The “goods” in the week of July 12th.


This week was somewhat mundane. And mundane is not bad. Uneventful is not bad at all after the several events that happened in my life not too long ago. We went back to full time work and these are my “goods” this week.

I am tired. I put that in my “goods” since I am tired because I am back full time at the library and my body is trying to get used to being ‘on’ full time. That is a good thing – this tiredness. Unlike so many I am blessed to have had my job through out the pandemic.

After waiting and watching patiently, my first gladiolus stalk sprouted buds and how deeply red they are! A second stalk seems ready to sprout. And while I am talking of my flowers, I will say they have become my haven for remembering, meditating. Ma is probably laughing at my transformation from a city girl to this suburban woman and baba is saying ‘told you so’. Obstinate ma plant is still blooming.

A friend just came by and dropped off a flowering plant and a card. She bought the plant a while ago but was caring it for me since my loss brought back painful memories of losing her own mother.

A couple of friends messaged me privately to say that my blogs have helped them in their personal journey of grief.

I met a lovely Nigerian woman at work. She arrived in USA two weeks ago with her husband and 2 children. She asked me where I was from as I helped her find books for her children. I said “India.” Upon hearing that, she clasped her hands in front of her in excitement and said, “Oh, I love Indians. I love, love. love Indians. I wanted to marry an Indian. But I married that one instead.” We both laughed.

My best friends are back to me. I have been reading quite a bit. I eased into books with some wonderful graphic novels, then finished The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva and a few others. Now I am reading a captivating historical fiction called The Familiars by Stacey Halls.

On Friday, we went to see an outdoor performance of The Adventures of Pericles.

I asked one of our long time customers how he was doing. Before leaving the library he came to me to thank me for talking to him. He said it helped him psychologically. He is going through a stressful time. Everyone is fighting their own battle.

My uncle managed to procure baba’s death certificate on Saturday. I felt a sense of relief as that was stuck in bureaucratic red tape and then immediately felt guilty for that sense of relief followed by intense sadness and then breathlessness. I was at work. I wrote to my family I was having an anxiety attack. I went for a walk around the library building, took deep breaths, sat in the garden of our library. After about 30 minutes of coming back into the building, I was told my daughter was there to see me. She brought me my favorite drink from Starbucks and gave me a hug. My “goods” for this week is, yet again, love that keeps me afloat. Today is exactly 2 months since baba died.

There is this hole in my heart. I am learning to live around it and not fall in.

May your list of “goods” be long.

Little Bud


My friend gave me a bag of gladiolus bulbs at a time when I was indiscriminately planting flowers to nurture some form of life after losing 2 most precious (to me) lives to Covid in quick succession. I had never had much luck in growing plants from seeds or bulbs but I was mentally exhausted to think about what would thrive and what would not and somewhat fatalistic about planting. I needed to dig holes, separate roots and gently place them in the hole with the hope that it will draw nutrition and grow up to radiate beauty and yes, joy.

To be honest, I had forgotten about the bulbs till I saw young green shoots emerging from the soil. I think I was weeding when I noticed them. They certainly looked different from crab grass and I stopped myself from plucking them from the ground. Could they be…? They were! Gradually they grew to be long green stalks, some grew more than others. They were just that for a long time though – long green stalks. Sean and I wondered if that is the end of their journey. And then we saw some diamond shaped patterns on the head of one stalk. I kept close eye on it. The next metamorphosis that I noticed was a deeper shade of purple just underneath the green. And today, when I walked out to go for my walk, I saw this.

I want you all to meet Little Bud. Welcome! I have been patiently waiting for you. You made me happy and you are one of my “goods” this week.

Blurry and fading


I have already written a blog about aging. Apart from some physical distress, like diminishing eyesight and creaking knee, I do not mind getting older. It is a natural process and I find it pointless fighting it. This blog is not about aging but about becoming invisible, fading – literally!

I had read in books that women of a certain age start becoming invisible to the world. I have reached that age where I have started fading. People at stores and restaurants, often, look through me rather than at me. Here is the reality though – I love being invisible. As an introvert, I have tried my best to be invisible all my life and on occasion, when I have been thrust into spotlight, I have been most uncomfortable and after, drained. So being invisible to the world due to my age is a boon not a curse. I guess I am more than happy with the world seeing past me because the few people who matter most ‘see’ me.

This aging phenomenon is most interesting. With age, my outward appearance is somewhat fading. The sharp lines of the jaw area have slackened, the skin is loosening in an unattractive manner, the wrinkles on my forehead and laugh lines around the mouth are gaining prominence. The blue black hair of youth has significant strands of grey in them. I particularly love the grey around my temple. I feel it adds a certain depth to my being although my aunt in Kolkata shrieked when she saw me on a video call recently.

“Eki? Tor chul peke gelo?”

(What’s this? Your hair turned gray?”

Even my eye brows are thinning and look sparse. I think the thinning eyebrows are primarily responsible for this faded out look. I do not think about this much. Then why am I writing a blog on my slow fading, you ask? I am writing the blog because I took a selfie which was somewhat blurred by natural light. The irony became clear. My blurry, faded selfie looked beautiful. I don’t think this slow invisibility of a brown, middle aged woman is unbeautiful at all. I daresay this faded phase is rather pretty!

I thought of ending the blog with my photo but upon rereading this post, I felt this one reeked of narcissism although I was really going for the irony. Is this narcissism though, or self love? Anyway, narcissism is a sin, right? Just to take the narcissism angle out of the equation I will reveal that I used an eyebrow liner to fill in my sparse eyebrows.

There. Fixed it. 🀣

Street food


Papdi chat

If you have read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake, recall how the story starts. Ashima reaches for the tin of Planter’s peanuts to mix with her puffed rice. She is attempting to recreate the popular street food available at every corner, every lane in the streets of Kolkata – jhaal muri. She adds the peanuts, some mustard oil, green chili to her puffed rice but it is not the same as what she remembers. Something is missing. The book stole my heart just by that vignette at the beginning – Ashima trying to recreate a comfort food in a land where she is new, everything is unknown. That is every immigrant at some point in their lives, isn’t it?

Papdi chat, as pictured above, is my absolute favorite street food that I make often at home. Either I have forgotten what the real thing tastes like or I have managed to create perfection or my palate has been compromised to think what I create is the epitome of papdi chat. No matter what the reason, I don’t feel like anything is missing from my concoction of papdi chat. Often I don’t have all the ingredients so I improvise. Today’s version included the following:

Papdis (wheat crisps, available in the snack aisle of Indian stores) – this forms the base. Top these with…

Half a cup of canned chick peas (garbanzo beans)

Half a boiled potato chopped into little cubes

2 tbsp of finely chopped raw onion (optional)

1 green chili finely diced – optional. If you like spicy, make it 2

2 tbsp of chopped cilantro leaves

1 cup of beaten yogurt poured over the mixture

2 tbsp of Chunky Chat masala

Half a cup or more, if you prefer, of tamarind date chutney

All this is topped with Haldiram’s Alu Bhujia (again available in Indian grocery stores)

I sometimes make it fancy by sprinkling pomegranate seeds on top.

Talk about burst of flavors in the mouth – crunchy, tangy, savory, sweet – perfection!

I say perfection and I am the only one who eats chat in our house. The non Indian and the part Indians do not care for it. I even go as far as to proclaim it as healthy – garbanzo beans, fat free yogurt, potatoes……healthy! At least that is my story and I am sticking to it.

One year ago


It is strange what the mind remembers on one of the worst days of one’s life. January 31st, 2020 was one of the worst days of my life. It was a beautiful, sunny Friday. It was the day when Sage was going to bid us adieu in the evening at 7:00 pm due to the aggressive cancer that, unbeknownst to us, had taken over his body. He was shivering slightly one day, not even too much. Still, I was perplexed and concerned so took him to the emergency vet. The vet sounded the death knoll – hemangiosarcoma. We loved him too much to let him go through very invasive surgery only to buy him 4 to 6 months, if that.

So after making sure he was not in any pain, we decided to have 7 more days with him to love him with all the love our hearts could give. Friday dawned. I woke with a sick feeling. I decided to spend the day with Sage doing what he loved doing best. After a steak breakfast, I helped his frail body get in the car and drove him to his favorite park. This is where my mind goes back to again and again. Just us, a sick but seemingly content pup with his devoted human – together for the last time in their favorite setting. We got out of the car and sat by the lake on a bench quietly. He sat next to me looking around, perhaps saying goodbye? Joggers, walkers, parents with young children walked by us, some nodding at the old dog, some not. Two women in athletic clothes came by. They were power walking. One of them bent down to pet Sage.

“What a beautiful dog! May I pet him?” she asked.

I said sure. And I don’t know why but I also added that this was his last day. I, perhaps, put her in an uncomfortable situation but till this day, a year after Sage’s death, I remember her kindness so vividly. I was crying at that point. Not violently but tears were streaming down my face. This particular woman, who I will most likely never see again and who will not know how much her kindness meant to me at that time, touched my hand to say how sorry she was. She said she had lost 2 of her dogs so she knows what I was going through.

I thanked her. She patted me again, quietly. Then she bent down and gave a lot of cuddles to Sage, telling him he was good and he was beautiful. With a last touch on my shoulder, she nodded and went on her way. Through a haze of pain that consumed me in the days, weeks and months to come, her quiet kindness seemed like a healing salve.

Many of you knew Sage, loved him even. He changed abode from this earth to our hearts and memories exactly one year ago. He was excellent at recall. We really worked hard at it and he always came when called. Except on this day, one year ago, we called but he never came back. He went gently into the night. Literally.

As some of my friends predicted, the intensity of hurt has diminished. I can now smile at his memory. The ten years we had with him showed us what unconditional love looks like, what total devotion truly means, what it means to be the center of someone’s universe, how valuable quiet companionship can be, how peaceful too. I sometimes think back and wonder if we gave him the best life that we could have. We could have done more, taken him for more hikes, played more with him, spent more time. And I stop myself! Sure, we could have done more but I am convinced he knew the absolute truth through every kiss on his long snout, every belly rub, every touch on his furry forehead. He was loved! Oh so loved. And he will always be our beautiful boy.

With Dad.

A year of heroes.


There is a weariness in my soul which, sometimes, stops me from feeling hopeful. The learned people say the next few months will be darker. It will get worse before it gets better. That is hope I guess, those words, ‘it will get better’. The sentence that I desperately search in tweets and interviews of medical professionals is this – it will get better.

So I would like to urge you, my dear readers, hold on to your sanity. Cling on to that hope – it will get better.

It is hard to find a bright spot in this tumultuous year of loss and tears. However, if you think about it, 2020 did give us our heroes – the medical professionals, the scientists, the grocery store workers, the front line workers, our educators, the parents who continued to work while providing childcare and conducting home school, those living alone, battling loneliness. We persevered in our own unique ways. The heroes existed. 2020 shed a bright light on their heroism. And this year, we gave the most. We lost so much, materially, spiritually, emotionally, yet we gave to those who are more vulnerable than us. The charitable organizations received more donation this year than last year, both nationally and internationally. It is hard to be grateful for much in 2020, but I am grateful for this spirit of giving. I am grateful to witness resilience and empathy. Tragedy brought us close despite political rhetoric trying to tear us apart.

I sincerely wish you all a hopeful 2021. May our fellow humans all over the world, irrespective of the wealth of their nations, have equal access to vaccine so we ALL can heal together. That is a naive wish you may say. But aren’t we at the cusp of a new beginning? Isn’t this the time we feel everything is possible? Besides, I am a firm believer in positive energy. I send that energy to you and to the universe on this first day of 2021.

This photo, taken on Cliff Island, Maine seems very apt.

Christmas mischief


One day, right after Thanksgiving, I caught my husband smiling a Grinchy smile.

‘Why are you smiling like that?’

He said he had an idea. A wonderful idea. Just like the Grinch, he had “a wonderful, awful idea”. He told me his plan and I gave him a hearty clap on his back for being so deliciously evil. He came up with the plan and I executed it flawlessly. It was a perfect team work.

I bought gifts early this year, right after Thanksgiving because what else am I going to do during a pandemic? As the gifts started arriving to my doorstep, I scooped them up, wrapped them right away, and wrote Sean’s name on each one of them. That was the plan. Sean thought of the idea of addressing each gift in his name so the kids would wonder when their gifts were coming. As the pile of gifts under our Christmas tree grew, Ryan and Sahana grew increasingly perplexed. Why was not a single gift for them?

They did not say anything for a while hoping their gifts will arrive eventually. To make it believable I wrote Ryan’s name in one big package and couple had Sahana’s name on them. They gave each other gifts so Ryan’s gift totaled to 3 and Sahana’s 4. Sean’s name was on 17 gifts. A week before Christmas Ryan started mumbling, questioning if more gifts were coming still. I said I was done.

“What?? NO! Are you kidding me? You can not be done. Sahana and I hardly got any presents. Its all for dad!”

“Yes, I see that! You know, I bought impulsively this year. I did not keep count on how many I was buying for who and I got carried away with Dad’s presents.” I replied with an embarrassed smile. That threw him off guard – for the moment.

Sahana was confused like her brother but she is older now and did not verbalize her thoughts but silently supported her brother’s tirades.

Over the course of the week, discussions during dinner were dominated by different thoughts on the inequality of the number of gifts, questioning my love for certain family members, quantifying Sean’s good deeds to have deserved so many gifts. Sean simply smiled while I said things like, “my love for you is not measured by materialistic gifts, my darling.” I do not believe that placated my son. To be fair to Sahana, she smiled and laughed mostly and said, yeah, yeah’ as Ryan carried on about how few gifts the ‘children’ got. I continued to look shame faced.

“Sorry guys! It does seem a little unfair. I guess I just got carried away!” That continued to be my refrain.

On the night before Christmas eve, when all hope of arrival of more gifts were extinguished, Ryan forlornly looked at his 3 gifts and said,

“I guess I am considered the scum of the family. Only 3 gifts while dad has 18. Even Sahana has 4 and mom has 7! What kind of family is this where parents get more gifts than kids?”

I said his gift was expensive and he will be happy. He was quick to show his gratitude.

“Mom, I thank you for that. But why did dad get so many gifts? How good was he this year?”

Sean and I laughed till we had tears in our eyes in the privacy of our bedroom. Ryan is absolutely hilarious without even trying. And his laments about lack of gifts were in good humor. I laughed helplessly at his funny quips and he laughed loudly too with his broken, teenage voice. It was truly entertaining last 10 days or so before Christmas. Laments and funny quips got more desperate and hence funnier as the big day approached.

Christmas morning dawned. We decided to take photos with our gifts in front of us. Here are the initial photos as I handed out the gifts.

Sahana looks happy with her meager gifts.

Right before we were about to open the presents, I pretended to look at the number disparity and shook my head.

“I went a little crazy with dad’s gifts and it looks bad for the photos. Here, why don’t we reallocate them and you two help him open presents.”

“No, no! Let all your friends know what you did this Christmas. Make sure you post them on Facebook. Why will we open dad’s gifts? Let him open his. We will wait. I have only 3 anyway.” Ryan said in his fog horn voice.

“Nah! Let’s redo this.” Amid protests from both brother and sister, I redistributed the packages. And then accompanied by unadulterated laughter, we told them about our naughtiness.

I had written Sean’s name in all caps for Ryan’s gifts. Printed his name for those meant for Sahana and wrote Sean’s name in cursive for the ones that were actually his. After reallocating the packages, the story changed, Ryan’s smile returned, Sahana’s weak smile brightened, Sean and I laughed till we cried!

Since he had no idea we had played a trick on them, Ryan wrapped an empty box for Sean with this note in it:

He looked peevish when Sean opened the package with this note, “Jeez, I feel kinda mean now!”

At the end, it was indeed a holly, jolly Christmas. There was laughter, there were exclamations, there were squeals of joy and thank you’s. There was acknowledgement that ‘we got them’. They never guessed what we were up to and ultimately it ended up being a fun prank. What we got out of it? Days of endless mirth at their bafflement, the fact that our son is very materialistic, our daughter has matured enough to not harangue us with questions about her gifts.

It was, after all, a joyful Christmas. And if you charge us with bad parenting, we plead guilty. But the laughter and evil planning behind their backs were oh so worth it. πŸ˜€

Celebrating it all.


As I sat on my couch on a dreary evening during a raging pandemic, I made a resolution. I decided to celebrate all the festivals that came my way without appropriating any tradition or religion which my fusion family does not belong to. Since I am culturally Hindu, I was safe with celebrating Kali pujo, Diwali, bhai phota and since my partner is a practicing Catholic, we were also good with Christmas. For Bengalis, Kali pujo is a bigger celebration than Diwali, although I hear that these days Diwali is celebrated by Bengalis all over with great fervor. I like that. Celebration is hopeful. Especially during these trying times.

I decided to go all out for Kali Pujo/Diwali this year to dispel the gloom that is slowly yet surely descending on me due to the current circumstances. My “all out” consisted of lighting choddo (14 in Bengali) prodeep on the night before Kali pujo (Friday, Nov 13th), wearing a saree and cooking.

Choddo prodeep, or 14 earthen lamps, are lit to respect our 14 generations. A little background on this ritual:

Folklore in Bengal says that the spirits of ancestors come back to the household on this night and these diyas help them find their loving homes. It’s believed that our ancestors are at a proximity to us and bless us on this day. It’s a way to pay homage to choddo purush β€” fourteen ancestors, seven from each side of the family β€” requesting them to save everyone from evil spirit and ghosts. This is very typical of a lot of Hindu celebrations where we think of the departed and pray for them before we move on to the ceremonies of the current like nandimukh.

Source: https://indroyc.com/2015/11/09/todays-bhoot-chaturdashi/

I am not religious. I don’t worship goddess Kali with shlokas and flowers, however the idea she represents, that of female empowerment, has fascinated me since childhood. She is the ultimate boss lady among Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses. She is simply incomparable. To celebrate her awesomeness, I decided to cook on the day of Kali pujo. I fasted too. No, not for any religious reasons. I fasted to cleanse my system so I could feast at dinner.

The menu for Kali pujo was:

Dal makhni

Doi begun (eggplant in yogurt sauce)

Malai kofta, paratha and Bangali sooji with ghee, raisins and cashew.

After cooking all day, I donned a saree, lit diyas and invited family to the table.

That was the extent of our Diwali celebration yet it energized me for the next day. We were going to celebrate bhai phota, a ritual where sisters bless their younger brothers or seek blessings from their older ones. My sweetest memories during my growing up years come from the day of bhai phota when we all got together for a day of chaos, laughter, blessings and of course, food.

I woke up early to get breakfast ready before the celebration started. Breakfast was baked French toast with apple and pecans, hash brown casserole, blueberries and bacon. I had done most of the prep work the night before, so all I truly needed to do was pop the baking dishes in the oven.

I had the phota tray ready with sandal wood paste, kajol, diya, some grass and rice for blessing.

Sahana gave phota to Ryan, Ryan touched her feet to get her blessings. We had the computer on so my parents could witness the ritual virtually. Sahana then gave phota to Sean and my father via computer. Since she was little, Sahana has broken tradition and given phota to Sean on this day. Khushi gave virtual phota to Ryan with utmost seriousness. Folks in Kolkata blew on the conch shell, the sound of which traveled through ether to shower us with good omen. We ululated on both sides of the pond. Our two sounds met somewhere in the middle and technology made it possible for us to celebrate it together. Somewhat.

By this time, I was exhausted. Yet the nervous energy within me propelled me on to make narkel diye chhola r dal (chanadal with coconut), luchi. Sahana made a potato curry to go with it. My two days worth of intense cooking was consumed within 20 minutes.

My family got into the spirit of things. Sahana was an enthusiastic participant and even the boys donned kurta pajama to support my desire to summon my childhood joy to my adult life.

For a weekend, we ignored the raging pandemic outside our little home, we ignored that I cannot go home to see my parents, Sean cannot go home to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family, we ignored the fear of us catching the virus. The celebration was a respite from the constant anxiety. Now my fridge is full to the brim. We all will eat leftovers to empty it so Sahana can store ingredients for Thanksgiving meal that she plans to cook. She has even created a spreadsheet with the dishes she will prepare or delegate. We will go from one celebration to the other. And perhaps, pretend for a while that life is how it should be.

I thought I would end the blog there. But no! I came home from work yesterday and discovered that my house elves have been busy. They transformed my plain house into magical just by bringing in a magical tree.

“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! πŸ™‚