The “goods” in week of May 3rd.


How can I write what was good this week when both my parents contacted Covid in Kolkata? My ma was put on a ventilator yesterday and then gave up the fight and my baba is still fighting it in the same hospital. Yet, there were ‘goods’ this week and I did not even have to think hard to find them.

We were fortunate to get 2 beds for my parents in the same hospital in a city which is being ravaged by this deadly virus and people can not get hospital beds or oxygen cylinders.

My friends, their husbands, some cousins, and a care giver from Tribeca Care, an elderly care service, are doing all they can to help since I am far away and are surrounding me with love and support. They made phone calls, found 2 beds in a hospital, organized ambulance care, talked to hospital administrators and got my parents admitted so they could get proper care.

Friends poured their love and good wishes on us from all over the world. Since I am a big believer in collective good will, I know a lot of good energy was released out in the universe which touched my parents.

I can not deny the mind numbing, troubled breathing kind of anxiety that I experience but quiet walks with Sean, nutritious meals prepared by Sahana and silent prayers by Ryan made me feel less alone.

Sean’s family messages us regularly to let us know they love us and are thinking of us.

My supervisor at work encouraged me to not think about that part of my life right now, but to simply focus on what was at hand. My coworkers showed their support in messages and emails.

I have not held back my tears and cried often this week. It is a cleansing experience. I wish I did not have reason to cry but I do. And the fact that I have allowed myself to cleanse through tears is good.

In times of trouble one finds out one is surrounded by a loving community, I think that is the ‘goods’ this week. In fact, that is the best.

The ‘goods’ this week, April 26th, 2021


As a library worker, I am thrilled! I am absolutely thrilled that my daughter got an outreach programming job at a renowned library system. She interviewed on Monday, and they called her on Tuesday to offer her the job. It was a virtual interview so I could hear some of her answers. As I heard her coherent, well thought out responses, my mommy heart filled up with pride yes, but also with wonder. She sounded so grown up, so mature and thoughtful. Since this position which she truly longed for  is part time, she also got a job in our neighborhood Starbucks. Her response to the question “why do you want to work at Starbucks?” made me smile. She told the manager that Starbucks has been her reset button since she was in high school. Before an exam or after, before something important or after, during her solo Europe trip, whenever she needed a reset she sought out a Starbucks. At this juncture in her life when she just graduated and is contemplating her place in the big world ahead of her, she opted for her reset and that is why she is looking for a job there. The manager hired her despite this honest confession. For a lover of library as well as coffee, these two jobs seem like a double win for Madammommy.

I destroyed a paneer dish and then resurrected it to be truly delicious by using my ingenuity. Pat on the back because I am all that.

I woke up at 4 am on Monday to take Ryan to his 5 am practice. It was the day before pink moon. However, a brilliant (white) moon followed us all the way to Ryan’s school and then it kept me company all the way home. I kept my eyes on the roads, of course but the company of that bright, white orb in the sky above the lonely deserted road when the whole world was asleep was a peaceful sight. But no, I will not do it every week. I am not a morning person, Sean is. I only took him one morning because Sean had to work late.

We had warm days!! Hallelujah. My old bones need the sun.

I am talking to my mom while dad listens in, almost everyday.

I answered a phone call at work which made my day. The woman on the phone wanted me and my coworkers to know that we kept her sane by providing books and DVDs during pandemic. She was so very kind.

I helped a distraught woman print out some documents at work. When she tentatively asked how much it would cost, I said the print job was free. Her face lit up. She had been paying $5 to $6 at UPS store for printing documents. Her husband lost his job and money is tight. Working at a public library is extremely gratifying.

I make book suggestions all the time, completely unsolicitated. I got a message on wsapp from a long lost friend who read Funny in Farsi by Firozeh Dumas upon my recommendation and absolutely loved it. I think she read my review on my blog site. A couple of hours after her message, I got another message from a colleague who read The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart upon my suggestion and asked when could we talk about it.  She felt all the ‘feels’ as she read the book. She even said she will be open to reading anything I recommend. She does not know what she is wishing for. 🤣

Sahana got her second Covid vaccine shot on Sunday. I am so grateful.

I wrote and posted 8 days in a row which has never happened before.

Happy Monday, my friends. Stay healthy, stay alive.

PS: Ryan cleaned his closet last night. That totally classifies as one of my ‘goods’ for the week. 😀

What time is dinner?


Interracial, interfaith, transnational marriage like ours had and continues to have certain novelties, discoveries, realizations. Realizations about our differing norms, cultures, way of doing things, comfort zones. After a marriage of 24, almost 25 years, we feel like we dealt with most of them but there are times when the differences in our upbringing come to the forefront. One such realization came to me during the holiday season in 2020. It is the question that Sean asks, “What time are you planning dinner?”

I did not grow up with that question or truly planning a meal time during festivals or even during daily life. In Kolkata, when the family got together for any occasion, food was, of course, the epicenter of all festivities but the time when that food will be consumed was anybody’s guess. There were perfunctory questions about  what time is lunch or dinner but nobody knew. We ate when the food was ready. And even when the food was ready, the guests had to be coaxed to the dinner table if they were involved in a ‘jomati adda’ (rough translation would be engrossing gossip, although gossip is not really a proper translation for the Bengali word, adda). The concept of ‘adda’ is so quintessentially Bengali that there is no accurate translation of the word in any other foreign language or even any other Indian languages to the best of my knowledge. During a gathering, food was eaten in a certain hierarchical order that I have noticed – children were fed first followed by the men folk, lastly the women sat down to eat amidst much chatter, laughter and camaraderie.  As many know that in Bengal we eat with our hands. Sitting with others just laughing and chatting long after one’s food has been eaten with sticky fingers is one of my most fond memories. Time, during the days of celebration, was only of importance when one had to maintain the auspicious moments when a puja had to be performed. During the rest of the day, time was relegated to the back ground, it did not control us. We controlled our day. We were propelled during those special days by our needs – desire for togetherness, hunger, laughter, puja, rather than routine. Those days were refreshingly freeing, unbound from time.

My experience in USA has been different with my American family. During most of our celebrations – Thanksgiving, Christmas, there is a specific time for dinner. I observe in the torrential flurry of activities of my extended family, who prepare the big meals for our get togethers, how flustered they seem to get everything on the table by a certain time, all hot from the oven or stove top. Dinner will be served at 2 and that is the goal! I still can not get used to rigidity of time on a day of celebration. For me, the languorous stretch of time defines how a festival or gathering of family should be celebrated.

Sean asks me, always, what time is breakfast or dinner or lunch when I plan to celebrate bhai phota or a special breakfast or a special dinner at home. The question bothered me at the beginning. I felt the day was being segmented by tying meal times within a set time frame so I used to respond, “When it is ready!” That answer threw him off. I realized he planned his activities around the time I will give him for the meal I was preparing. So I adjusted. I give him a time and now I prepare food with one eye on the clock. It takes away the spontaneity of celebration, so when I go home celebrations take on more meaning when the chaos of meal times return.

Messy bed


A quick post before I start work. I am not a neat freak although I like a clean house. My only pet peeve is a messy bed. I can not stand it. I always make my bed. Since my kids were little, I made them make their beds. They cheated, of course. Often, they just pulled the top cover on their unmade bed to give an illusion to mom that they had made their beds. And when I found out, I yelled at them. I also took 2 dollars from them (or was it 5?) as payment for me to make their beds if they had not done it.

Fast forward Sahana’s college years. Her bed, in her dorm room, was mostly neatly made. Even now when she is home she makes her bed. Mr. Ryan is a different story. His bed is NEVER made. I grit my teeth as I go by his room. Clothes everywhere, unmade bed, teenage boy funk.

Everyday I resolve to scold him and I never do. His morning, thrice a week, starts at 4:15 am with swim practice, then he goes to school, after school he directly goes to water polo practice and finally comes home to finish homework and study for tests. I just want to mention here that this rigorous schedule is self inflicted. His parents have implored to cut down on activities. The little time he has, he watches mindless tiktok videos. He does not read other than required reading for school. 😭

Now that you have reference to the context, what do you think I should do? Keep urging him to make his bed so it is ingrained in him for future? Close his door if it bothers me?

I failed as an Indian parent.


I knew right away that I failed as an Indian parent when my 16 year old son sent us a video of Greatest Recorded Speeches in American History. Along with the link was a short message “cool stuff”. Instead of math and science, both my kids ended up loving liberal arts. My oldest is a Shakespeare nerd, a poet and writer. She is one semester away from graduating with double major in English and Anthropology. My son loves history and is thinking of pursuing political science. While he is good with numbers and can solve scarily long algebra equations with relative ease he does not spend all his time solving word problems and doing science experiments. He listens to discussions and likes to discuss the pros and cons of issues. He despises the divide in political beliefs that polarizes this country and wants to find a common ground. As I looked at his message of the recorded speeches, there went my hopes of either of my kids getting a 40 dollar an hour internship in a tech company while finishing college and a fat salaried job right out of college. As an Indian parent, I am a total failure. I did not steer my children to exclusively math and science like a parent from my part of the world who told me she wished her child could drop world history so he could take another science course.

The title of this blog is written in jest of course and I am doing a gross generalization of all Indian parents when I say they push their children towards science. However, till date many parents from where I come from, believe their child should study science to get ahead in life, including my father. It was clear from early on that I was a lover of literature. Yet, when I passed my 10th, my dad insisted I take up science in my 11th grade. I believe he still dreamed that I will excel in math, physics, chemistry and biology, sit for Joint Entrance Exam and finally get into med school. In reality, although I enjoyed biology, I struggled in all 3 other science subjects. My grades, as expected, at my school leaving exam were dismal and more importantly, I was very unhappy. My self esteem plummeted and self confidence took a nose dive. At that point, I took a stand and declared I wanted to study English. A degree in English literature was not very promising those days but my parents let me pursue my choice, for which, I am immensely grateful. I was lucky enough to attend a university that was not simply an educational institution, it somehow molded my outlook and view points and helped me become the person that I am today. And while I am never going to be rich, I have a job as a public library worker, where I can use my education and be happy with what I do.

The truth is, when I see Ryan enjoying the greatest speeches of famous men and women, when I see Sahana quoting Shakespeare verbatim, when Ryan discusses difficult issues of life with reason and logic, when Sahana writes beautiful poetry my heart rejoices. They are the progeny of two parents who pursued liberal arts. Instead of building robots in their childhood or conducting fun science experiments or doing mental math, we read to them, talked about Sean’s work about helping vulnerable communities become self reliant through out the world. We did not give them a boost towards science in their early childhood. In retrospect, science may have even taken a back seat because their primary care giver, me, did not enjoy science. That is on us. We should have made more of an effort to encourage them to explore science.

However, as a lover of liberal arts, I am thrilled at their curiosity to learn more about literature, philosophy, history, political science. I may be biased but I firmly believe we need a section of lovers of liberal arts to hold up half of the sky so our compatriots, the science lovers can hold up theirs. And by complementing each other we strive towards completion. It’s just that the other half will do the balancing act with much more bank balance than we will but hey, money can’t buy happiness, right?😜

The witching hour


Last night I found myself ugly crying because Efrèn’s mom got deported. Efrèn is in middle school, his twin siblings are in kindergarten. His apà works constantly to make ends meet. His amà holds the family together with her love, her food and her superwoman abilities of multi tasking. But neither amà nor apà had papers to be here in United States, so ICE raided the place she went for a job interview and deported her to Tijuana, Mexico. I cried thinking of all those children whose parents went to work and never came home. No matter which side of the immigration debate you are on, this separation of families is inhuman and needs to stop immediately.

I was reading a young adult fiction Efrèn Divided by Ernesto Cisneros late into the night. Despite my intense feelings about the book, this blog is not a review of the book or a debate about our immigration policies. This blog is about being one with the book I am reading in the middle of the night when everybody is fast asleep, the night is eerily quiet, all the lights are out except for my bedside lamp. At that time, I feel truly transported into the life of the characters I read about. At that time, I feel the strength of written words most strongly in my heart as it transforms me into a fly on a wall observing and living vicariously someone else’s life. There is a satisfying release in that feeling.

I tried reading Efrèn Divided during evening after work. But there were distractions of my family – talking, fixing dinner, cleaning kitchen, Ryan thumping around the house gathering towel, swim suit, provisions for his swim meet next day. Efrèn’s life had only part of my attention. I was completely invested in his life and the fate of his family once my life was suspended for the night.

I knew it was getting late but I also knew next morning will bring my life to the forefront and the various lives I live through the characters of books that I read will be pushed to the back. So I turned the pages till the last page was read, till I found out what happened to Efrèn’s mom, till I climbed out of Efrèn’s life and sighed at our parting.

Tomorrow night I will climb into another world with Megha Majumdar and go on a journey within the pages of her debut novel A Burning. Night after night, my journey will continue as long as I live.

‘I read so I can live more than one life in more than one place.’ Anne Tyler

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. 🤣

Funny in Farsi and me


First, a few lines about this funny and beautiful memoir by Firoozeh Dumas, Funny in Farsi: A memoir of growing up Iranian in America.

Firoozeh’s father Kazem, an engineer with the National Iranian Oil Company, got assigned to consult for an American firm for about two years and moved to Whittier, California with his wife Nazireh, 7-year-old daughter Firoozeh and 14-year-old son Farsheed in 1972. Farid, their oldest son was already in US completing his high school education. Firoozeh Dumas begins her memoir, by documenting her experience at Leffingwell Elementary school where she sat in the classroom with her non-English-speaking mother as her elementary school teacher tried to make them feel welcome by talking about Iran and inviting her mother to point out Iran on a world map in front of the class. Firoozeh’s mother had no idea. With brilliant humor and wit, Dumas writes her experiences in this memoir of growing up as an Iranian immigrant in America, pre and post Iranian revolution. At the beginning of her memoir, Dumas is touched by the kindness that Americans show towards her immigrant family. She feels people are truly interested in knowing their culture and making them feel welcome. She is also perplexed in equal measure at the ignorance of folks about cultural life in Iran, asking her if she went to school in a camel and if so, where they kept their camel. And how many Persian cats she had. She went to school in her father’s Cadillac, but she resorted to answering the camel question by saying they kept the camel in their garage.  She also writes about her experiences as an Iranian in America after the American hostage crisis in Iran and how American perspective about her family changes overnight. However, she does not harp on the cruelty she faced as an Iranian immigrant. Instead she focuses on her crazy yet fun extended family, their love and support for each other, their ambition to see their children succeed and their unmistakable love for their adopted country. In this memoir Dumas introduces us to her sweet and endearing dad, who fully immerses himself into the new culture that America offers which involves fast food, seeking to be rich via Bowling for Dollars, and every opportunity to save money, her elegant mother who never really learned English, her several aunts and uncles whose eccentricities and kindness make the readers smile.  Just when her family thought they finally got over the culture shock of being in America, Dumas falls in love with a French man and subjects her family to yet another novelty that they must experience and learn. At the end though, love wins.

Quite a few of her experiences as an immigrant reflect mine. Like her, I have been asked if I went to school on an elephant (not camel) and if I were an Indian princess. I have experienced what I now label as microaggression and have learnt to respond with humor and hopefully, without malice or anger. There were two aspects in this book, however, that really spoke to me. The first one is food!! Oh, how I want the Iranian food that she writes about! And the second was family. Dumas writes about her close knit extended family who emigrated from Iran and chose to live near each other in USA. They congregated, feasted, celebrated, loved and supported. That is every immigrant’s dream. I must say this made me envious. I remember little Sahana desperately wishing that her family from both sides lived in our neighborhood next to each other. “Wouldn’t it be so fun mama if didiya, dadai, mashimoni, mashun, moni, mamai, shi dadai, shi didiya (her Indian family) lived on one side of the road and Grammy, uncles and aunts (her American family) lived on the other side?”  Many immigrant children as well as children whose parents move to different states feel the absence of their grand parents, aunts and uncles in their lives as they grow. No one present on Grandparent’s day at school, no one to cheer from the sidelines in sports events or school events, graduation ceremonies or festivals. This is a big void. Immigrants form close relationships with other immigrants in a new land and they, over time, become family. But I can say from personal experience, that the faces that loom large when there is a major life event to share are those of the ones we left behind back home.

I was thrilled that Firoozeh Dumas grew up surrounded not only by her mom, dad and brothers but also by her loving aunts, uncles and cousins. I was also jealous. But ignore my base instinct, pay heed to my suggestion instead. If you want to read something heartwarming during these difficult times, pick up Funny in Farsi. I guarantee you will have a smile on your face.

How are you coping?


Is it me or does it feel like this year keeps giving? I am sure we have had tough years before. We have dealt with it, many of us have moved on. I used coping mechanism to deal with my personal sadness. While going through a difficult time, I told myself time is the best healer. My feeling at this moment is intense, but with time the intensity will fade. I simply need to continue to live on through the time.

Compounded with global pandemic, other concerns are making life unpleasant. I can say with certain amount of confidence that many of you are in similar situation as me. How are you dealing with the time that we going through right now? What is helping?

I wrote two light hearted blogs back to back and realized, while writing them, that I was happy. They were silly ones about my 2 kids, however, reliving the memory of simple domestic story and writing them down was somewhat joyful.

Writing has been immensely therapeutic at this time. This blog was created in 2011. I was prolific and regular about writing something new. However, as the kids grew up, my materials for blog post dried up. I only had so many stories to tell. When the pandemic started and Sage died, I opened up this blog site again and started putting down my thoughts. It was a release. It helped.

What helps you cope?

Tired Times – a poem by Sahana


Sahana has been writing a lot during the pandemic. She shared some poems with me and gave me permission to share with the world. Here is one.

Tired Times


It’s been hard to leave my bed,

Not because I’m depressed,

But this time because emerging from the cocoon of warmth without a shell,

Kafkaesque, to protect the softest parts of me,

Means I risk getting hurt, tearing something on a sharp edge,

Loose threads being tugged away without my knowledge or consent,

By the news or the flashing screen of my phone, lighting up with notifications

That just bring me dread now, honestly, after years of craving their validation.

It’s the shit I don’t wanna see, don’t want to know how many we’ve lost,

Don’t want to feel the weight of the lives we’ve built crumbling before my eyes,

Feeling like my metamorphosis was forced into an untimely pause.

I had been blooming into something, I’m sure of it.

Something bolder, the way I had always hoped,

No chip on my shoulder, learning how to walk again,

No hand holding this time, there was no need

No pressing expectation holding me by the throat and pinning me to the wall,

Rather, gentle hopes, laying me down, soft hands holding cheeks,

Looking me in the eyes and telling me I could.

But she couldn’t stay, hope was needed in other people’s hearts and I had a home to go to.

But when my mother, father, brother, huddle outside my door and ask to be let in, I can’t speak,

The pincers in my mouth choke down any cries for help and

The weight of my body pulls me through my bed on the floor,

Devastating dreams and I want to wake up,

But I know waking means looking in the mirror.

Waking means seeing that it’s real.

It means, knowing and going through the same paces,

Wanting to live the life I had in my grasp and had taken away from me.

I pace in a liminal state, subway station, under the earth,

Waiting for the character development or even better, an eventful end.

But the dreams don’t stop and the living doesn’t either,

Almost at the break of dawn at every turn, but the sun slips back under the horizon,

So I sit with the tired times, and wait for a new morning, sometime.