Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Secrets

Shhhhh….!!

Who doesn’t love a secret, especially the getting to know it;) We all grew up guarding secrets revolving around our ‘crushes’. Don’t tell me that it was otherwise for you! They are innocent and fun, for the most part. And then as we keep on moving ahead in our lives, secrets probably take on a different form and while being harmless, they maybe lose the component of innocence. Have you ever wondered what makes us keep secrets in our daily lives? This post made me curious and I looked up a few articles online, (this one was quite comprehensive https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/05/shhhhh/526581/) and now I am even more intrigued! Anyways…this post is not about serious secret keeping and so I am moving on to the fun part!

I was thinking  a bit about what to post when I  checked my phone in the morning for this week’s prompt but that got cut by the clock telling me to get school lunch ready. And then, something  strange happened. Something that can be called a stroke of serendipity. Do you believe in it?

The good man has taken up a few cleaning projects around the house recently since we seem to be running out of space, almost everywhere. This morning was the same and he found  a bag full of stuff, some of which were head scratching (for instance a tiny key on a shoe shaped key chain I have no memory of buying ever!) while some put a big smile on my face. And gave me the idea of what I could share with you.

 

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This is the same photo that is the icon on this site and was taken 10 years ago in a place that is very close to my heart. It is one of my favorite photos and makes me glad to be able to post it today. Can you tell what secret this photo holds? I would really love to hear.

Thank you Snow for this very intriguing, and at the same time a thoughtful prompt:) The Friendly Friday Photo Challenge has surely become a thing very close to my heart!

 

Thanks for stopping by and let serendipity find you!

 

 

 

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge- Alternative Version

   When I read Snow’s post for the weekly challenge of Friendly Friday  , John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ is what popped into my head right away. And though I was not sure what photos to post for this as I could not think about any at the moment, I surely did not want to miss out on this! And so I chose to participate.

   As Snow says ‘ It’s not necessarily a better version of things, just a different one, composed of the choices we didn’t make. And there are so many new choices we make every moment, starting right now.’ Choices are a crucial part of ‘who we are, who we choose to be’  and that’s a responsibility we shoulder everyday, without probably thinking a whole lot at all times. Choices often chart who we cross our paths with and what road that leads us down and where we find ourselves as a result of that. For instance around 2006, I chose to submit an application for the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) on the very last date and at the very last hour, literally. I already had a job that I was happy at and was planning for my Ph.D and teaching in Japan was something I had absolutely never thought about. And guess what? I did end up getting selected, teaching,  having an unforgettable time and making a million memories during my two year stay in that beautiful country. I am not sure what the alternate version would have been (had I not applied) but I think it would not have been as wonderful . I met someone there who has become one of  my closest confidantes and while we live in different countries, she continues to be my dearest friend. And you know what else? I reconnected with Neel while in Japan (we went to the same high school and knew each other but weren’t really good friends) and over Skype calls, we fell in love with each other. A good twelve years later, here we are trying to navigate this chaotic world and figuring out how to raise responsible kids who know right from wrong and do not end up criticizing the amazing courage of the kinds like Greta Thunberg. (I was appalled to know the hundreds of hateful comments that have come her way…what is wrong with this world..i feel like screaming out at times!)

    I wish that the world was a bit different, a bit kinder, a bit safer. I still hope that it can be one day. There are many choices we could have made but we did not..some we probably regretted and some we celebrated. Irrespective of what we did and we did not, all those shaped us to be our current self and I hope, moving forward we are inspired to make choices that are responsible.

Sharing a very favorite photo that stands for that choice I made in 2006 that led me down an alternate path and I ended up being where and what I am today.

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A very powerful word, much stronger than its alternate.

 

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Tokyo Tower, signifying a rather significant alternate route I took!

 

 

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Taken in Minnesota near Two Harbors, we were contemplating going down these stairs as it would mean climbing them back up and near the end of our day trip, we were already quite exhausted. But I am glad we did go down these stairs as the view of  Lake Superior was remarkable. Though we could  see the lake quite well from strategic points at a higher elevation but going down, it was so different. There was serenity and a feeling of humbleness and it served as an appropriate ending to that day.

 

And since John Lennon came to my mind, here are the lyrics (in case you need them) for you to sing along!

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today (ah ah ah)
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one.
Thanks for stopping by!

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:)

For a cold-ish night- Chicken & Gravy

   I am glad that Fall is here…well almost here. It is getting harder to get up in the mornings and that desire to cover myself up with another light blanket and just be cozy for a few extra minutes, is getting harder to fight. The dazzling blue sky, crisp air and that autumn smell is enticing and while it feels tricky to calculate in how many layers to dress up the little guy for school, it is a happy feeling overall. Till winter shows up.

    I have written on a similar topic before as well and you can read that here but I get this urge to write a bit more around this time of the year. You see it’s ‘Durga Pujo’ time back in Kolkata and few other parts of India and the Bengali in me still yearns for it, in spite of being in this country for a good number of years. And that longing does not go away. I get super nostalgic and reminisce till it almost hurts a bit and at the same time makes me ecstatic and sometimes, I chew off the good man’s ears with favorite memories from that time. My kids have not reached that age yet where they will understand that frenzy and since we live in a land far away, I doubt they ever will. For them the excitement of Halloween and Christmas will always be a bit more and that’s probably okay. My son does get excited though about getting dressed in Panjabi (or Kurta– the traditional attire for men in India) and going to see Goddess Durga and Her full Family, all decked up! He loves the general merriment, especially the beating of the dhaak ( a membranophone instrument from India) that is almost ethereal and one of the most awaited sounds for every Bengali around this time back in Kolkata. And that makes me happy. So, while it is quite different here physically, in my mind I keep taking short trips to past Pujos during this time. That’s the wonderful thing about weaving memories…they remain for you to enjoy and cuddle in whenever you want to.

   New Jersey nights are different from the glittery glamour of Pujo nights back home. They are quiet and offer a very different symphony. Chirps of crickets, occasional rustling of leaves, a solitary car alarm breaking the sound of silence in the neighborhood. They are colder too. The intoxicating smell of the shiuli (night-flowering jasmine) does not fill up the senses here but the reds, yellows, and oranges of the leaves sure make for a visual treat. While we do stir up Bengali delicacies during this time of the year, Fall also heralds the beginning of trying various casseroles, one pot dishes, hearty soups, ramens and similar comfort foods! And that gets me scouring the internet for inspirations and recipes and firing up the stove eventually. A couple of nights ago, I had this desire to have some chicken and gravy, something that I have somehow never made before and after going through a handful of recipes, I found one from https://thesaltymarshmallow.com/one-pan-smothered-chicken/. I made a couple of minute alterations and I will note them in red in the recipe below. It was super delicious and an instant hit even with my little guy who is a picky eater! I am sharing the recipe here and I hope you get to try it sometime and enjoy it as much as we did.

One Pan Smothered Chicken

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Author: Nichole

Ingredients

  • 6 Slices Bacon, Diced
  • 2 Pounds Chicken Thighs, Bone in and skin on
  • 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 Teaspoons Garlic Powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Onion Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Paprika
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Stick Butter, Divided
  • 3 1/2 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Cup Milk

Instructions

  • Cook the diced bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. (I did not have bacon)
  • While the bacon is cooking, mix together the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a shallow bowl or dish.
  • Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels and dredge the chicken on each side into the seasoned flour until coated. Shake off any excess flour and set the flour mixture aside for later. (Also, I did not have chicken thighs and I had to use drumsticks and the cooking time was a little longer. Check for internal temperature of 165F. I had also marinated the chicken earlier with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, a little bit of chipotle mustard and a little bit of mayonnaise)
  • Once the bacon is removed from the pan, add half of the butter to the pan and allow to melt.
  • When the butter is melted, add the flour coated chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes per side until golden brown.
  • Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.
  • Add the remaining butter to the pan and allow it to melt.
  • Sprinkle one cup of the remaining seasoned flour to the pan and whisk for 1 minute until the butter and flour are well combined.
  • Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and milk until gravy is smooth.
  • Return the cooked chicken and bacon to the pan.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

 

   The good man made some mashed potatoes that was super smooth and yummy too. We had this with seasoned quinoa (and by seasoned I mean I had added salt, paprika and lemon-pepper powder to the water when the quinoa was cooking). We enjoyed the dinner as a family and even our 10 month old joined us in her high chair, squished some of her orange puffs and made various noises, which according to the little guy was her trying to join in the ‘grown up’ conversation we were having!

 

 

   And as I went to bed that night and drifted away to sleep, the festive nights of Kolkata seemed to be a world away, and the gentle lullaby and the humming of the pedestal fan were the only sounds breaking the lull of a sleepy house.

 

[I don’t know the name of this tree or the flower, but this look reminded me of the Shiuli phool (Bengali for flower) back in India that blossom during these autumn months and a whiff is enough to tell you that Pujo is here.]

 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you are weaving memories that will keep you warm and snuggled, wherever you find yourself.

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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candle and decor

 

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

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Sunrise

I have been missing this awesome weekly affair for the past few weeks because, sadly. I just did not have the time to go out for fresh photos and neither did  I have any to fall back on from my not so big an archive. But ‘Sunrise’ is something I have a few photos of and though they can all be found here and there in my other posts, this provides a good opportunity to bring them under one roof!

I am not a morning person and have never been. I can stay awake till the wee hours and go through the next day without a nap too and I will still greet you with a smile but ask me to get up really early and there is a slight chance that you may not see the nice me!! Growing up, I remember vividly, a chaos was inevitable when during family vacations, my brother and I had to  get up early to catch the beautiful sunrise from across the vast expanse of the big blue sea. Our parents would be up all chirpy and fresh by what we used to think was simply unacceptable when on vacations. We, on the other hand, could barely drag ourselves out of the beds and find enough energy to walk across the road to the beach to catch the sunrise. At that time, it was not a whole lot of fun. But, I am glad our parents made us do that since amidst all that chaos and unpleasantness of having to get up early, we have made wonderful memories that I fondly look back to now. One that stands out at the moment because of its uniqueness is that of a short trip to a coastal town/city of New Digha in my home state of West Bengal when I was around ten. After the sun had risen and we had managed to get our grumpiness out of the way, we saw fishermen, who had gone out to the sea in the really early hours, come back with their daily haul. It was a sight I had never seen before and it was powerful. The smiles on their faces  and the gaiety in their tone, while calling out to each other and going over their morning routine made it clear that it was a successful trip. And I assume they had more than what they needed because soon after all the boats had reached the shore, they set up an impromptu display of their catch, with the purpose of sale and the over inquisitive tourists on the beach had a blast! It was a sight worth seeing and we came home with a couple of freshly caught fish (I sadly do not remember what they were) that we later fried and had a meal of. We also took a couple of pictures holding ‘our catch’ and  while both remain dear to my heart, one is a little extra special. That one was taken by my brother who was around five at the time and  was going through a phase where he would get really upset if he wasn’t allowed to take photos. So, he took a photo of the three of us holding fish and his tiny hands could not hold the ‘Hot Shot’ well and the result was while Ma and I were okay, my dad’s head did not make it in that shot! This was during the time when digital cameras weren’t there to make photography easier and there were no retakes since those were the days of the good old film cameras and 36 was the number, if I remember correctly, of shots that could be captured in one film roll. And so, when the picture was taken we had no idea it would come out that way and when the photos came back in print form, we had  a blast looking at that particular one. I still sometimes make fun of my brother and we reminiscence the good old days of growing up.

Times are different now and I have been setting alarms to get up in the morning to catch the sunrise when on vacation and this time it is my good man who finds it difficult to get out from under the sheets! I am yet to try this with our son and I am curious to find out how that is going to turn out. I must say the serenity of dawn is probably incomparable. Everything is peaceful and the moment seems just perfect. The few times that I have had the delight of catching the sunrise has been refreshing and they have mostly been during vacations on the beach. I never felt more in tune with my inner self and my mind was not racing. Waves breaking on the shore and the occasional chirping of birds provide the right music to that glow when the sky breaks into shades of pink and orange before that bright yellow ball finally peeks out from the horizon, heralding the beginning of another day full of possibilities and the opportunity to do things right.

The Friendly Friday Photo Challenge is hosted every week, alternately by Amanda and Snow!

Here are some of the photos from my archive:

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Home, New Jersey

 

sunrise ocean cityOcean City, Maryland

 

 

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Manchester, Vermont

 

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Ocean City, Maryland

 

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From the window of an airplane, en route to India.

 

Thanks for stopping by!

Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a good thing, they say.

 

That favorite dress you wore to every party

The fight over the TV remote with your sibling

The holiday shopping and gift wrapping

That extra pocket money for all the ice cream.

 

Holding hands to cross the street

Sulking when denied that special treat

Looking out of the window to catch the taxi turning the bend

That had in it, people you loved.

 

Brown covers on school notebooks

White ‘keds’ for PT class

Running around in circles till our heads spun

Are now all things of the past.

 

The big courtyard with the mango tree

And clothes hanging on the lines

Faces I can no longer touch

All remain in my memory, immune to the tricks of time.

 

The sound of the ice cream man on sultry afternoons

The sudden ‘load shedding’

That unexpected guest and unbridled giggles

Are now sacred pages in my memory pocket book.

 

Pretty little smiles fill up the present

Dreams abound

Wheels of time spin faster than before

As I rush to hold on.

 

Scattered across the memory

Are glimmers of a time a gone by

Nostalgia peeks from corners

As my soul dances to the tinkling rhythms of the past.

 

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