Little things


Once the all encompassing sorrow recedes after a major loss, the wave of grief leaves behind little memories, which, like little pebbles, scratch open the scabs of the wound for some slow seepage of intense pain.

Little things like the absence of a daily wsapp message to ma “ki korcho?” (What are you doing?) And her unchanging response “TV dekhchi.” (Watching tv).

Little things like the urge to tell them about moments I loved or moments that made me sad.

Little things like something I read or a piece of music that all three of us listened to when I was young.

Little things about Sahana or Ryan. Things that only they would care about other than us.

Little things like opening up Facebook and checking if baba was active. If he was active, I knew he was well. The day after he contacted Covid, he went active on Facebook for a while. I turned to Sean and said, “He must be feeling better, he is posting on Facebook.”

Little things like checking when wsapp was last seen by ma.

Little things like teasing ma about timing my phone calls according to Rani Rashmoni’s show times on television.

Little things like planning our Kolkata trip.

Little things like connecting to the hotel wifi wherever we traveled and letting them know we have arrived wherever we were supposed to arrive. “Pouche gechi.” (We have arrived). And their response, “khub enjoy korish. Chobi tulish dekhbo.” (Enjoy a lot. Take a lot of pictures for us to see).

I realized these little things even more on our recent trip where the two anxious people thousands of miles away who waited for that message of arrival are waiting no more. My cousin sister, however, said, “I will be waiting. Write to me when you arrive.” So I wrote to her.

Little things like the constant realization that neither of them are physically there any more – living their life, showering me and mine with love.

Little things (not a little thing, this keeps me up at night) like I could not say goodbye when they left.

Death certificates


It still seems unreal as I write authorization letters to people to collect death certificates for both my parents. “I here by authorize _______ to collect death certificate of my deceased mother and father……”

Those have not been collected yet and that is giving me anxiety because I need those to prove to the world that my parents are dead. As if it is not enough that when I land in Kolkata airport, two eager faces will never, ever greet me again. As if it is not enough that no one will gently stroke my arm when she sees me for the first time after many months with a smile so huge that her face could not contain it. As if it is not enough that no one will go outside the chaos of an international airport in India to call the driver of the car to come and pick us up and when everyone is safely in the car, pass us bottled water and bars of Fruit and Nut Cadbury chocolate. As if it is not enough that I, a non tea drinker, will never, ever, sit in the living room with them sipping tea for companionship and talking about life. As if it is not enough that someone will never go to the fish market and tell the fish monger that his daughter is home and he needs to buy the freshest catch. As if it is not enough that all the messages, all the video calls, all the show of love and affection came to a sudden halt. As if it is not enough that I walk among the flowers in the morning trying to believe that their energy is now merged with the universe but still can not convince myself. As if it is not enough that I constantly ask “why” and never find an answer.

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.

My mother..


Recently a friend commented that he has renewed respect for his mother after singlehandedly cooking and taking care of his sick family members. He wondered how his mother did all this alone every single day. I don’t remember my mother in that role at all. She stayed far away from the kitchen. She declared loudly that she does not like to cook and only cooks when there is an absolute need. In 70’s Kolkata, that declaration was completely antithetical to the image of an ideal woman and a mother. Did she care though? Nope.

Instead of being a bringer of food, she nourished me with books. She ensured I was fed of course, but she also always made sure I had plenty of books to read. I used to get sick every month with some kind of fever as a child. Although I felt unwell, I did not mind the fever too much because every time I got sick, Ma bought new books to perk me up. They were not classics or anything deep, thought provoking or educational. They were Amar Chitra Kathas or comics of my favorite super heroes but I still remember the joy I felt in my fever ravaged mind as I saw the packet of books in her hands.

My favorite memory of Ma is us sharing the same pillow reading our respective books in summer afternoons during summer vacation.

Once school’s session ended and we got a few days off till next grade, she insisted I read a story book during the time assigned for homework just to stay in the habit of sitting down to work. I loved that ‘work.’ Interestingly, I got a job where reading is actually part of my work.

I remember her reading poems of Rabindranath Tagore to me starting with Shishu and then moving on to Sanchoyita. She guided me into the treasure trove of Bengali literature as she was a voracious consumer of all those treasures.

I remember her teaching me kindness.

I remember regurgitating all my school stories as a little girl while I ate my after school snack and she listening patiently.

My favorite thing about her is her laugh. She has this rumbling, all encompassing laughter which starts in her face and travels through her whole body and being.

She is very gullible. She believes easily and then laughs if she realizes she fell for some trick or pranks by her grand kids.

My Ma is not the one who worked all day to make me food or clean the house or arrange my table. She did work all the time to be my cheerleader, my fellow bibliophile, my confidante, my teacher, sometimes my counselor and also a strict disciplinarian.

She is fighting Covid in a hospital in Kolkata along with my father. I am very far away and can not be with either of them.

If you are reading this blog, do send some healing wishes to the universe for these people that you do not know but who could benefit from good, positive energy.

Happy mother’s day.

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.

Sweet 16!


I woke up thinking about the passage of time. My youngest will be turning sixteen in 2 days. I read some blogs that I wrote in the month of February in years past around Ryan’s birthday and this one brought a smile to my face. I am so thankful I captured some fleeting moments and some pure innocence of my children’s childhood in this blog post. Send some blessings his way for his birthday. I am a big believer in positive energy.

https://what-mama-thinks.com/2012/02/24/you-are-having-a-boy/

Treetop Castles – a poem by Sahana


I will share in this blog a poem written by my 21 year old daughter. We turned to our own unique ways to deal with this tumultuous period in our lives and Sahana turned back to writing. She shared a couple of poems with me as they capture moments of her childhood and I am the preserver of memories. I hope you like the poem:

Tree Top Castles

The fact of the matter was: the time was simpler.

And the sun faded everything into an even, sepia tone,

Not from film cameras, but a small, portable Nikon,

One I had begged for until it appeared, cherry red, on my birthday.

And the rest of that summer when we got to work,

I memorialized it in the best way I knew.

I took to bossing around the neighborhood kids like a pro,

Construction hat firmly in place where my mother pressed it on my forehead,

Foreman of the foremost building in the entire region,

Or at least in within the perimeter of the territory we had claimed as our own,

Biking around cul de sacs, no hands on handlebars, pedaling hard.

To the spot we chose for our lemonade stand.

We had put on a pasta dinner for our parents, raised money to fund the lemonade stand,

From the forty bucks they put in the hat, we gave half to charity, our good deed of the summer,

And spent the other twenty setting up a lemonade stand made of dreams.

Built of our own two hands and measured glasses, we got lucky

Cop cars rolling up and paying triple per cup,

One radioing his buddies and there were constant cups to pour.

We took the funds and bought nails and wood,

Deconstructing a moldy picnic table hadn’t been enough,

Not enough to touch the architectural wonder I had designed,

Three tiers, bedrooms almost, and a multilevel garage,

Designs drawn out with a careful hand between summer math packets and book reports,

Sketched in journals of elementary angst between pages of nascent poetry.

When the castle came together, months of the neighborhood kids clambering up trees,

Holding hammers and saws in unsafe ways,

Five year olds trying to keep up, dragging planks of wood from pile to pile,

We had constructed a fortress, and our last three dollars bought a cheap “KEEP OUT” sign,

Walking over with the whole crew to the hardware store that had come to know us.

We sat in the shade of the castle and poured out a jug of lemonade.

The memories hit me eleven years later when I saw the last plank fall out of place,

Rotted and unused, no girls spying on older baseball players or hide and seekers,

No pirate ships and scallywags roaming its decks in years.

I watched our treetop castle disintegrate in front of me, wisps of ash close at hand,

Thinking about how our neighborhood gang fell apart after eighth grade,

High school pressure too much to hold.

How we had been so close for so long,

Built something so beautiful,

And walked away without looking back.

Being 50.


50 was just another number till I went to my doctor for my physical. A little special perhaps, but still more or less another number like 49 or 51. But my doctor’s ‘wit’ hit home the truth. Wow, I made it to 50! She said, “Here is the slip for getting your colonoscopy done. And your bone density scan. Happy birthday!”

What does being 50 mean to me? I thought of this as I drove home from the doctor’s office.

Memories of youth have started fading so I try to think of them often, or write them here. My futile attempt to hold on to the beautiful ones and relinquish the ones that are not so beautiful.

Being 50 is looking at the mirror thinking, “I look darn good for a 50 year old” and then looking at a photo of me thinking “Jeez, look at those bags under my eyes!.”

Being 50 means insomnia often. But there are plenty of books to read so the quiet of night and sleeplessness bother me less. The tiredness on the following day does though.

Being 50 means seeming slow to my fast moving children when it comes to technology.

Being 50 means desire to travel intensifying – post Covid, of course.

Being 50 means being sad sometimes for no apparent reason.

Being 50 means not feeling invincible anymore.

Being 50 means glimpses of my mortality and surprisingly being unafraid of the thought.

Being 50 is losing myself in my memories of childhood, youth and young romance with my handsome beau.

Being 50 means realizing that my children need me less and less.

Being 50 means being picked up and twirled around by my 15 year old son when he realizes he is close to getting in trouble. I invariably laugh. He does not dare if he IS in trouble.

Being 50 is caring more for doing my part in the world AND caring less about slights/snubs/insults.

Being 50 is also being thankful for the opportunities that I have been given.

Being 50 is being freer in thoughts.

Being 50 is being confident.

Being 50 is creaking of joints.

Being 50 is groaning a little while getting up as the knee twinges.

Being 50 is being afraid of losing loved ones.

Being 50 is shedding superficial relationships.

Being 50 is enjoying silence.

Being 50 also means starting to think of how life will be in the next phase.

Being 50 is giving thanks to be alive on a gorgeous day amidst nature.

Being 50 means finally finding my “good side” for selfie, directed by the daughter of course.

Being 50 means not quite understanding how being 50 should feel!