Friendly Friday Photo Challenge- Balconies

   I realize I write a lot about the days gone by and I wonder why that is. During the planning phase of this blog,  I was clueless for a long time about the direction I wanted it to take and while I still don’t have a niche, many of my posts involve stories from the past, sometimes woven into the theme and sometimes as the theme itself. It’s not that I live in the past or want to live in the past. I think it’s more of an attempt on my part to hold on to the wonderful memories and remember the people, while creating a path into the past for my kids through those.

    Trying to make a life in this adopted country of ours has its own excitement as well as intrinsic challenges, and trying to find a balance can sometimes be tricky. There are  things that, to be very honest, I do not miss about my country but then on the other hand, there are so many things tugging at the heartstrings that sometimes it makes me question decisions about the chosen path. But that’s what’s life is all about…you probably can’t have it all and that’s okay.

   For this week’s Friendly Friday Photo Challenge I rummaged through my archive and could not find any beautiful balconies, and that made me wonder why and also gave me the idea of starting to photograph them…thanks Amanda! I looked at some of the other posts for the prompt and what a visual treat it was…as is generally the case:) But I also did not want to miss out totally and not post anything. So I am posting these two pictures that are personal and not architecturally appealing in any way, shape or form but balconies that tell stories dear to me.

 

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This is the balcony at my parent’s ‘flat’ in Kolkata, lit during ‘Diwali’ (the festival of lights). During this time of the year, which is actually a month away, one will find balconies, patios or any outdoor space in households celebrating this, lit up giving neighborhoods a wonderful cheery look. Along with fireworks that are on display everywhere and people all decked up, it surely is a night of gaiety! While I have not been home in a long time during this time, memories are galore- my favorite being the setting up the tiny candles and then going out and watching them from a distance to see if more could be fitted in!

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This is a photo of the balcony at our current apartment in New Jersey that I light up this way every Diwali (and also Christmas and New Year) to bring a slice of ‘home’ to our current home. Home is a feeling, a place of memories past and present, a feeling that calms your mind and soothes your soul. And I enjoy decking my balcony, even if it is with these simple lights during festivities and we enjoy Diwali as well as Christmas, Halloween and Holi and while I do reminisce the rustic pleasures of growing up in simpler times and under simpler circumstances, I thoroughly am enjoying this phase as well-making memories with my kids in a land far away.  While my husband and I do not try to shove ‘culture’ down our kids’ throats, we hope, with time, they will come to learn and like tales about their heritage, and find a way on their own to enjoy such festivals and embrace the differences and likeness of celebrations across all cultures and continents.

Thanks for stopping by and hope your week is going well:)

Organized Chaos

   It says ‘morning shows the day’. Not going into the philosophical meaning of this age old saying and instead sticking with the very literal sense, there are days where it seems that it was tailored to fit me! Well, we all feel this way, probably more frequently that we want to, don’t we?

   The other day it was a crazy morning as usual where the school going kid was not waking up and the little one was generally jumping (well, almost!) in her crib and the alarm was going off in the good man’s phone that he was unable to turn off with sleepy eyes. I took a couple of deep breaths and the rest of the clan managed to calm themselves down in their own ways and I was able to drop off the kid at school, miraculously, on time. Oh, by the way, I got honked on way to school too…and I was not at all at fault!

   We came back home and then ensued round two. I made my morning tea that I usually take with two biscuits (the ‘English’ biscuit, by the way) and I balanced it precariously on the edge of the cup and right when I was about to take my first sip, I saw it had fallen in the tea and given the tea a rather heavy and crumbly consistency. And that was that.  I got up to continue with my day’s work while the little one thought it would be a good idea to  crawl over to my flip flops, put them on her lap and take a nibble!  While I managed to prevent that from happening at the nick of time, I stepped on one of these tiny- yet- strong -enough -to -injure -a -grown -up- cars and let out a huge scream, internally, (yes , that’s possible!) as I did not want to scare the life out of the crawling baby. I limped a little for the rest of the day.

   It was time, soon, to pick up the little boy from school and I realized all my everyday pants were in the washer ready to be dried! AAAAHHHHHHH. I decided I would go out wearing what I was and would avoid eye contact with anyone once I was there. And how do you think that went? I met more parents than I ever have in the last one and a half years and they thought it would be good to exchange pleasantries (they are really nice people, nothing against them) and so there I was, in my pajama bottoms, talking about possible play dates. I am hoping that this has happened to people before me!

   Once home, lunch and bath time went by pretty uneventfully and I managed to out down the little ones for their naps. Now, they are usually good with their nap time, sleeping easily for an hour or two. And I needed it to happen that day as I wanted to get going on the dinner before going for my Yoga class in the evening. Take a guess how long nap time was? If you guessed 25 minutes, I give you a round of applause! I took a very deep breath, let all the worries out and the three of us had an awesome afternoon. We  rolled on the floor, got silly, had tickle fights and afternoon snacks, most of which my little one preferred to eat off of the floor and we sang songs as well! I remembered to run the dryer and got dinner started, that the good man finished cooking later. I reached my Yoga class 7 minutes late and had to wait outside…who reaches a Yoga class late??? It rained heavily later and I did grocery, got drenched and got grumpy.

   And then, when I reached home and turned the door knob, I was greeted by  peels of laughter and just like that all my crabbiness, from being late for yoga class and getting drenched among other things, just vanished. A goofy face and a toothless laughter hugged and squished the stress out of me and I counted my blessings.

    It’s chaos everyday and I call it organized chaos. And I love it, on most days. We all have/had such days where simple things go wrong and tiny things irk us and toy with  our inner peace. The frailty of human nature! How easily we let ourselves get lost in the transience of  moments that might be flawed and fret over that what is going to pass soon. Reflecting upon our current blessings escapes our notice in the mundane ups and downs of daily life. I wonder if we are a little quick in letting out big sighs and rolling our eyes!

 

    There are things that we would, ideally, want a little different in our lives and it is true that we let that get to us sometimes. It bothers us, makes us sad, makes us question past decisions and overall leaves a sour taste in our mouths. But, then when we pause to look around and see all that we have, does it not fill our hearts with gratitude and does the restlessness not disappear?   Piles of unfolded laundry mean our families has enough clothes to wear, accumulated dishes in the sink mean our families has enough to eat, paying bills means we have a roof over our heads and jobs that provide for all of that, text messages and phone calls to return mean there are people who care, giggles and crayon marks on walls mean we have little ones growing up. I really could not care less about how I look, what cars we drive, the gray on my hair, that jeans which I no longer fit into and judgmental people. What about you? What brings you happiness in your daily life? How do you deal with tiny things that disturb the so called balance of our perfectly imperfect lives?

 

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance “-Eckhart Tolle. 

 

Thanks for stopping by and hope your week is going well!

Of light, lamps and load shedding

   The other day I was admiring some lampshades at a store and at the same time thinking about how ‘load-shedding’ (electrical outage/power cut) was fairly a regular occurrence during my early childhood and now as I am typing this, I am wondering why did that thought crop up at that moment! Anyways, I have always had a fondness for lampshades, big or small, contemporary or antique and I absolutely love candles, candle stands and good old fashioned candle holders. We currently live in an apartment with two little ones where there is not much scope for pretty lamps and shades but that doesn’t mean that I can’t admire from a distance. Lighting candles is almost out of the question too but once in a while, when I am cooking, I like to keep one lit in a corner.

   The early years of growing up,  memories of which seem to be getting clearer the more my life gets away from the city I grew up in, were part structured and part whimsical- as I suppose everyone else’s was/is. There was a set routine that we all followed from daybreak till when we hit the bed at night and even the unplanned seemed to follow a pattern at times. Unannounced guests who would be staying for days was normal and so was being reprimanded by the friendly neighbor for breaking his glass panes with a cricket ball. Life went on and we rolled with it. And ‘load shedding‘ (power cut/electrical outage) followed us around!

   Ask anyone who grew up in Calcutta during that time and they will all tell you their load-shedding stories. Be it the sweltering heat of the hot summer days or the humid evenings, load shedding was omnipresent. It could show up any time and play with all the plans that you had made- be it a post lunch siesta or watching that movie on the television you had been waiting for a while or getting ready for the wedding you had been invited to. Or finish that dreaded homework that was due the next day.

   On evenings when we would be vigorously studying (every single household with school going children in Calcutta, if not the whole of India had this in common) for the next day at school and scampering to get some homework done, it would suddenly get all dark and a collective murmur would fill the entire neighborhood- “Aabaar load shedding” (aabar means again in Bengali)! Summer evenings and nights, when it mostly struck, would find adults on the streets chatting and complaining,  kids who had finished their homework hanging around and there would be a sort of almost merriment. Mosquitoes buzzing around, a distant bark of the street dogs, the tinkle of some passer by’s bicycle provided the background score to such sultry nights. But for the likes of me and many I knew, it meant finishing that homework in the light of the candles or lanterns and cursing oneself for not having finished it on time. It used to be insanely hot  and humid and while I kept on going grudging, I remember Ma or Baba would patiently sit with me, with a handheld fan and keep me company, trying to make it less uncomfortable as I toiled in the flickering lights. And it often happened that my brother and I would go to bed and it would still be all dark. Twisting and turning from the mugginess,  we would drift in and out of sleep while also trying to be awake to hear the sudden spinning of the ceiling fan. Gradually, the fever and the fret of the world would  dissolve as Ma Baba would be there right by the bed, with those fans, trying to ease our discomfort.

   Those days of load shedding and hand fans are a matter of the distant past and now I am irked by the slightest change in the settings of the thermostat. Time changes a whole lot of things and it changes people and their perspective. As Ma Baba get older, they continue to hide their discomfort from me, lest I get worried. But unlike those nights, when load shedding made it difficult to sleep, I now am very much aware of their plight that has been shaped with old age, ailments and partial blindness. And I can no longer drift away to sleep in peace. Air conditioning fails to comfort me the way those tiring hands did.

   As I was going through my archive looking for ideas, these stared me at the face and tales from summers long gone, came rushing by.

Does this happen to you? What stirs bittersweet memories in you?

 

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Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely rest of the week.

Tuesday Tales-Summertime

Summer is here and it is bright and beautiful all around, even in our neighborhood. Lathered up with sun screen and donning hats and sunglasses, everyone’s ready to tackle the dazzling summer sun. After all, it’s only going to last a couple of months! It indeed calls for celebration. Barbecues, trips to the pool and the beach, running through sprinklers, backyard camping, lovely flowers wherever you look, long queues outside the local ice cream parlor, summer camps are all part of that merriment.

Growing up, summer was somewhat similar but also slightly different. It meant the much awaited summer vacation and a trip to someplace far enough to warrant my favorite mode of travel- the train. It also meant visits from some of our favorite people, extra T.V time, staying out for a little longer than usual. It meant gorging on mangoes, the most juicy and sweet kind one can probably find only in the state of Bengal and it also meant sultry afternoons sipping on the ‘ghol’ (a very light version of its famous cousin-the lassi). It also meant ‘holiday homework’ that only got started usually on the last week of the ‘holiday’ and the scramble to get it all done added to the crabby feeling triggered by the imminent opening of  school.

Back home, the hot and humid summers make the air heavy and drown everyone in sweat. The afternoons are sometimes unbearable and an eerie silence descends on the neighborhoods that is only occasionally broken by the cawing of the crow or the shrill call of the peddler trying to sell his wares. His sticky skin glistens under the glaring sun and the heat from the asphalt probably scorches his feet through the threadbare sandals. We often heard peddlers from inside the comfort of our houses, where the silence was instead broken by the rotating blades of the ceiling fan. Ma sometimes spoke about such courageous people who fought against adversities on a daily basis just to make ends meet. If our doorbell rang, Ma would buy something even if we did not really need it (these were mostly inexpensive goods as well) and would always offer the person water to drink. And there were a couple of occasions when I remember she let them rest indoors for a while till they felt ready to go back out again. Some other families in our neighborhood did the same. Summers were cool for many but scorching for most. But times were simpler back then and people looked out for each other probably more than now. Trust was implicit and that made living easier.

Summer time in Kolkata and in the eastern region of India also brought/brings the much awaited and always welcome ‘Kalbaishakhi’- the Nor’westers. Skies darken and the stillness in the air deepens. Rumbles can be heard far and wide and then the dark grey clouds open their gates to drain the earth with torrential downpour. The heady aroma from the sweltering earth, the bruised leaves dancing in the rain and the crackling thunders make everyone overlook the temporary inconvenience the Kalbaishakhi causes. I remember them with clarity and fondness and I miss them dearly too. While we do get sudden thunderstorms here as well, they fall far behind the almost royal nature of the revered Kalbaishakhis.

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This photo was taken by a pretty mediocre cell phone camera right before one such ‘Kalbaishakhi’ back in Kolkata  a few years back. The sky had turned this deep yellow and there was stillness all around.

The following photos are from neighborhood strolls and from lunch outings over the past couple of weeks- it has been beautiful all around.

 

 

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Thanks for stopping by. What are some of your favorite memories from summer?

 

Tuesday Tales

                                                               Memories -Jamshedpur

    I have been thinking about writing this particular post for some time now but it has been a bit difficult to gather my thoughts. It should not be difficult, right? We all have memories that are dear to our hearts and memories that we wish we could forget but we can’t. That’s what makes memories omnipotent…they are always there with the good, bad and the ugly. I guess I have reached that age where I look back at my childhood days with fondness, but they also come with a strange anguish, something that tugs at the strings of the heart in a manner that is not always joyful in its entirety. The joy is always accompanied by the longing- the agony of wanting to go back in time and relive moments and days that are so deeply embedded in our conscience that it toys with the current nature of reality.

   I am not very good with change…I have come to realize this. I accept change when the need arises and shape things accordingly but it takes time and while that can be good thing, it can also occasionally present itself as disconcerting. While I continue to adapt to life in this country, still learning the ropes after ten years, a part of me- the deepest part- lives thousands of miles away. The city of Kolkata and the small town of Jamshedpur are the two places that have seen me through the simple rites of childhood and through the defiance of teenage life and till today hold me in warm embrace of memories I made decades ago. And so naturally, they find prominence in any memory that I conjure up of the past to the point that the pining for the place and time gone by, hurts.

    I grew up as part of a large extended family-my father has 12 siblings- and I have always been super proud to be part of this crazy clan. I have had some of the best moments of growing up with these folks during our yearly trip to our family home in Jamshedpur and I have been fiercely protective of all that it has entailed.

   Times change. The house, a bungalow is no longer there. In its place stands a tall building that houses offices and a couple of floors have been turned into a ‘guest house’. The other bungalows in the neighborhood have all met the same fate. Families have left or have become just one more nameplate in the middle of the ten other that share the previous address of the ‘owner’, whose front yard had bougainvillea and the “champa” (Plumeria) welcoming anyone who walked through the small black gates. The big field that was the center around which the houses were lined, no longer draws children who used to be out every evening with cricket bats and balls and teams lined up for matches with rules that were tailored to suit the needs of the players. It has been fashioned into a parking lot of sorts for the cars and small trucks that the new residents and shop keepers own and small roadside stalls have opened up to cater to their chai-pani (snacks).

   I no longer can go there. My people have moved too and are now in Kolkata. Having spent 70 years of their lives in that once beautiful neighborhood, their lives have been uprooted and are now defined by and confined to a three bedroom apartment. I no longer can run up the stairs and go to the roof to smell the bel phool (a type of Jasmine) or watch the clouds float across the mountain range that could be seen at a distance. I will no longer be able to see the golden moon rise from behind the school building that stood at one end of the big field, its walls bearing the signs of the city’s political story.

   Landscape changes with time and I sometimes wonder if all of it is for the better. In the age of no cable, no colored television, no video games, no internet were we, and as an extension, life, more genuine, more palpable? Happiness comes at steeper prices now and yet, fails to satisfy at times. I also sometimes wonder if I have become too sophisticated for rustic pleasures and if my kids are ever going to know that kind of simplicity and joy.

   I long for that place, a place that no longer exists the way my heart remembers. And it aches  a bit thinking about that. But it also brings me immense joy reminiscing about that place and time and the people that made everything so unforgettable. I never somehow had a favorite uncle or aunt, but I have favorite memories with all of them and they have all nurtured, in their own ways, my growing up. I wish we all took more pictures at that time capturing moments that had us burst with laughter or cuddle under a big blanket in the front yard at night where we once had a ‘camping’ of sorts! It was honest and simple. My yearning for going back to India has not stopped and while I know that it is no longer possible, a tiny part of my heart still clings on to that hope. In this faraway land, where seasons dictate coffee flavors I reminisce and laugh on my own. I revisit the house and its rooms and think about the people that made the mundane, riveting.  I share stories with Neel who tries his best to be enthusiastic at most times! I am waiting for my kids to grow up so that I can share stories with them and through those tales, bring that place and people a little close to them.

   My memories inspire me and keep me connected to people I am many miles away from. They are part of my identity and they help me navigate where I am headed to. Memories make me who I am ( at least I would like to believe so), as they teach and guide; they let me fall back on them when need be and they also sneak up from nowhere to surprise me! They are my pathway to the future that may not have the exact idyllic scenarios from the past, but will hopefully help me shape ones that my kids will, one day, remember fondly.

 

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     “Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it”- Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge-Feelings of Spring!

   It is almost spring here in New Jersey…almost. It’s somewhat the ‘feeling of spring’ as this week’s theme from Friendly Friday Photo Challenge hosted by Something to Ponder About (https://forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/) and The Snow Melts Somewhere (https://thesnowmeltssomewhere.wordpress.com/) suggests. Winter-y weather seems to be dragging on forever  here on the East Coast and even though temperatures have started rising to the ‘comfortable’ 40s and 50s, there is still quite a nip in the air that sadly keeps us from keeping our winter jackets away.

   For me, here,  birds are the heralds of spring; their much awaited chirp breaks the monotony of the wintry silence that keeps us engulfed, what feels like at times to be, for ever. Kids playing outside and neighbors chatting for more than the perfunctory greetings are all signs of warmer weather and cheery hearts! And then come the sprouting of tiny greens on the bare branches, little pink flowers  with a smell that is almost intoxicating and that urge to breathe in lungs full of fresh air. I grew up in Kolkata where spring is much warmer and while the pink of cherry blossoms is surely missing,  the  red ‘polash’, a fiery orange-ish red flower also commonly known as the flame-of-the forest and colorful bougainvilleas add that rejuvenating splash of color,  signalling the advent of spring.

    The look that my four year old gets when I say ‘it seems to be a good day to go to the park’ has added to the wonder of spring for the past couple of years. The joy and exuberance that a child feels from being able to run around in the open, after remaining cooped up indoors during the dreadful winter months is hard to parallel! We still need to wear fleece jackets and hats but we go out and run around to our hearts’ content and the little guy exclaims, almost every step of the way to the park, at all the things he had missed during winter and the spark in his eyes warms up my heart, as I try to keep up with his bouncy steps.

   These pictures of spring were taken a few years back:

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These sunflowers added to the  bright Florida sun, on our way back from camping at the Everglades back in 2012.

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We spent last spring in Kolkata and these bougainvilleas adorned the rooftop of my in-laws’ house.

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And these are from a couple of days back, in our neighborhood….most tree branches are still bare but some have started to spring back and I hope to take better pictures once the pink and the white of the cherry blossoms take over.

 

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And this was on the first warm-ish day at the park!

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Happy Spring folks!

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge- Story

I decided to participate in Friendly Friday Photo Challenge hosted by:

The Snow Melts Somehwere ( https://thesnowmeltssomewhere.wordpress.com/) and Something to Ponder About (https://forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/). There is a new prompt every Friday and this week’s prompt is “Story”.

 

It is my first time doing this and here’s my take on that:

7195d1a4-3c6d-4e48-ba32-5e09b93a2896                                                             GROWING UP TALES

 

I have been noticing for quite some time how my four year old has been gradually turning into a little more matured tiny human, with a developing set of likes and dislikes- and this shelf in our small bookcase tells that story the best. ‘Baby’ books (as he calls them) have been getting replaced by these ‘big boy’ books and we are enjoying growing up ‘seeing and reading’ these. The saying ‘ Kids grow up too fast’ is so true!