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.

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.