Obstinate Ma plant keeps on giving…


I planted this geranium on May 11th, 2021. It was the day after ma died. Sahana had given me this plant on Mother’s Day, which was the same day as my mother exited this world. So instead of pacing the house, trying to collect my grief, bewilderment, confusion, helplessness, I put all my feelings in digging a hole in the ground and planting a life. Perhaps to compensate for the life that just left me. Since that day I have spent many hours by this plant’s side. I called this my Ma plant or refer to her as Didiya plant to my children jokingly, but if I am completely honest, a part of me believes this plant carries my mother’s energy.

Sahana was somewhat concerned about my attachment to Ma plant and warned me that it too will die. I know that. However, I will always remember this particular plant as my refuge during one of the saddest periods in my life.

It is mid October now. Slowly I am saying goodbye to my summer blooms. One by one they are falling asleep as cold weather sweeps in our area. Not Ma plant though. It had stopped giving flowers for a while during the peak of summer so I asked it why it was being obstinate. Since then we refer to it as Obstinate Ma Plant. Obstinate Ma Plant did not grow in height much but it made up for its stunted growth in beautiful blooms. Even now it is budding new flowers and opening new blooms in its full glory. It seems like it wants to live its life to the fullest before it goes. It seems like it wants to radiate all of its beauty before death claims it. I like to think it mirrors my mother’s life. She was a vibrant woman who lived her life in her own terms. She nurtured me my whole life but when the day to day taking care of me was done, she turned to see how she can nurture others. So she opened an NGO to serve the underprivileged in her area.

Although some health issues had curbed her will to live in the last few years of her life, she lit up when she talked about the NGO. (And talking about her grandchildren lit up the inner light as well). She was waiting for the pandemic to pass so she could start the work again. It was not meant to be.

Anyway, what I want to say is ma’s alter ego, the Obstinate Ma Plant keeps giving just like ma did till she could give no more.

Lastly, I have been trying to write blogs that is not full of my grief but I can not at this time of festivities.

Canyon Overlook and other trails: Day 6


We both were tired of driving 2 and a half hours each way to go hike in different Canyons. It was also our 25th anniversary and I, more than Sean, wanted to sleep in and get a leisurely start to the day. We left the hotel around 8:30 am to drive a short distance to Zion National Park to hike up to Canyon Overlook. We crossed the 1.1 mile long historic tunnel and fortunately found a parking right at the trail head. It was a relatively easy hike up with a spectacular, panoramic view of the significant canyons in the distance. But the crowning glory of this particular hike was a chance meeting with 3 very handsome mountain goats. Sure, we had to stealthily go off trail to get close to them. And when we did, they just raised their heads to say, “Oh hey! How’s it going?” They were clearly not intimidated by us.

After finishing the trail, we found less traveled and unmarked trailheads to go down the canyon to the river bed. The rock formation there reminded me of Gothic architecture.

The popular trails were fun and beautiful. However, discovering new trails and chancing upon hidden waterfalls, finding the perfect rock in the shade, far away from hikers, listening to birdsong and trilling sound of water as we lay on the cool rock gave us such peace and tranquility. We loved hiking the crowded Narrows and the Emerald pool hikes and we loved the less traveled hikes and the exciting discoveries. This trip will be memorable for us. We celebrated our 25th anniversary, I went searching for tranquility for my anguished soul with the man I love after both my parents were taken away by this horrible virus that has snatched so many loved ones. Being amidst nature soothed me. I felt happiest I have felt in a long time when I was surrounded by nature. I could meditate. I could bring the smiling faces of my parents into focus when I closed my eyes.

When the heat started getting unbearable, we drove back to the hotel and took shelter till late afternoon. I had hoped to dress up for our anniversary dinner but I was deterred by the heat. We went to an Italian restaurant for a delicious pasta and pizza dinner. I must say, all our meals in Sprindale, Utah were fantastic albeit a bit pricey. As we finished dinner, the power went out in the whole city. We had to forego ice cream and walked slowly back to our hotel as diners around us wondered where to get food. We were witnesses to the recent New York black out and now we are proud witnesses to Springdale black out. A local informed us this never happened before.

Our 25th anniversary ended with watching reruns of our favorite crime show Law and Order SVU, next to each other on bed, content.

Bryce Canyon: day 5


According to https://www.brycecanyoncountry.com/blog/post/red-painted-faces-bryce-native-american-lore/

Indian Dick, a Paiute elder living on the Kaibab Reservation, told the Bryce Canyon hoodoo legend to a park ranger in 1936:

“Before there were any Indians, the Legend People, To-when-an-ung-wa, lived in that place. There were many of them. They were of many kinds–birds, animals, lizards and such things, but they looked like people. They were not people. They had power to make themselves look that way. For some reason the Legend People in that place were bad; they did something that was not good, perhaps a fight, perhaps some stole something…the tale is not clear at this point. Because they were bad, Coyote turned them all into rocks. You can see them in that place now all turned into rocks; some standing in rows, some sitting down, some holding onto others. You can see their faces, with paint on them just as they were before they became rocks. The name of that place is Angka-ku-wass-a-wits (red painted faces). This is the story the people tell.”

We again rose very early to get a head start to see the much acclaimed Bryce Canyon. After a picturesque drive, we arrived at the Visitor center, made a plan for our day and started our hike. We took the shuttle to the end of the shuttle stop – Bryce Point and walked the Rim Trail. For a long part of the walk, Sean and I were silent. There was truly nothing to say in front of such splendor and beauty of nature. I do not have words to express the magnificence of the canyon that we witnessed today so here are some photos.

I do not know if the hoodoos are the bad people turned into stone by the trickster Coyote, but they reminded me of intricately sculptured fortresses or castles or even temples.

From the Sunset point of the Rim Trail, we decided to descend about 350 feet to the Sevier River at the bottom of the canyon. There were two combined trails but we chose to hike the 1.3 mile long Navajo loop. I almost died the day we hiked down North Rim, but we had gone down 1400 feet that day. Navajo loop, I told myself, was nothing compared to that. In this trail we saw 3 different and famous structures created by rocks that have been named – Wall Street, 2 bridges and Thor’s hammer.

Thor’s hammer.

There was a cool breeze blowing which kept us comfortable as we climbed out of the canyon. I took several breaks to catch my breath but also to take it all in. After completing this hike we walked further along the Rim of the canyon till we got off the trail to get to our car.

The Visitor center had interesting information about the rock formations and also about Paiute Indians who inhabited the area. We then decided to drive 17 miles up the canyon to its highest elevation point, Rainbow point to get an expansive view of the area.

From Rainbow point.

On our way back to exit the park, we saw a prairie dog scurry from his burrow. Prairie dog sighting is quite common in these parts we were informed. Bryce canyon is one of the most picturesque canyons that I have seen. The sights of the hoodoos, the clear, blue sky above, the twisted bristle cone pines stubbornly clinging on to life despite being repeatedly hit by lightning, the chipmunks who tried to climb up my pants to beg for my trail mix, the sighting of prairie dogs – the whole tapestry of the canyon gave me peace. Mother Nature heals, a friend messaged me. “May you find peace in nature.” I did.

We drove back with tired bodies and refreshed souls.

Horse shoe bend, Lake Powell and a dinner at Kanab: day 4.


Today we slept in. We both woke up a little after 7 am and Sean said, “Oh no!” I grunted, “Oh yes! Today will be a low key day.”

We left the hotel at 8:30 am to drive over 2 and a half hours to see Horse Shoe Bend and Lake Powell. Horse Shoe Bend is a marvel where a big boulder is surrounded by blue strip of water. It was an easy, short yet extremely hot hike.

Horse Shoe Bend.

It was done within an hour so we drove through Page, Arizona to Lake Powell. We took a detour to see if a tour of the Upper Antelope canyon was available but it was sold out. So we drove around  some neighborhoods in Page to get a feel of the town, stopped to walk around Lake Powell, drove back to Kanab admiring the Vermillion canyons and buffaloes in the corals on our way. Supposedly one can see The Grand Escalante from the highway but we could not figure out. At Kanab we ate dinner at The Rocking V, drove back to hotel for a much needed shower.

Lake Powell

Tomorrow’s destination is Bryce Canyon. I am excited.

North Rim, Grand Canyon: day 3


On Sunday, I almost died because I am terribly out of shape. But that is besides the point.

We got in the car around 7:00 am to start our 2 and a half hour drive to North Rim, Grand Canyon in Arizona. Driving through the hairpin bends of the Zion canyons were slightly alarming but mostly breathtaking. And we saw this family on the side of the road, grazing for breakfast.

Mountain goats

We arrived at North Rim visitor center close to 10:30 am and started our hike after filling up our water bottles and looking at the different hike options. They were mostly easy hikes with only 2 moderate to difficult. Guess which one certain someone chose. Yes, “we” chose one of the moderate to difficult ones – of course. The North Kaibab trail went steeply down about 0.3 miles to Coconino overlook for a view of the Grand Canyon. My hope was to hike down there and hike right back up. We went down to the overlook, smiling at fellow hikers, giving way to mule riders and paying attention to mule poop and mule pee. Once we reached the overlook, we took a break taking in the scenery around us.

As we sat in the shade, we heard other hikers talking about Supai Tunnel further 1.7 miles down. 7 miles below that was Cottonwood campground  and 7 miles further down was Roaring Springs at Colorado River. Sean gently nudged me to go down to Supai tunnel. The canyon around me was so magical and the hike down did not tire me out so I agreed to climb down further. With each switchback I thought to myself “what goes down must come up” but decided to worry about the climb later. We reached Supai Tunnel. Sean spoke to every single hiker that we passed. A jovial “Hi, how is it going?” Or some sort of jokey comment. It was evident he was in his element. The responses were mostly enthusiastic and friendly. Some, however, especially from those straining as they climbed up were just panting grunts. Their panting scared me but I valiantly kept climbing down.

At Supai tunnel

After resting for a while at the tunnel and after replenishing our bodies with plenty of water and refreshments, we started our hike up to the top. And I almost died. It was a steep 2 mile climb with no level ground at all to regulate my breathing. At one point, I felt my heart was going to beat out of my chest. At every switchback, I sat down to bring my heartbeat down from 178 or so. Sean was right by my side the entire way, carrying our back pack, supplying me with water and saying, “Look how far you have come. Look, we are almost there.” I thought in my head I can not make it. But I did. It took a long time, but I made it up to the trail head. That feeling of accomplishment gave me such confidence. At the Coconino overlook, surrounded by the serene, regal canyons, I closed my eyes to meditate. Sean took a photo where a halo is seen above my head. It is nothing but the time of the day and the position of the sun. But when a friend said that looks like blessing from all those I lost, I liked it.

From the trailhead of North Kaibab trail, we hiked 1.4 miles back to our car, fortunately on level road, drank some more water and trail mix. Then we attempted the easy trail to see the depth of the Grand Canyon from the top rim. Bright Angel Point trail gave us this view along with hundreds of other excited hikers, busy snapping photos. Sean and I sat on some rocks quietly. I whispered to him, “Happy Anniversary!” It seemed the perfect place to tell him that I am so happy to be with him for the last 25 years.

On our way back we had delicious dinner at Wild Thyme in Kanab complete with a fantastic carrot cake. Drove through scary hairpin bends of Zion National forest as the sun set behind the canyons leaving their looming dark shapes and a bright orange hue in the horizon. The silhouette of the canyons were awe inspiring and the drive through those winding narrow mountain roads was harrowing.

We had a 14 hour day. My body needed an easier day but my spirit was ready to go. We were undecided on what to do on Monday but were sure we will think of something.

Zion Diary, day 2


No rest for the weary. Yesterday we woke up before 4 am to catch a flight. Today we woke up before 6:00 am to stock up on hotel breakfast and catch the shuttle to Zion National Park to beat the crowd at The Narrows hike. We were only partially successful. The shuttle was mostly full with hikers but not overwhelmingly so. We got off at Sinawava Temple shuttle stop and started the 1 mile walk on the Riverside walk. The Narrows starts at the end of Riverside walk where one goes down a few steps to enter the Virgin River and hikes for 2.5 miles to The Wall Street or longer.

We did not rent water boots or hiking sticks from the rental store at visitor center. There was a long line. Smartly, most of our fellow hikers had. I was apprehensive about my ankles and my knees without proper footwork. I wore my Abeo walking sandals and Sean wore his Tevas. On our way to the Narrows we both kept a sharp eye on suitable logs to use as walking sticks and eagle eyed Sean spotted two perfect ones.

As I tentatively stepped into the cold water of Virgin River to start our hike, I again sensed that unfamiliar feeling of happiness. And as I continued on the hike and watched sunlight gradually wash over the canyon around us, I thought of my parents. I hope their energy is now part of the splendor of nature. I thanked them, yet again, for giving me life so I can witness the beauty around me.

There were hikers of all abilities, ages, ethnicities. There were children being herded by parents, a few babies being carried on backpacks, older couples like us, daughter holding her mom’s hand, young people. As we were returning back, hordes of people were starting their hikes at midday when the temperature was in mid nineties Fahrenheit.

I almost fell once and took the treacherous parts real slow. Sean always lent a hand when I was in trouble. He is a good hiker and has tremendous balance. He also urges us to take the path less traveled. If it had not been for him, I would not have challenged myself on some tricky parts of this hike. He said I could do it and I did it. This trip is to celebrate our 25 years of marriage. And his gentle encouragement to challenge myself in situations outside my comfort zone has made me bolder in life. I thought of that today as I saw him waiting for me patiently as I navigated tricky rocks hidden beneath fast moving water. I knew he was there and that was enough.

After 5 hours of hiking we took the shuttle back, returned to hotel and started our research for a restaurant to eat. This is our second day here but all the meals we have had so far have been really good and somewhat expensive. We had dinner last evening at Bits and Spur and today at Oscar’s Cafe. Both restaurants had surprisingly good vegetarian options and stellar service.

We will, hopefully, drive to Arizona tomorrow to see the North Rim of Grand Canyon. If I have the energy and motivation, I will continue to write.

Zion Diary, day 1.


“Is it time already?” I croaked as Sean gently touched my shoulder at 3:52 am. Our Lyft was scheduled to come at 4:30 to take us to airport for our 6:45 am flight. We were flying into Las Vegas and then driving to Springdale, Utah for a few days of hiking in Zion and Bryce Canyon. My concerns were twofold – my aging knee and my gung ho husband who would want to attempt the most strenuous hikes and I would have to remind him he is not as young as he used to be, without hurting his ego.

I said goodbye to ma, baba, (their photos on my bureau), cleaned up, blew a kiss to Sahana’s closed door and left for the airport. After almost 5 hours of flying, during which I watched all episodes of The Chair (I highly recommend) and 2 episodes of Alrawaba School for Girls, we touched down.

We got our rental car and drove for 2 and a half hours to Springdale, checked in to our lovely hotel with gorgeous view of rock faces.

After charging our devices, we went out to get the lay of the land. We took a free shuttle to the Zion visitor center and a shuttle from there took us inside the canyon. We did a loop of the Emerald pool hike which was roughly 3 and a half miles in total. After many months, my heart felt a familiar sensation. I vaguely remembered it. It was happiness. It was gratitude that my parents gave me life so I could witness this wonder of nature. The magnificence of the rock faces, the silent strength of nature humbled me and set me free, at least for the time being. Pictures do not do the grandeur of the Zion canyon justice but we made a humble attempt to capture what we could for memory.

There is a word in Bangla – bikkhipto which roughly translates to restless. My mind is restless, angry. My heart is sad and I always question what bad karma led to this tragedy in my life. My ‘why’s and ‘what’s receded to the back corner of my mind as I hiked up and stopped often to imbue the beauty surrounding me within my soul. I got a reprieve.

If I am not too exhausted, I will continue my Zion diary in the coming days.

The “goods” in the week of July 19th.


The whole point of this exercise is to be mindful of little things which enrich my life. It is to be aware of the small picture and not simply live through the moment which was good. The point is to acknowledge them. I thought of skipping this blog of “goods” this week. It has been a long week of routine. This week has been one of remembering and being sad of my loss. But I still had some “goods” and I want to write those down.

I have been hitting my step goal every day. I go for my walks and then during my breaks at work I go around the grounds of our library and end up at the library garden before going in.

I went to the farmer’s market with my friends and bought bread, coconut cupcakes and absolutely delicious strawberry balsamic vinegar.

On Wednesday I was supposed to drive to pick up Ryan from his school after practice, but my angel of a daughter finished her work early and offered to go in my stead. I could go home and relax instead.

My garden looks vibrant with colors. My osteospermum, in other words, African daisy plants lay fallow for many weeks. All of a sudden they are full of buds and flowers.

Ryan finished fifth week of summer biology and talks a lot about what he is learning. He seems excited. One more week to go.

Ryan’s swim practice will end next week. The anticipation of not having to drive him for a few weeks is one of my “goods” for sure.

I find myself laughing with my coworkers more these days. Sometimes I surprise myself that I can laugh again. But that is good. That is moving forward. My parents would have wanted that.

Ryan scored well in his Advanced Placement test of World History. Funnily that was surprising to both of us as he said he did not test well in that subject. He also did not know when the result was coming out. My friend, whose daughter took an AP test told me she got her result. I checked and there it was. I worry about that boy about his organization skills.

I love sitting down with Sahana at the end of our days and exchange customer stories from our respective work places.

Ryan had a swim meet in Virginia this weekend. Sean and I dropped him off at the facility and drove to nearby Leesburg. We walked around the historic downtown and ended up having lunch in a cute restaurant called Shoe’s Cup and Cork. I had a good day.

On Sunday, while Ryan swam, Sean and I walked by Potomac river. I paused by the river for a while and thought about ma and baba.

This week I had a long conversation with my cousin in India. Both our mothers died on the same day within 10 hours of each other’s death. Interestingly enough, these two sisters-in-law were close friends as well and we both remember their giggly youth. We laughed about how they planned their exit together to giggle some more like yester years and eat junk food like they used to. Then we both cried. My memories of our shared childhood is a comfortable place to land when my grief becomes too intense. I told her that.

Ryan got best times in 6 of his 7 events. His happiness at his achievement after putting in hard work is definitely in my list of “goods”. Ma and baba were embarrassingly proud of both of their grandkids. I bet they are bragging about them to whoever will listen as I write this.

There were still moments of sadness during days (and a sleepless night) but there were no I-can’t-breathe anxiety this week.

May your list of “goods” be long. Hope you have a great week.

Petals within pages


“You know the plant is going to die, right?” Sahana said to me with slight panic in her voice, cutting off my effusive gushing over “obstinate ma plant”. In my slightly unbalanced (hopefully temporary) mind, the geranium that I planted the day after ma’s death has truly become her alter ego. Sahana seemed concerned I will plunge back into dooms of despair once the plant has lived its lifetime. I laughed at the panic in her voice.

I was narrating the story to a friend. She asked if I had considered pressing petals of those flowers within pages of a book? I thought that was a brilliant idea. The dilemma, however, was which book deserved the petals of obstinate ma plant? And how did one press petals to dry anyway? The second part was easy since Google has the answers. The difficult decision was which book would ma love to be remembered in? Was it a book by her “pran er thakur” Rabindranath? Manik Bondopadhyay? Mahashweta Debi? Poetry of Sukanto? All of them were her loves but I finally decided on Ashapurna Debi’s “Prothom Protusruti”. My fledgling feminism took flight at a young age when ma first passed on this book to me. Since then I must have read the book and it’s sequels over a dozen times. The story follows the life of a little girl in rural Bengal at the beginning of the 20th century when Bengal society was tightly shackled by social restrictions imposed by upper caste men. The book, while narrating the story of Satyabati, touches on all the restrictions placed on women to limit their freedom – the most important one among many was denying them education. The belief was if a woman touched paper or pen she would be a widow. When Satyabati’s cousin shudders at the fact that Satyabati has taught herself to write, the little girl finds a loophole in that theory right away. How can women touching pen or paper be paap (bad karma) when the goddess of learning, Debi Saraswati is a woman herself? Satyabati questioned each and every tradition that curbed women’s rights and flouted every rule that tried to hold her down. She managed to loosen the chains just a bit for the future generation of women.

Ma too fought patriarchy every step of the way. She refused any kind of limitations to such an extent that I, in my childhood, sometimes thought, “Oh just get along. Give in!” Looking back I realize she was loosening the chains so that her daughter and grand daughter can have space to spread their wings. She emulated Satyabati all her life, at the expense of her own peace and happiness sometimes. I know it is only fitting that petals from “obstinate ma plant” find their resting place in the pages of the book that tell her story.

The ‘goods’ this week, April 19, 2021


Since I started this exercise, I am making a mental note of what is good and writing it down as soon as I get a chance. I am not allowing a good moment to pass by without acknowledging it. That is good in itself. However, India is blowing up in Covid cases, many flights going to India have suspended their service, CDC has rated India at the highest level of danger zone. So it has been hard to focus on the good lately but I tried and that has to be enough.

The ‘goods’ this week are as follows:

Ryan got his first Pfizer shot. Now both the kids have at least one shot in them.

Sahana had ordered a cap and gown for her upcoming virtual graduation from college. They came and she tried them on. The special day is not going to be what we hoped for but we will make the best of it.

I got to see 2 of Ryan’s high school water polo games. He is a mean defender and he scored 2 goals yesterday. Most importantly, he is so animated and happy on game days.

Our work will transition to one full day a week and I will get to work with my dear friend who I hardly see any more as our schedules are completely different these days.

I read Brother by David Chariandy for the second time for my book club and felt the author’s luminous prose at the core of my heart. Sometimes sheer beauty of words brings tears to one’s eyes.

I am rehearsing for a play that will be sent to North Atlantic Bengali Association in July. It is a short skit but I do enjoy acting and it takes my mind off from what is going on in real life.

I have quite a few good books waiting for me to read. They are adorning my book shelf. It makes me happy to look at them as they hold unknown stories within their pages.

I did some weeding this week. Although only half of the flower bed is done. I will tackle that.

Warmer weather is on its way.

We tentatively went out to eat in a restaurant. The restaurant was empty so we felt comfortable.

Sean and I went for a walk. As we talked I realized, yet again, how much I love him.

As I ground coffee beans for tomorrow’s first cup of coffee, I looked out of the kitchen window and witnessed a glorious sun set.

I am surprised that this list went on for as long as it did. I am glad I am writing this every week. I am thankful for all the ‘goods’ and the fact I am mindful of them.

Happy Monday and have a great week.