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.

Wait, I am gonna cry….


The conversation was just general. Before the library opened, my coworkers and I were doing our regular work that we do every day to get the library ready for public. Between pulling online requests for materials we often chat, catch up, listen to music as we do our treasure hunt of books, cds, dvds. Two of my friends asked me about our plans for Sahana’s birthday and I began to tell them. Out of nowhere, I had an overwhelming surge of grief that overpowered me within seconds. Do you know the feeling when your nose starts itching and you realize a sneeze is coming? It was the same feeling except the stinging was in the eyes and sudden grief was suffocating. Instead of a sneeze, tears started rolling. If it was not so sad, it would be funny really.

“I am sorry, I am going to cry.” I said and I did exactly that. I started crying. And while I cried I walked towards the restroom for napkins and water. Once the tears eased up, I wiped my eyes, obliterating the carefully applied kajol in my eyes, splashed water on my face and joined my two friends. And they welcomed me back without making me feel even a tiny bit awkward. As if it is completely natural for someone to burst into tears between general conversation.

The point of this blog post is to acknowledge that I have some people in my life who simply take these outbursts in their stride and continue loving me. While I grieve my loss, they allow me the time to do so while standing by with their quiet love. I guess that is what friendship is all about. They don’t tell me not to cry, they don’t tell me to be strong. I am grateful that they allow me to be vulnerable but I don’t break because they hold me up with their love.

The “goods” in the week of July 26th.


Not just the “goods” but the best thing this week was Sahana’s birthday. Although it was a week day, we went out for dinner and watched a movie. I love to celebrate birthdays and this was the birthday of my special girl. I can not lie, the day was bittersweet. I shed a lot of tears and also felt an immense surge of love for life with Sahana in it.

Ryan finished his 6 weeks of summer biology on Friday. He ended up with decent grades and judging by his incessant chatter on the subject, some knowledge.

Sahana wanted a beach day with family for her birthday. So the four of us went to the beach on Friday.

Our youngest driver drove us to our hotel and there were just two white knuckle moments in the entire journey.

Saturday was perfect for a beach day. Sahana and I went to the beach while the boys lazed in the hotel room for a while watching Olympics before joining us.

I read next to Sahana on the sand.

Sean gave me a heart attack when he went to swim in the ocean and disappeared without telling me he was going for a swim. I thought he had drowned. I even spoke to the young lifeguard on duty. The “goods” is he did not drown. He came back and was even sheepish when I told him I was worried sick.

We had unexpectedly good Mediterranean food at the beach. And of course, ice cream.

It was good to be together without any constraints on our times.

I was craving to be near water since the loss. I was able to sit and watch the waves crash relentlessly. There is a belief life is like a wave, building up and then crashing before becoming one with water again. I thought ma and baba are back where they came from after giving me life and a lifetime of love.

Sahana drove us back. As I sat next to her and watched her navigate traffic and heavy rain I again wondered how quickly time passes.

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

Digital graveyard


By Sahana

When you live half a world away from the people you love, you adapt. You learn, even if it’s not your forte, all the social media and video-calling and trouble-shooting when you can’t see the other person’s screen. It was simpler in 2007 when we’d go to an Indian grocery store and buy a pre-paid card and dial all of the numbers and hear the familiar cadence (that still rings in my ears once in a while): “Welcome to Reliance. Please enter the number you wish to call, starting with country code.” 

But Skype broke onto the scene, so soon clunky desktops and attachable webcams were the norm, and then Facebook and Instagram and Whatsapp made immediate communication possible and we reveled in it. We called at any hour and we would talk for a bit only to call back later on with some new piece of information. 

My grandparents were both pros online. Comments and posts were frequent and status changes were a daily occurrence. My grandfather tagged me and forty other people in almost everything he posted, even if it was in Bangla and he knew I wouldn’t be able to read it. My grandmother commented on almost everything I posted anywhere, even if no one else did. There were Photoshop collages on our birthdays and pictures and videos of new flowers in the garden and of food and of them dressed up and going to work in the community or going to weddings or picture of cute dogs. They left a mark on my internet spaces that I keep going back to and looking at, a once thriving and vibrant internet city, with flooding comments and posts and signals of life that meant things were good and normal and okay, a regular good morning and good night to start and end the days. It’s a monument now. A testament to the community they built. The friends they had and the family they started. I’ve been looking at old posts and messages a lot lately, until it makes me too sad.The posts aren’t sad, but the fact that there is a date past which neither of them were active at all, that’s the part that’s hard to look past. 

Sometimes, despite all the techy-ness that both Didiya and Dadai exhibited regularly, there were some glitches (as there always are). Bios were hard and confusing and not really important. For example, Dadai’s says “At school”, which is honestly kind of amusing. But Didiya’s bio on Whatsapp, I hadn’t looked at for a while. And I don’t know why or when she made this her bio, or if it was a message to someone specific that was typed mistakenly in the wrong place. I don’t know if it was intentional (somehow I kind of doubt it). But still, it felt a little meant for us, for right now, when I looked at her bio on Whatsapp tonight and it read “Love you my sweet heart”. 

The last message on Whatsapp I sent her was on April 15th, though we talked over Whatsapp after that too, ducking my head into the frame every time I saw my mom on the phone with her. The last time I talked to Dadai was the day before he died and he was so talkative that he got in trouble with his nurse for using too much oxygen. We talked about how I was going to be graduating soon and he asked me to send him a link to the ceremony and I said I would. I have a screenshot from that conversation, and in that moment, I don’t know why I took it, but now it’s the last picture I have with the two of us in it. 

And as I go through their posts, and my own, and pictures in my mom’s albums, I think that we should have had more pictures and more videos and more conversations over the phone. More video calls and voice memos and games of ludo in their living room, eating aloo bhaja on the floor as I lose yet another game to my little brother, who had the unfair advantage of Didiya whispering the right moves to him and Dadai laughing at the ensuing argument. But most I think we should have just had more time. It was too quick, too sudden, too abrupt. And the shrines they built themselves online just feel like loss.

An unhappy birthday


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

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

Some unfinished business..


The last in person image I have of my mother is when Ryan and I were getting in the car in August of 2019 to head to the airport. She was standing at the door, tears in her eyes, waving goodbye. We waved till we could not see each other anymore. I told her I will be back in May of 2020 to celebrate my 50th birthday with them. So it was just a matter of few months till we see each other again.

My last interaction with baba was an awkward hug at the Kolkata airport when I repeatedly told him to take care of his health. And to him too, I said, “See you in a few months.”

They wanted to plan a big party for my 50th and I said a hard no. Although in my mind I knew if they were determined to throw a party they will, my ‘no’ would have no value.

Covid attacked the world. We did not see each other for my 50th birthday but we lived in hope. 2021 brought so much promise. And then it took them away. There are a few unfinished business that were not taken care of though.

I requested that they buy me a couple of Kashmiri shawls for my birthday. Baba loved to buy clothes for me, their son-in-law and their grandkids. Ma did too but she felt my father’s tastes were superior to hers so she allowed him to make the selection. Baba went to Kashmir Emporium in Dakkhinapan to buy the shawls. I got to see them via video call. They are beautiful. They were hoping to give them to me for my birthday when I went home. The shawls are now sitting in the closet waiting for me. The ones who bought the gifts with so much love aren’t around to hand them to me. But their love persists.

Last Christmas I wanted a gift of a family portrait. Despite Ryan’s reluctance, we all got dressed up, went to a studio and got a professional to take photos of us. I ordered a couple of extra prints to take home with me when I went back. They are lying in an envelope in my closet. The ones who had requested the prints and who would have proudly hung them on their wall are not around anymore. I realized there is absolutely no one left who would treasure our visits or our photographs.

I was told to bring a bag of dark chocolates, cans of tunafish and a bottle of advil. Those were standing orders. Whatever I brought on top of those were surprises. Now there is no need for any of those things.

There are these unfinished transactions that we did not have time to finish. I will keep the extra photographs and eventually when I go back I will wrap the shawl like I wrapped their love around me. They do not need the photographs any more as they live in our memories and our hearts now. Sean and I both cried tonight talking about their sudden departure and then laughed too at memories of their constant bickering.

I believe that is how life will be from now on.

The “goods” in the week of May 17th.


Again, it feels quite morbid to find the “goods” in a week when baba died. Thinking about the “goods” is therapeutic though and it shifts my focus away from sorrow.

Baba’s end was peaceful. Like ma, he went gently into the night.

He never had to know that ma had passed away.

He was in his own home cared for by people who cared about him.

My friend from Hyderabad called long distance to arrange for steady supply of oxygen cylinders to make sure baba could breathe.

My friend’s husband, a physician, took baba’s caregiver’s call at any hour and guided him over video call. He took charge of my father’s well being and did his best to help him recover. When I approached my friend regarding his fee they declined.

My cousin registered him for health department in case he needed readmittance to hospital.

My friend from school and her husband stayed in constant touch with the caregiver, ready to help.

A friend from social media who I never met in real life jumped into action making calls for oxygen.

I write all this to show that people fought with him and for him.

My flowers look beautiful and there is not a single weed in sight. Weeding, watering and tending to the plants have been truly comforting.

Sahana graduated from college with magna cum laude in both her majors.

I went to Sahana’s graduation and met my big, beautiful family that I married into. They held my hand, lend a ear and just loved. I could give my mother in law a hug after over a year.

Ma and baba would be happy to know I am enveloped in love and kindness by friends and family near and far in my time of need.

Help thy neighbor


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

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

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

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

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

My big declaration on Valentine’s day!


We were married for no more than 3 months. I was totally fresh off the boat in a completely new country trying to deal with all the newness compounded with culture shock as well as living with a brand new husband when my newly wed groom declared he needs to travel internationally for work. Although I was 26 years old, I had never lived alone in my entire life. Forget living alone, I did not even have a separate room in all of those 26 years. When I heard I was going to be alone in an apartment in the middle of a bustling American city where I knew no one, did not know how to drive, did not know the streets very well except a few, I had a panic attack. Anyway, he left. I survived. That became the central theme of our relationship. Sean would travel every month for at least one week, more often two. I got used to his travels so much so that all I wanted to know from him were the dates of his departure and arrival along with his flight details. The names of the places he went to seemed made up anyway – Ouagadougou, Bangui, Jonglei, Agadez, Huehuetenango! During all these comings and goings, we built a life, had 2 children and a dog. And I got high blood pressure from worrying about him. He traveled to Afghanistan during Taliban era, to Sri Lanka when the rebels tried to blow up the airport where he was waiting at the time to catch a flight home, to Indonesia and adjoining countries after Tsunami, to Liberia while Ebola was rampant, to Bhuj, India AND Haiti when the horrible earthquakes claimed thousands of lives. In Haiti, he was in the middle of his shower when the aftershock of earthquake happened, and he had to rush outside with a towel around his waist.

The children got used to dad’s travels, they were sad when he left and ecstatic when he returned. It was all that they knew. Sean’s travels fell into the natural rhythm of our lives together. I ran around taking the children to their practices, swim meets, after school activities and when I could not be in two places at once, I asked for help from friends. It took a village.

Sean was grounded literally since the beginning of the pandemic. He has not traveled since February 2020 and does not have any plans to travel in the near future till things settle down and/or we get vaccinated. This state of static is new for both of us and I wondered how it would be to have him home 24/7. After a phase of initial adjustments we got used to his constant presence, his loud, booming telephone calls, his obsession with exercising and walking. And his constant giving. The man is a giver. During normal times, when he was not traveling, he made sure he did double doses of helping in raising the children and doing more than his share of housework. When he was with us, he was completely with us. Even before leaving for his trips, he tried his best to make sure my life would be as comfortable as possible while he was away. There have been times when he landed at the airport after a 17 hour plane ride, dropped his bags at home and drove to a swim meet or went to drop a kid somewhere because I was some place else with the other one, or he came home after a long trip and cleaned up the house because I could not (or did not) get to it. This past year he proved yet again what a great house husband he is, constantly picking up after me, keeping my car full, driveway clean as well as doing regular grocery store runs along with swim practice drives for our son. I told him with 80% sincerity that I would have even written a book about him and named it The Perfect Husband if only he could make gourmet dinners. Giving, doing, is his love language and he pours his love over us. His love spills over from his immediate family to those around him, his community, his work family and his global family.

As I wrote before, having Sean home at a stretch has been a new experience for me in our 24 years of marriage and as I was contemplating how it has been to be in such close proximity with my traveling partner, I realized it has been like being draped over with love, care and comfort. During this sad, awful time of anxiety and frustration, he has been my source of optimism. His faith and hope have often lifted me from depths of despair. So my big declaration on this Valentine’s day is that I LIKE my partner very much on top of loving him. That is it. That is my big declaration on this day of love.

Cooking with Sahana


…is fun and …..well, interesting. My 21 year old is an enthusiastic, creative and very good cook. She requests cook books for her birthday, she takes cooking lessons once in a while, she reads and tries to explain the chemical reactions that happen while ingredients mingle (I pretend I am listening, I really don’t), she checks out various recipes and then uses the salient features of several of those to make a dish. And they turn out wonderful. She wakes up excited to cook. To say that I am lucky is an understatement. I love to try different kinds of food and she obliges. Happily! Enthusiastically!

I cooked for Diwali, she helped. She wanted to cook for Thanksgiving and I volunteered to help and cook a few dishes. Our Thanksgiving is spent with our extended family where my contribution is generally a pecan pie. My sisters in law and brothers in law do the real cooking. Since we could not gather this year, we decided to cook full Thanksgiving meal just for the four of us. Sahana planned to cook turkey breast, garlic mashed potato, stuffing, brussel sprouts, homemade rolls and quiche of spinach and sundried tomatoes for the resident vegetarian. I was going to make squash casserole with walnuts and Gruyere cheese, cranberry sauce, peas, apple pie, pecan pie and a fruit pie crumble with whatever fruit was there at home. I am sad to report I slightly burned the top of the crumble.

Anyway, the point of this post is to write about my experience of cooking with Sahana. As I prepared to assemble the apple pie, and Sahana got the turkey breast out to brine, she asked, “What should we name the turkey breast?”

“Why should we name the turkey breast? We are going to consume it.” I replied.

She went ahead and named it Harvey anyway. She lovingly massaged Harvey with herb butter, gagging once in a while at touching raw meat. Harvey was then carefully placed in the fridge, uncovered.

“Shouldn’t you cover that?” I enquired, not wanting to see buttered turkey staring at me everytime I opened the fridge. No, she read that the turkey can not be covered. I did not dare contradict the chef who had been reading one recipe after another to cook this turkey.

After that, everytime she opened the fridge she asked Harvey how he was doing in there. It was slightly creepy hearing her talk to a dead bird like that. Morbid even! And comical! Everything she does in the kitchen is done with a lot of love and tenderness. So I was not overly surprised when I heard her crooning to something in the oven.

“You look so pretty, my darling.”

I asked who she was talking to.

“The quiche. It is looking so pretty.”

It did. I write this as she shooed me out of the kitchen because I was in the way. I half assembled my squash casserole. I will finish it once the very happy, very enthusiastic cook has done her cooking for today. To save her some trouble, I suggested that we buy Pepperidge farm stuffing and store made rolls. She looked at me as if I uttered blasphemy.

“Store bought?? No!”

She bought Italian bread, diced it, spiced it, baked it and made amazing homemade croutons for stuffing. Ryan and I stole quite a few of those already. Here is a photo of homemade rolls.

Home made rolls.

If you are brussel sprouts hater out there, I strongly recommend you try out this roasted brussel sprouts Sahana made with honey lime glaze with pistachios. It was perfection. I was slightly disappointed that this dish got no verbal love from its creator. It got gushing admiration from its consumer, though (me).

I enjoy cooking, sure. It relaxes me. But I certainly do not put so much love to the task. Cooking with Sahana and watching her work with love, joy and tenderness makes me smile.

This Thanksgiving is different. It is isolating and sad for many reasons. Cooking with Sahana will be a cherished memory though. 2020 Thanksgiving gave me that and I am thankful.