one finds out one is surrounded by a loving community, I think that is the ‘goods’ this week. In fact, that is the best.

My flower bed


Having grown up in the concrete jungle of Kolkata, I yearned to see the lush green in the countryside of Bengal, but we did not have open space to grow a garden in the city. So we bought one or two potted plants and tried to keep those alive. So when we moved to the suburbs in America, I did not know what to do or how to nurture a garden. I was growing two little human beings then as my partner traveled and that took all my energy. Over the years though, I did grow some flowers, some herbs and lately some succulents.

I decided to get my flower bed ready this year for some planting after Mother’s day. The flower bed got no love from me all these months so when I went out there with my gardening tools and looked at the whole bed, I was somewhat overwhelmed. Will I ever get this jungle weeded in time? I decided to set a small goal of one patch at the beginning. So I set to my task of minutely digging out the weeds that had taken over that particular section. The whole flower bed still daunted me so I mindfully kept the thought of wholeness away as I worked on the small patch that I had chosen for the day. As I dug out the unwanted plants from their roots, their was a strange cathartic feeling and a sense of lightness. I was focused on each little green, mindful of every single weed in my chosen patch. Once I completely finished working on the patch, I stood up satisfied. I looked at the whole then. Although there was a lot left to be done, my worked-on section at the beginning of the bed looked beautiful and clean. The whole was not as daunting any more. I vowed to parcel up the whole into composites and focus on each composite each day. While not completely finished, most of my flower bed is weeded and I may be able to plant on Mother’s day.

My life as a whole is scary right now. As soon as my mind veers to the whole, I bring it back to the immediate step, the first step that needs my attention. Dealing with little parcels of the whole is more achievable. I am going to deal with what is right in front of me first and then move to the next small patch in life.

My flower bed has become a metaphor of my life at present.

Moving on and leaving behind.


As the growl of machinery continued in the background, cutting down our once magnificent tree in the front yard, I reflected upon how some animate and inanimate objects are disappearing from my life as I march on in this journey.

Sage left us last year after showering his unconditional love on us for 10 years.

Yesterday, we donated our trusted chariot of 16 years, our Toyota Sienna to an organization. I said goodbye to Midnight (yes, we name our vehicles. You don’t?) before going to work, when I came back she was gone. It was just a car yet I felt a twinge because of all the memories associated with it. We bought Midnight 10 days before Ryan was born. We brought Ryan home in brand new Midnight. We took countless trips in it – Boston, Tennessee, Shenandoah, beach, Florida, Pennsylvania, Niagara falls……

Sage was only allowed to travel in Midnight to contain his fur in one car, so innumerable memories of Sage, memories of driving with my parents when they visited us, little Sahana and baby Ryan strapped safely in their booster seat and infant seat. The evolution of music that played on the car radio as requests changed while the kids got older – Veggie tales, Taylor Swift, Katie Perry, a brief period of country music, other pop songs.

Once the car got old, Sahana got her license and took control of Midnight. It served her well taking her to high school, jobs.

As I write this, my beautiful tree is being cut down branch by branch. The tree is dead. It has been dead for a couple of years now, mushroom growing on its powerful trunk. The bare branches brought no new leaves for the last two springs. I knew it’s removal was inevitable but I did not want to consider it. The silhouette of its bare branches against the backdrop of blue sky was still beautiful even though there were no new buds adorning them with the hope of spring, Finally workers from our county came this morning and said the tree is rotting and they need to take it down. I nodded. As I see it go down, I remember the summer afternoons over the years when I sat out on the bench in the front yard as my two little children played underneath the tree with a puppy. Sean hung a swing from it and for a few years, Sahana and Ryan regularly swung on it, taking turns to push each other. Ryan started a lemonade stand underneath its shade and employed Sahana to work the stand. There were many falls where dead leaves from the tree were raked, piled, jumped upon and then disposed.

Today when I come back from work, the tree will be reduced to a stump. I don’t know what memories of the tree my family will have of it, but there is a sadness in my heart for those long gone days associated with the tree. But such is the cycle of life. We move on. Not everything or everyone we love move on with us. They leave memories though to sustain us in our journey. For those memories, I am grateful.

The witching hour


Last night I found myself ugly crying because Efrèn’s mom got deported. Efrèn is in middle school, his twin siblings are in kindergarten. His apà works constantly to make ends meet. His amà holds the family together with her love, her food and her superwoman abilities of multi tasking. But neither amà nor apà had papers to be here in United States, so ICE raided the place she went for a job interview and deported her to Tijuana, Mexico. I cried thinking of all those children whose parents went to work and never came home. No matter which side of the immigration debate you are on, this separation of families is inhuman and needs to stop immediately.

I was reading a young adult fiction Efrèn Divided by Ernesto Cisneros late into the night. Despite my intense feelings about the book, this blog is not a review of the book or a debate about our immigration policies. This blog is about being one with the book I am reading in the middle of the night when everybody is fast asleep, the night is eerily quiet, all the lights are out except for my bedside lamp. At that time, I feel truly transported into the life of the characters I read about. At that time, I feel the strength of written words most strongly in my heart as it transforms me into a fly on a wall observing and living vicariously someone else’s life. There is a satisfying release in that feeling.

I tried reading Efrèn Divided during evening after work. But there were distractions of my family – talking, fixing dinner, cleaning kitchen, Ryan thumping around the house gathering towel, swim suit, provisions for his swim meet next day. Efrèn’s life had only part of my attention. I was completely invested in his life and the fate of his family once my life was suspended for the night.

I knew it was getting late but I also knew next morning will bring my life to the forefront and the various lives I live through the characters of books that I read will be pushed to the back. So I turned the pages till the last page was read, till I found out what happened to Efrèn’s mom, till I climbed out of Efrèn’s life and sighed at our parting.

Tomorrow night I will climb into another world with Megha Majumdar and go on a journey within the pages of her debut novel A Burning. Night after night, my journey will continue as long as I live.

‘I read so I can live more than one life in more than one place.’ Anne Tyler

The rice seller auntie (chaalwali mashi)


One side effect of growing old is getting lost in memories. Certain smells, words, actions evoke memories of yester years and I get lost in them. As the sweet smell of cooked rice wafted towards me this morning while I chopped vegetables, I remembered this middle aged woman who came to our house every 20 days or so to sell rice when I was growing up. I was quite young when she first started coming. I recall she came into our bedroom and sat in the corner on the cool mozaic floor, wiping the sweat off her face with the pallu of her sari. Whoever was around brought her some water, unasked. She talked to ma while she drank her water and let the cool breeze from the fan dry her sweat soaked body. She talked to ma about her family, her husband who could not work due to some injury, her sons who were going to school. Then she spread out our preferred quality of rice on the floor and measured cupfuls into a big container that we gave her. I forget the exact kilograms of rice that we bought from her each month but it was a significant amount since rice is staple in a middle class Bengali family, especially at a time when white rice was not touted as evil and full of empty calories. We loved our rice and we loved our chaalwali mashi, Angoor. That was her name – Angoor, which means grapes in English. 🙂

I listened to her stories under the guise of finishing homework as she sat with her glass of water, cooling herself in front of our big standing fan on an extremely hot summer afternoon before she carried her bag of rice to her next customer. I remember hearing about her sons growing up over the years, getting married and then, best of all, telling their mother to not work anymore. They were able, they told her. They can take care of her from then on. The day she told us about her sons, the young men she raised, imploring her to take rest, the smile on her face shone like a diamond. All her efforts in raising her sons had found fruition.

For many years she woke up before dawn, went to wholesaler to pick up bags of rice, took a local train to come to Kolkata from her remote village with other women from her area to sell rice in Gariahat market. Every evening she got on the local train to go back home after a grueling day in the city, cooked for her family and took care of her boys. She said her husband stayed home and helped as much as he could. She was one of the lucky ones.

The smell of rice this morning brought memories of chalwaali mashi to the forefront. Ma always bought her a new sari for Durga pujo. And every year, she touched the sari with a lovely smile, looked up to my mother and said, “Khub sundar hoyeche boudi.” (It is very pretty, sister-in-law.)

I have not thought about her for many years. I don’t even know if she is alive. I asked ma about her recently. She does not know any news about Angoor mashi either. She only said, “Manush ta boro bhalo chilo.” (The woman was so very nice.)

Men and women come in our lives, sometimes for a substantial period of time. And then they disappear too. They simply leave behind some vignettes of memories. As we get older, we look back at those and bring them back into existence. We think about them. We wish them well, wherever they are.

Catching a sunrise.


I wanted to catch a sunrise from the balcony of our ocean front hotel room. I did not set any alarms to wake up at the time of sunrise, thinking my body will wake up in anticipation. It did, except it woke up just 10 minutes late. I saw Sahana sitting on the balcony, soft light of the morning sun gently illuminating her beautiful face. She turned her bright, happy smile towards me “I watched the sun rise!” This is what I got to see.

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Reflected

The sun had risen just above the horizon and the golden ball was reflected over the water. I missed sunrise by just 10 minutes. I consoled myself thinking it was the first morning of our last-minute beach vacation. We still had 5 more mornings to catch a sunrise.

The pandemic played havoc with our plans of going to India in May and Sahana’s move to college for her senior year. As each plan fell through, we shed a few tears and then hoped that that this year will pass, life will resume, perhaps in a reimagined way. We will see our loved ones in different parts of the world. Our children will go back to in person learning in a safe, virus free environment. Since Sean and I had both taken leave for a week to move Sahana in to her apartment in college (that plan fell through), we decided to take the time to replenish our reserves of patience, hope, resilience. We splurged and booked an ocean front room with a kitchenette. If I felt too anxious to go among people, I could simply sit on the balcony and count waves. Our previous beach vacation at the beginning of July was anxiety provoking for me. I wrote about it in “Kissing in the time of Corona”.

The day I missed my sunrise, we walked by the bay to catch the sun set. We were not disappointed. Nature, perhaps, knew that our soul needed some resuscitation and it suffused us with its glory.

The second day I missed the sunrise by 15 minutes. Why did I not set an alarm you ask? That is a good question. I guess I trusted my innate clock yet again.

My eyes opened on the third day when it was pitch dark in the room. I glanced at the clock to see the time. It was 6:05 am. The sun was supposed to rise at 6:10 am. I sat right up and rushed to the balcony. I open the door with care so as not to wake the rest of the family. Dense fog over the ocean dashed my hopes of seeing a radiant sunrise. Crestfallen, I went back to bed and slept till 8 am. I woke up to a sun kissed day and glistening sand. Fog robbed me of my sunrise but then the sun burnt away the fog to gift the ocean worshipers a gorgeous beach day.

Finally I viewed the glory on our penultimate day at the beach. Again, my biological clock woke me up. I looked at the time, whispered to Sahana if she wanted to view sunrise. She grunted something inaudible. The boys had no desire to chase sunrise, so I did not bother calling them. I tiptoed out to the balcony with my phone and witnessed the ball of fire making its journey to my part of the world. I found my religion in its splendor.

Sun rise

My phone camera, of course, does not do any justice to the ephemeral beauty of sun rising over the ocean but the memory of that resplendent dawn is captured in my heart. This is simply a fragment of what I saw.

Life was at bay while I looked at the expanse of the ocean for 6 days, while my family kayaked in the still waters of the bay and I pulled my chair in the water soaking in the stillness and serenity in my soul. Life was at bay when we delighted in the sightings of wild ponies and walked the marshy lands to see unknown (to me) birds and snowy egrets, while we stopped at unexplored ice cream shops to taste homemade ice creams, while we ordered crab imperial and legs of snow crabs. The question “Do you have your mask on?” every time we left our hotel and seeing masked people on the road reminded us we were living through a pandemic. Those 6 days, from the safety of my balcony and sometimes from empty stretches of the beach, I simply sat and stared at the ocean. The hypnotizing crashing of waves, the endlessness of the ocean, the sand between my toes, the laughter of children playing on the beach, the comfort of a book in my hand and the closeness of my husband and children made me completely happy. The feeling of happiness was a conscious realization really. I said to Sean, somewhat bewildered, “I feel happy.” In these 5 or 6 months, I had forgotten how it felt to be completely happy.

We were masked for most part of our vacation. We cooked our meals and got take outs for some dinners. We never played miniature golf, which is our constant (apart from sun and sand) when we go to the beach. Yet, we found peace. Most importantly, perhaps, we filled up our reserves of hope that this phase of our lives too shall pass. We will reunite with humankind instead of going the other way, fearing contamination from my fellow human.

One day…..

In the meantime, I will look back to this memory for sustenance on a dark and gloomy day.