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!

Growing my blog


I published a new blog today and after 5 hours of publishing it, my viewership is 17. I have had 10 visitors and my blog site has been viewed 17 times. Before the day ends, if I get 30 views, I will call it a successful blog post day. I guess the whole point of putting one’s thoughts online for public consumption is to have public actually consume it. Well, public in general is not consuming my blog at all. There are, I believe, many reasons for it.

Folks do not like what I write or how I write.

Folks are not interested in what I say or have to say.

There are many engaging reading materials out there.

I am not reaching out or engaging in the blogging community to bring in more viewers.

I seem to be getting followers but they are simply not reading my blogs.

There are myriad of other reasons but my brain is too tired to think of those.

Since there were 0 views on the blog for the last 3 days before I published one blog today, I started wondering what I should do to promote viewership. Should I write more, read more blogs of other bloggers, join blogging groups, comment and like blogs, all of the above?

Then I thought about why I write. I started writing blogs when I was going through a difficult time about 9 years ago. I do not want to share specifics. The blogs were happy and cheery tales of my children. While life was full of terrible anxiety, the blogs were full of sweetness and happy thoughts. They allowed me to cope with reality. This site was my happy place. After the crisis passed, children grew and life became busier, the blog site was mainly forgotten till the pandemic hit. Again, the blogs came to my rescue. I started putting down my thoughts, memories and stories on this platform, ones I thought were worth sharing. Although very few people read it, I have one dedicated reader who reads it without fail, rates them with 5 stars and posts a love on my Facebook share, and tells me often that my blogs make her happy. Her love matters most as these blogs contain a large part of her tween and teenage, her mother’s thoughts and stories of her life. These blogs will hopefully serve as her treasure chest of memories once I am gone.

So do I want viewership to my blogs grow? Absolutely! Will I make an effort to be part of a blogging community? No. The reasons being I am lazy, I like to read books, write my thoughts once in a while and watch Call of the Midwives obsessively (lately).

At the end of the day, I write because it makes me happy. Some of you read the blogs and leave a comment or like. That makes me happy too Thank heavens I kept my day job! 😀

“A tree fell on my childhood…literally!”


There is a beautiful, majestic tree in my backyard. I love the tree so much that I have even written a sentimental blog about it.

You can read the blog here.

As a very irresponsible parent, I allowed my 10 year old daughter and 5 year old son to build a ‘tree house’ along with 5 other similarly aged neighborhood children on the branches of that tree. Why is that irresponsible you ask? Because there was no adult supervision there. None! I shudder to think all the accidents that could have happened in the process. But it didn’t and they are alive to tell the story. So there’s that.

The tree house was simply some planks that were lying around in my neighbor’s yard. The children dragged those planks to our back yard, gathered huge nails and hammers. They hammered those heavy planks on to the branches of the tree and created a platform kind of a structure. As I write about it, I envision broken thumbs, pierced skin, flattened skulls – but none of those happened. As they hammered way above the ground, I calmly washed dishes, cooked dinner not worried about their safety at all. My neighbor finished her chores in her house unafraid as well. What were we thinking? Looking back, I think it was summer, the children were little and we wanted them out of the house. And it makes me embarrassed to think I was so calm while they were embarking upon such dangerous activities.

The ‘tree house’ was finished. The unabashed pride on those little faces at their accomplishment was priceless. They announced to the world that they had built their tree house all by themselves without any help from grown ups. Many afternoons were spent up on that tree house. Many picnics were had, many games were played, many imaginary friends were invited. Sahana was obsessed with spy games where she was the main spy with an assistant. The little brother, at that age, was honored to be an assistant and took his role very seriously. I have this precious photo of them as they played on their tree house.

No description available.

And yes, pictured above is their tree house. To them it was the best tree house that ever existed in the universe and who are we to dispute that?

As they got older, like many things in their childhood, the tree house was slowly forgotten. Sean looked up at the decaying planks and often talked about taking them down but never got to it. Recently, after a major storm, one of the limbs of our beautiful tree cracked and after hanging on an unused wire for a while it finally hit the ground one afternoon along with some rotted planks of the tree house (or tree platform). Sahana and I were having tea on the back deck when it happened.

“Mom, our tree house is falling down.” She exclaimed. “Did you see that? A tree fell on my childhood……literally!”

Since I am the archivist of her childhood, I will put this memory too in the treasure box. She can open it and peruse at her leisure. No tree shall fall on her childhood under my watch! 🙂

Fear of running out.


This is just a short blog about books and is written mainly for the bibliophiles out there. Tell me if you relate to what I am about to write.

That I love books and have loved them forever is no secret to those who know me. Growing up, I could be found either in one corner of the house, or on bed, completely engrossed in a book. So engrossed that when friends and family came to visit, I was reprimanded for not being social. After being chastised, I would come out to socialize but my mind would be lost in whichever world my book explored at that point. Did that happen to you? That you could not wait for people to leave so you could get back to reading?

I always, always worry about running out of books to read when we go on vacation. I pack ‘just one more book’ in my book bag, in case I read them all. I can not possibly read 5 hefty books on a 3 day vacation but I throw in a 6th book. Just in case.

I do not enjoy reading books on my tablet but on top of physical books, I borrow another 4 books on my tablet. Just in case.

The only time I do not carry physical books with me or carry just 2 is when I travel to India (I borrow books on my tablet though). There are 2 reasons for that. One, of course, is the weight that we are allowed to carry on the flight. Second, I get my fill of Bengali books when I get home. I make my annual pilgrimage to Ananda Publishers in Gariahat market to buy books of my favorite Bengali authors.

What did you hoard up on when the pandemic started? I hoarded up on books. I work at a library. When we found out that the library will be closing for 2 weeks (ha, that sounds so funny, right now), I made 2 trips to my car with bag full of books. And then I worried what if I run out of reading material in 2 weeks? Well, that 2 weeks stretched to 3 months and I did not run out of books, thanks to ebooks borrowed on Libby and Netgalley. I have become semi comfortable reading on my tablet although I still don’t love it.

Once our library opened for staff and Contactless Pick up, I found such pleasure in shelving books and like an addict, checked out piles to read. Is this an addiction? If it is, I have no desire to break out of it.

During school and university days, I gave myself a treat between studying and snuck in a few chapters of a book to free my mind from information. If you ask my mother, however, she will tell you I gave myself more treats than study hours. (So don’t go asking her). The idea that a book will be my reward after certain hours of studying was so inviting. Today, I smiled back at that memory. I needed to do research on an unpleasant subject. My dad, all of a sudden, developed a health crisis. I am far away and unable to be with him. Before I settled down to research and scare myself with all that internet will throw at me, I decided to eat a sandwich and read a few chapters of my current book before I fired up my laptop. Real life waited as I turned the pages. Sometimes I don’t like being an adult at all. I don’t want to deal with all that I have to. I hang a carrot stick, in my case, a book, in front of me to keep going. Do you ever feel that way?

With that promise of escape, real world which has pandemic in it right now, and a faraway, unwell dad on top of it, becomes bearable.

Sage’s path


This is Sage’s path. No, our county did not name it Sage’s path, we did. Our backyard abuts some sports fields and right next to the fields were acres and acres of cornfields for as long as we lived here. About 3 years ago, the owner of those cornfields sold his land to developers. One fine day, we saw and heard big machinery mowing down the green. Like magic, big and small houses appeared, they were sold and bought, within a year young families moved in. Lucky for us, though, the developers kept a swath of land undeveloped and wild as a buffer between the new community and the fields.

As Sage grew older, we shortened the route of his regular walk to the fields so he had enough stamina and also could walk leash free. Every morning, I hung his leash around my shoulder, opened our gate and walked towards the field. Sage, quivering with excitement bounded ahead, but always looked back to make sure I was within his sight. A lot was accomplished during those walks. Bunnies were sniffed out, mom was protected from attacking deer, exciting new smells were discovered, explored and sometimes licked. If mom did not stop him in time, there was some rolling in deer poop. Then there was scolding and shaking of head by mom, followed by a bath when we came home. As Sage explored the wilderness, I freed my mind, breathed in the fresh air and tried to absorb the soothing energy. Even on his last day, I took him to his fields to say a final goodbye. He could not walk far so he took a few steps, looked around. I believe he sighed.

The shadow of the 3 of us on Sage’s path.

Sage left us on January 31st and we began our quarantine on March 13th. During this time of physical isolation, Sean, Sahana and I walked in the fields and the undeveloped area that the developers spared almost every single day. Without a big yellow dog to chase and scold them, the deer, foxes and bunny rabbits watched us walk by. I could almost see a bounding big dog running ahead of us, looking back, saying, “You coming?” We talked about him. We walked through those fields every single evening, reminiscing about Sage but in a good way. That path, for his humans, has become Sage’s path.

Ryan laces up his sneakers saying, “I will go for a run to Sage’s path.” When we ask each other where we wanted to walk that evening we suggest, “Should we just go to Sage’ path?”

I realize grief is non linear. I think of him everyday. I really do. This quarantine gave me so much time to pause and grieve. It gave me the opportunity to get angry at the injustice of losing him and also gave me moments when I smiled at his memories. Each of us grieved in our own unique ways. Ryan’s perspective on this loss was noteworthy and I thought I should write it down.

“I know, mom, you are so sad about his death. I was, of course, sad but I learnt a lesson from losing him. Sage’s death has taught me something new. Losing something invaluable like Sage has taught me I need to value what I have. I am fifteen. Before losing Sage, I took things for granted. My family, my friends, the materials I have. His death taught me not to take things for granted. Nothing lasts. I need to value what I have. I text back my friends more regularly which I did not do before, I try to spend more time talking to my family, I appreciate all that I have. Sage’s death taught me all this.”

Although Sage decided to simply find a permanent place in our hearts, his path remains. His path leads me to peace. It leads Sean to contemplation. It leads almost adult Sahana to a bonding time with her family and perhaps, reflection. His path leads Ryan to a life lesson.

Rest in happiness, beautiful boy.

Summer afternoons


I did not ever think, as I was growing up in hot and humid Kolkata, that I would look forward to summer. Due to strange twist of fate, life brought me to a land where many of us get through winter with the hope of sunny days in the horizon. In Kolkata, we looked forward to the winters because out of 12 months, 11 were hot and humid with some respite brought on by monsoons. Perhaps this is old age, perhaps this is because I am physically far away from the discomfort but I was reminiscing about my summer afternoons as a child. I hear from Khushi’s mom that it is more and more difficult to make Khushi take a nap during the hottest part of the day. Her mother, after working hard in the morning, lies down for a well deserved siesta but for a little girl, that is sheer waste of time. I know. I was that little girl once.

The norm was to take a nap in the afternoons when the sun was at its hottest. Only stray dogs roamed the streets, looking for shade along with an erstwhile beggar or vagabond. Peddlers still walked the streets with their ware, offering to refill our mattresses, selling fruits or pushing an ice cream cart. I lay down next to my mother against my will, fidgeted, got scolded, tried to lie still after and then invariably and stealthily tiptoed out of the dark and cool room to read a book. Those afternoons belonged to Noddy or The Secret Seven or Thakurma r Jhuli. The colorful pages of Amar Chitra Kathas took me back in the world of myths so I could watch Krishna kill the snake Kaliya or Ganesh defy his father, Shiva, to protect his mother’s privacy. Those afternoons were for time travels. Those were the times when a little girl living in the congested city of Kolkata went to country side of England and adventured with George, her dog Timothy, and her cousins, or in New England where Jo vowed never to marry and Beth played the piano as Marmee went out to help the community and share their Christmas dinner. Those summer afternoons were magical till mother woke up and chastised for not taking an afternoon nap. After siesta, it was teatime for grown ups, and dreaded glass of milk for me.

I hear Khushi tiptoes out from her mother’s side, after her mother falls asleep to find my father, her dadai (grandfather), and complain to him about the gross injustice of having to sleep in the afternoon when she is not sleepy at all. And my father totally agrees that grown ups are no fun whatsoever. With his approval she quietly loses herself in the imaginary world in her head. She sings and converses, she sometimes dances and smiles. She knows when her mother wakes up and scolds her for not napping, she will have an ally in her dadai, her adopted grandfather.

I smile as I hear this. History repeats itself.

Food and us


Long, long time ago when I was very little and was just learning to read English, my mother bought a picture book for me. It was mainly pictures of two blonde children, their white dad, their white mom and their yellow dog. The few sentences in that book talked about their usual day. For example, they woke up at 7:00 am, ate breakfast, played with their dog, went for a picnic – mundane things like that. The most surprising element in the book for me was that the mother started making dinner at 4:00 pm and the family ate dinner at 5:00 pm. I remember reading that line again and again in amazement and wonder. I always wondered what the family ate and it confused me to no end that dinner was prepared in one hour. Since I was a wee lass, I have seen and observed a very different rhythm of life, not only in our household but in the society in which I was nurtured. The rhythm of our very middle class Bengali life was completely food centric.

When I was 4 or 5 years old, the morning started with intense smoke. The household help put fire to the earthen stove called unoon. It required coal and cow dung patties. Experts could get it going with minimum smoke but if one was not an expert or the coal was not completely dry, the smoke permeated the whole neighborhood. Water for morning tea was boiled on the burning stove, followed by breakfast. Generally the menu for breakfast was decided the night before. Tea was accompanied by biscuit (cookies), while real breakfast was cooked. After breakfast, the household help came to my grandfather asking what the menu for lunch and dinner would be. My grandfather held the purse for family expenditure so the menu for lunch and dinner was a joint decision by my mother and him. Sometimes they disagreed and then there would be problems.

When I was older, we first had kerosene stove and then gas stove with two burners. Ah, the luxury!! Two burners were so appreciated and the hassle of not having to get the earthen stove going every morning was the best feeling ever by those responsible for cooking family meals. This is how the day went in our house and it is safe to generalize in this case and assume that this is how the day went in most houses when I was growing up. My mother, at that point, decided the menu for lunch and dinner, the household help went to the market to pick up ingredients for the meal. She came home and started the process of chopping vegetables, gutting fish or cleaning meat, preparing spices. When I was young, we did not use ready made spices. Cumin paste was made from scratch, turmeric paste obtained from turmeric tube, gorom moshla was made by crushing cardamom, clove, cinnamon sticks in a mortar and pestle. I still remember the sound and smell of fresh spices being prepared and the noise of sheel nora in our kitchen. Lunch menu was definitely different from dinner menu. In between, there had to be elaborate breakfast – luchi torkari, and evening snack – porota alu r torkari or Bengali chowmein or alu r chop (fritters of different kinds). We had tea (milk for young ones) and biscuit when we woke up, around 9 there would be a hearty breakfast, lunch around 1 or 2, tea again around 4, evening snack around 6 and dinner around 10:30 or 11 pm. This was typically how much we ate during a day off. So one can imagine, the household help’s day was spent in the kitchen. With the advent of gadgets and ready made spices, life became much easier but for many families the number of meals in a day remained the same.

For me, someone used to seeing life revolve around preparing food, it was incredible that the mama in the family started preparing food at 4 pm and the family sat down to dinner at 5 pm.

Being a mama in the family now who loves to cook but hardly has time anymore, I now smile at my amazement at the book. Most days we scrounge around, make do with what is lying in the fridge, boil some pasta and slap some pesto on it, make peanut butter and jelly sandwich and make dinner in less than half an hour. Those days I think that mama in the book must have made some elaborate meal – it took her a whole hour!