Looking back


I promise this post is not sad. It is more wistful and perhaps a didactic one. Continue reading though, I will try not to sound preachy, I will preach/teach only to myself.

Let me say one thing right at the beginning that I do not consider myself overweight…..yet. My BMI, if you believe the chart, is still within normal range. Let’s ignore the fact that it is creeping towards the higher end of normal but those are nitty gritties. This blog is about how I have perceived myself over the years as I was living in that moment, and how I see my photos of past years, now.

I weighed 112 pounds, 50 kgs when I came to this country in my mid twenties. I ate whatever I wanted, ice-cream and desserts for dinner, drank copious amount of soda and did not gain any weight. I did end up with 2 cavities in my teeth within 7 months of being here though. At age 29, I had my first child and put on some weight because I continued to eat indiscriminately. Then I saw my photos at Sahana’s rice eating ceremony. I gasped. After getting over the shock at the fact that I, in fact, can gain weight, I started being mindful of the quantity of food I ate, started walking and lost the extra pounds. I think I was satisfied with how I looked but I am not sure. Looking back, I can never remember a time when I was comfortable with how I looked. That is a terrible way to live. Anyway, I had Ryan at 34. Losing the weight after him was not too much of a struggle because running after young children took care of the extra calories I consumed . Also, I hardly had time to eat. With each decade, however, I packed on some extra weight which I was unable to lose till that became my new normal. I turned 50 a couple of years ago and I have a new bar again. I have never been this heavy in my life. My mid section and face are carrying all the extra weight. I have been asked twice this year if I was pregnant. On top of it all, I simply love food. I try not to indulge too much, I try to stay active, I try to incorporate fruits and veggies in my diet but clothes still feel tight. Errr…I sometimes cheat though. I sneak in a brownie at work or two despite my good intentions of staying away from added sugar. Oh well!

What is interesting, however, is when I look back and see some of my photos in my twenties, thirties, forties or even a couple of years ago, I think to myself, “Oh, I looked mighty fine at that age.” I am quite sure though that I did not think I looked mighty fine when I was at that age. I am positive I had misgivings about my body shape, my skin, my hair. I think I will look back on this age in 10 years (if I am alive) and think “Hmm, I looked quite good.”

Here comes the preachy part – to myself! I wouldn’t preach to you, I wouldn’t dare. Appreciate myself today, not ten years later while looking back. In this journey of my life when I feel I am learning new things constantly, this new lesson just got added to the curriculum.

“Girlie things”


Sahana never really played with dolls when she was little. I don’t recall us buying her dolls. Her Grammy gave her a plush puppy on her 3rd birthday, and that was the only toy that she slept with all throughout. When we moved to US from India, we donated all her toys except Puppy. That toy traveled with her in her bag pack to a new country and brought her 5 year old self a sense of grounding when her whole world went through an enormous change.

Sahana and I never did things that are stereotyped as “girlie”. Neither of us enjoy shopping so we did not find joy in that, I do not know how to put on makeup effectively so there were no makeup tutorials, we never did our nails together, growing up she never wanted me to touch her hair so did not do that either. When she needed clothes before school started, we would go to Target, pick up whatever she needed without a lot of deliberatation and ran to the book store nearby to detox from the shopping experience. Neither of us had any trouble spending time there. When I look back at Sahana’s childhood, I think so fondly of our time together reading books. Our biggest excitement was going to our local library where I would sit in the children’s area with a book and she would lose herself in the world of a thick tome that she picked up from the stacks. Even today when I see a child tucked up in a corner completely engrossed in the pages of a book I think of little Sahana.

Well, little girls grow up. And mine did too. This Saturday she gave me an early birthday present- a gift of getting manicure and pedicure together. As we got our nails cleaned and polished, I looked at this kid in wonder. Like every mother on the planet, I wondered how did we get here? When did she grow up so? Did I blink? Anyway, we got all fancied up and both realized that this is truly the first time in all of Sahana’s 22 years that we have done our nails together. We laughed about our lack of girlie activities that mother daughters do. Our activities involved going to book stores and libraries. And then we laughed out loud. Why? Because while we got our nails done and legs massaged, guess what we primarily talked about? Libraries!

One year… Part 1.


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

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

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

Connecting with strangers.


Poet unknown to me

This came up in my Facebook memory feed today. A friend, who is an ardent Kolkata lover like me had shared this a while back. My world in Kolkata was whole then. Kolkata was home. It still is, in a way, but not in the same way it used to be. The city knows my every ‘first’, so it will always be my love but it is also smeared with sadness and tainted, somewhat, with my anger.

Anyway, I digress. What I wanted to write was this. I took some of ma’s sarees in a tiny tailoring shop near Maddox Square. There was hardly enough space for 6 people to stand comfortably within the store. My cousin, Sahana and I along with the wonderful woman who was taking our measurements, had taken up most of the room in the store. It was hot in there, a standing fan was whirring tiredly, circulating hot air within the store. The pleasing smell of new garments permeated the space reminding me of Durga puja when this smell of new garments surrounded us along with unmitigated joy. For the rest of the year, we could not afford to buy anything new. I digress, again. As we were giving measurements and my cousin was explaining the design to the tailor, a woman walked in with fabric that she wanted to be made into blouses. We Bengalis don’t say hi/hello to each other, I noticed. Is there a Bengali equivalent of greeting other than nomoshkar? And nomoshkar sounds too strange to begin a conversation with a stranger. It seems like we just jump in. And we did – this woman and I. I don’t remember who initiated the conversation or how it started but by the end of it I knew so much about her. Then our work was done, we bade each other farewell. We, most likely, will never meet again but a connection was made, life stories were exchanged.

During my previous trips, I have made similar connections with complete strangers in Ananda Publications book store in Gariahat. That was easy though. Bibliophiles simply start talking about books and suggest books to each other. “Have you read…..?” “NO, did you like it? Maybe I should buy it.” Kind of like dog owners here, one does not need any introduction to exclaim about dogs on walks with their pets.

Strangers become friends in that city in the East, for sure. At least friends for a few moments, an hour, a few hours. Some friendships continue perhaps, and some don’t. But the connection that was made kind of lingers in the heart and perhaps one remembers that I met someone, a stranger, who lend me an ear, and who shared snippets of their lives.

Here…eat!


This blog is about our recent trip to Kolkata. No, not about the emptiness and grief but about love. Gouri, as I have written before, took care of my parents till they died. And Breshpati, Khushi’s mom, also took care of them but she did not stay with them. She came to work and went back home after her work was done.

As I wrote earlier, this blog is about love. Love through food and feeding. My days in Kolkata were fraught with anxiety compounded with grief. And while I felt the impossible amount of love being showered upon us by the women who live in our house, I was too distraught and anxious to fully appreciate it. Looking back, I can feel the warmth of their love, their tireless efforts to show us that although my parents were gone, they were there to love us. Breshpati made my favorite food every single day. Gouri got the ingredients and did the prep work for cooking. Breshpati’s mother did our laundry, swept and mopped the floor. Although I sat down to eat, I did not have any appetite due to the intensity of grief and anxiety of cutting through bureaucratic red tape. But I made an effort. Since I am older, they listened to my refusal to more and more food but young Sahana had no such escape. They showed their love upon her by constantly trying to feed her.

Here is what happened. Sahana would eat lunch around 1 pm after we got back from our various errands at banks. The ladies would eat their lunch after us and settle for their afternoon siesta. Breshpati woke up from her nap within an hour to break a sweet pomegranate and bring the seeds to Sahana on a plate because one day Sahana mentioned she loves pomegranates. Sahana, not quite hungry after her sumptuous lunch only an hour before, would take the plate so as not to offend Breshpati. Having fed Sahana yet again, she would go back to resume her nap. After about an hour of pomegranate, a chocolate bar would appear for Sahana, brought in by either Khushi or Gouri. And then naps would resume for them again. Within 45 minutes of chocolate, the ice cream vendor would go by our street. Naps would be forgotten at the deep cry of Kwality icecreaaaaaaaam. Tremendous excitement would ensue among the ladies as they called down to the ice cream wallah to wait. Khushi and Gouri would run down to buy ice cream for all, whether you want it or not (they can not fathom why one would not want ice cream) and offer us those with triumphant smiles. I would forcefully refuse and request Khushi to eat my share. And right after ice cream would be tea time.

Before we left, Gouri said to me, “Didi, we can never give you the love that your parents gave you. But we tried our best to make sure your home coming was at least somewhat similar to what it used to be.” She said all this in Bengali as she shed tears at our departure. Now I think back to those few days and realize that with everything going on about settling affairs, I really could not appreciate their immense love towards us. But I think back on it now and know that despite my horrible loss, I am lucky in love and also wonder what did I do to deserve it?

Sibling relationship and food


Since Sahana started working, she buys some of the groceries. And not often, but sometimes those groceries include salt and barbeque chips or takis or hot flaming cheetos. She is a generous kid, who buys enough for herself and her brother. She keeps her brother’s packet of junk food out and promptly hides her own packet. The brother storms in from his boarding school over the weekend, opens the refrigerator door, devours whatever he finds to his taste and then complains, “There is nothing in this house to eat.” He finishes his packet of junk food and hunts in the hidden corners of the house for more. He has often gotten into trouble for eating his sister’s portion and once or twice there have been aggressive exchange of words. Expletives have been used and their mother has shouted at both of them.

Last night, Ryan came home mid week for a doctor’s appointment. Sahana and I had purchased our choice of chips – one packet each, to enjoy while the eating fiend was away at dorms. Ryan located our packets right away and helped himself to a generous portion from mine. He tried one or two from his sister’s too but he (fortunately) did not enjoy the flavor. He then hid both the packets of chips in a cabinet and asked me to tell Sahana that he came and took the packets with him to dorm. I was also asked to report to him her reactions. He was laughing his head off imagining how angry she would be when she came back from work to discover her packet of chips had disappeared. He cautioned me though, “Mom, if you see her balling her fists in rage, tell her I hid the chips. I don’t want her hurting my mother. Hee hee hee.”

Sahana came home from work and after she settled, I told her nonchalantly, “Oh, by the way, Ryan came home and took our packets of chips with him to the dorm. That boy is trouble.” As expected, Sahana got angry. “He has a eating problem. Do you realize that he has a problem?” She said a few more sentences about it, none of them complimentary to her brother. I could not keep the laughter bottled in anymore so I told her he hid her chips to get a reaction out of her. She laughed, “He is an idiot.”

I have not written about the kids for a while. This blog started as a record of my parenting journey. The journey continues and will continue as long as I live. There are exasperations, laughter, sullenness, successes, failures as we live our lives together. However, I have stopped writing about them now that they have grown up. I simply had to write down this anecdote to read later and remember this moment of laughter. Moments like these make life precious.

About half an hour…


It was cold outside but the morning was golden with bright sunshine. The sun streamed into our living room illuminating the photos of ma and baba. As I sat in front of them like every morning, sipping my coffee, I visualized in my mind’s eye the moment when those photos were taken. We have those moments.

I put on my coat, put in my ear plugs and went out for a brisk walk on a crispy cold day. The melodious voice of Kabir Suman singing Rabindra Sangeet poured on to my soul. As I crunched on the dry grass, felt the soft sun on my face and soothed my soul with music, I thought of ma and baba. A strange thought gave me peace today. I don’t know if they are looking down upon me, but I want them to be free of me and my life. I want them to start anew. Go on to your next life, find new happiness, forge new relationships, fall in love again, create your own tapestry of life with love and friendship and yes, loss too since that is inevitable. I will live out my life with the memories and in my mind I will always feel your love for me, my children and my husband. I don’t want you to look down upon me. Be new you.

I am writing this after my walk before the glow of contentment passes and the familiar feelings of anger, longing and heart break return. But while it lasts, I will cherish this new feeling of being able to let go.

The “goods” in the week of September 27th.


Ross Gay, the author of The Book of Delights: Essays has inspired me to find delights in little things around me and since I am trying to emulate him in looking deeper and feeling deeper, I discovered I find delight in hearing the tak- tak suction sound that my vacuum cleaner makes when it sucks in the little particles of debris into the vacuum cleaner. That sound is truly very satisfying. A audible result of me trying to clean the house. I discovered this delight yesterday as I vacuumed my oft neglected basement. The vacuum cleaning was good of the week, sure, but that discovery of delight was the real good.

Most days last week were sunshiny with blue sky. Durga puja is around the corner and the sky of America resembles my sky of Kolkata around this time. I find no joy in Durga puja but I love the sky. On my walks, either in the fields behind my house or on my breaks at work when I take walks around the grounds of the library, I soak in the sun and the sky. This weather will not last and I will revisit this sunlight in my mind during the dark days of winter.

The plants in my flower garden are still giving me some flowers. Obstinate ma plant is threatening to bloom. I touch her leaves sometimes and smile.

Sahana absolutely loves her new job and everyone at her new work place have been extremely kind to her. It makes my soul happy to hear her talk enthusiastically about helping people get their print job, or find the book that they are looking for. Working at a public library is extremely rewarding and people are mostly good. It reaffirms my faith in humanity.

Ryan was quite sick over the weekend, but seems to be on the mend today.

We had my friend’s dog for overnight. She was good for our souls.

Sean fixed all the light fixtures in our house that needed fixing. That man is a true giver in every sense of the word. He spent his entire weekend trying to make our lives easier and more comfortable.

I am currently reading Sooley by John Grisham. I can not say I am loving his style of writing. However, I did write a blog for our library blog post and I see they published it today. If you want, you can read my review of the book If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha here.

Not simply the ‘goods’ but the best thing this weekend is my friend’s love to me in the form of an exquisite shawl that she knitted for me. She gave it to me in the garden at work while we were having lunch in front of the paver stones dedicated to my parents. Her love and kindness – “bests” this week.

Hope your list of ‘goods’ is long. Have a great week.

Cumulative kindness


A friend asked me how I dealt with this double tragedy of losing my parents within a span of 9 days of each other right when it happened. Did the kindness of your family and friends help you recover, she asked. I thought about those horrific days when I sat on the couch completely numb, catatonic even. For a short time, I did not want to live anymore. The kindness of others did not even touch me at that point. When I look back, although looking back is very painful, I feel like I was so completely submerged in profound grief, I was beyond anyone’s touch. I felt my family around me hugging, crying, doing things for me but I was simply an observer of their action. Friends and community poured their love and affection but if I am honest, at that time, I was simply acting the way that I was supposed to act – saying thank you, smiling.

Slowly with time, I felt like I was emerging gradually from the quagmire of deep, heavy, suffocating grief. I read a friend’s post on social media, who lost his mother 7 days before I did that he was going to live his life to the fullest because that truly is the last and most precious gift that his mother gave him. He would honor and cherish that gift by being the best that he can be. That struck a chord. My life is truly their gift to me and I can honor that gift by being the best that I can be. It was then that I started looking around. And I found the acts of kindness and love all around me.

From the love of my friends to the many acts of kindness of my coworkers, my community, my cousins, my aunt – I lived in a universe of kindness. I was so immersed in my loss that I failed to feel the warmth of all the love. It was almost a selfish act. Almost, I say since I am determined to be kind to myself. From words of love to food, from taking my shifts at work to sending plants and flowers, from financial donations for Covid help in India in my parents’ memory to cards from all over the world. Prayers were said in several countries in the world by Sean’s colleagues in churches, mosques and temples for my parents’ soul and our peace. All the cumulative kindness of my community of friends and family became this huge cushion of comfort for me to rest my head. I have already written a blog about how my coworkers donated money to engrave 2 paver stones in memory of my parents in the garden of our library. I eat my lunch there these days and I go to see them during my breaks. Yesterday, I was having lunch with a dear friend near their paving stones when she said, “I have something for you.” It was not my birthday! Why would there be something for me? She gave me a gift bag with a tissue wrapped gift. When I opened the tissue paper, my jaw dropped. It was the most exquisite shawl knitted by her with all my favorite colors. She started knitting the shawl for me in June, just after my parents died.

I cried, of course. And then laughed. I went over to the paver stones to show ma and baba the shawl. I told them not to worry about me. I am loved and cared for. And now I am looking around and cherishing it.

The “goods” in the week of August 2nd.


The weeks and days seem to blur for me and it is difficult to remember the “goods” of this week. Did that good thing happen this week or the last, that is the question. Anyway, here is an effort to remember the “goods”.

My book club met this week after 2 months. Last 2 months were horrendous and I did not have the mental bandwidth to prepare discussion questions for books. However, when we met and discussed our selection for the month of July, I realized how much I enjoy meeting with each of those participants every month. How much they enrich my understanding of a book by their insightful input.

One work day I had lunch with a dear friend and coworker. She asked me how I coped or continue to cope with my losses. She has both parents living but both are elderly and she shudders to think of the eventuality. So we discussed. Sharing my thoughts with her was cathartic. I will write a different post about that conversation.

I went to the farmer’s market on Wednesday with friends.

Sahana, yet again, cooked delicious fried rice for our lunches. I am grateful for her love of cooking as well as culinary skills.

We got to pup sit for my friend’s puppy. She is my therapy pup.

My flowers look lovely and the African daisies are in full bloom. So are the gladiolus plants.

All of a sudden, I received a gorgeous dish garden from florists. A coworker sent it to me saying she continues to think of me and prays for me every day. I thanked her. Grief is lonely but it helps when one is enveloped with love.

Ryan is enjoying a couple of weeks of free time and is hence much nicer to be around. I am even getting occasional hugs.

Lastly, Sean and I embarked on a road trip down south. We hit Durham and Raleigh. We are now in Charleston and will visit Virginia beach before heading home.

As Sean and I sang along to the Spotify list that Sahana gifted Sean with our favorite songs as we drove down Interstate 95, I realized how much I love being with the man I married.

Although thoughts of ma and baba are never far from my mind and although there are several moments of sadness off and on, I am happy to be away from home and seeing something new with my favorite person.

This morning I asked Sean if he minded me talking about my parents to him so much. Talking about them, even their death and my sadness, helps me. He said “Absolutely not.” His eyes teared up along with mine.

Hope your list of “goods” is long and hope you have a great week.