Winter Trees

There’s a lot on my mind and plate at the moment and so I find myself a bit less engaged in taking photos or writing something down here. But I will be back soon with my next post for the Cook, Eat, Repeat Challenge and am excited for that!

Meanwhile, I was going through my older photos, looking for a specific one when I came across these ‘winter trees’, as I have decided to call them and I fell in love once again with their beauty. They never cease to capture my eyes and are on top of my “when- I will be- capable -of- capturing- better -photos” list. Till then, these will have to do!

 

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Thanks for stopping by and wish you all a restful weekend!

A Photo A Week Challenge: At Play

As I have mentioned before, behavioral patterns of my kids are in stark contrast with each others. The older one is still the quieter one, the one that would sit still for longer and play with his toys for hours when he was an infant and a toddler. Which also gave me ample opportunities to take his pictures! My younger one has been a bundle of energy from the very beginning and it has been challenging to photograph her…be still or at play! But my efforts continue! In spite of their differences, however, they are good at playing with each other and that makes for many a wonderful afternoons:) I wish I had some good photos to post but I don’t and at the same time, I did not want to miss out on the challenge this week! So, here I go with this week’s post for Nancy Merrill’s Photography Challenge.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.

A Photo A Day: December ’19-Jan

In the frenzy of bidding 2019 goodbye and all the hoopla that is usually a part of that, I put a hold on my ‘a photo a day’. And now that all that craziness has subsided and we are again back into the usual humdrum, I wanted to share photos from December through today as part of my a photo a day project!. Many of these photos I have already shared as part of various challenges and some on my other posts, but here they are as a collage.

 

 

 

 

Moments big and small make up for this tapestry that we weave everyday. Etched across the pocketbook of our memories, some are soft, some hurt and some make us roll on the floor with laughter. They help us look back into the vignette of the time gone by and remember a particular afternoon. These were my moments. Hope you are sketching in your pocketbook of memories too.

Thanks for stopping by and I wish you all a weekend that lets you do whatever you want to!

Cook, Eat, Repeat Challenge: A Drink to Cherish

                                                   Tea/Chai/Cha:  Call what you will

Thin frozen puddles crackle under my boots and as I have, once again, forgotten to wear the gloves, my hands almost freeze the moment my fingers touch the icy steering. It had rained last night and the below zero temperatures turned the tiny droplets of water into a beautiful work of art, resembling a fern. I quickly get out of the car to take a photo and turn on the wiper to give it a couple of quick swishes and my boy and I are off to school. Winter has made itself comfortable here in New Jersey and while snow days have been few and far in between, the early morning frost has been a regular visitor.

As I drive back home after dropping the kiddo off at school, I suddenly have this urge to make myself a cup of tea the moment I get home..but not the simple one I am used to drinking. I want to sip on a more aromatic version, one that is steeped in milk and sugar and has a hint of ginger and cardamom, giving it that heady smell that easily transports me to some cold evenings in my hometown of Calcutta, railway stations, the joy of stopping at one of the many tea stalls scattered throughout this grand old city for a refreshing sip of the city’s famous ‘bhaar cha(bhaar– Bengali for handmade tea cups that are typically made of clay and have been used for serving ‘cha’ -Bengali for tea, that is sold on the streets throughout India and definitely Calcutta, where Bengali is the native language).

e2fe0202-10e4-447f-b157-a5d19ae2c195This is what bhaars look like in a typical tea stall in Calcutta. Notice some plastic jars to the right of the photo- these usually hold biscuits and other tidbits to accompany the cha that keeps boiling (see the big pan) for as long as the stall remains open to never return a customer. These are rustic road side tea stalls and cater to people from all walks of life. The tea is then poured into kettles like the ones seen here and it goes around filling up these tiny bhaars.

 

I hear from friends and family that bhaars are rapidly disappearing from the streets, railway stations, train cars and even street corners and getting replaced by the awful plastic everywhere in India. My city is no exception but I hear she still perseveres; probably an example of its unshakable love for the quintessential past that gets reflected in the contemporary lifestyle of the youth and creates a unique juxtaposition of tradition and modernity.

Calcutta has been called ‘a city with soul’ (Vir Sangvi) and I couldn’t agree more. Not because it is my city, my birthplace, a place that has seen me through my best and worst and embraced me with a warm hug every time I have visited it in the last 13 years but because it is true. As true as the sun that rises everyday. There is a warmth of emotions that reigns supreme and lets you drown in the genuineness of passion. And the clay cups, the bhaar’s are a testament to that. The often rickety benches at these tea stalls have been a seat of powerful discussions about art and culture, about sports ranging from the gully cricket to that played by the likes of Gavaskar and Viv Richards, about political ideologies that have had people miss their last bus for home. When you walk along the side walks of Calcutta, you might find, in some, such bhaars crunching under your foot. You see, it is said and believed that after slurping on that aromatic concoction, people smash it on the ground to return the clay to the earth from which it was made. I have never done that myself as every tea stall has a bin meant for throwing the bhaars there, but I have surely stepped on broken clay pieces a great number of times. While it does not speak to the ‘keep your city clean’ banners and posters that are seen splashed all over the city, it certainly speaks to the emotional side of bhaar cha lovers.

If you ever visit my beautiful city or any other lovely city in India, you should try sipping on this tea, that aside from being intoxicating, also has an earthy flavor distinctive of its holder that may or may not transport you to the bygone days but which would definitely make you pause a bit. And if you are lucky, you might get to experience that on a rainy day when that earthy smell of the rain will act as the perfect setting for your bhaar cha experience.

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The sweet concoction that is far superior to any chai tea/ masala chai that is sold in the supermarkets and cafes in the Western World and I say this not just out of my love for this! These photos were taken by my brother yesterday of the local tea stall near my parents’ flat in Calcutta. Thank you, my dear brother:)

 

I digress.

The well heated kitchen of our apartment about 8000 miles away from the streets of Calcutta is not a place for that experience. Nor are the cups. But I still made that tea and while it lacked the heady smell of the rain, or that of the kettle that is usually black from being on the stove all day long, as boiling milk and tea pour down the sides, it was satisfying nonetheless. The western world has a version of this tea “the masala chai”or the “chai tea”, but the bhaar cha of Calcutta differs.

So, as I was pondering about what to share with you on my first post at Cook, Eat, Repeat and what to hear from you about, I could not think of anything better than drinks that comfort you, that transport you to a different place maybe, that bring joy to you, that you cherish occasionally. It maybe something that you sip on everyday or something that is reserved for special days. Or something that you stir up with memories from days gone by. It could be anything. Anything that makes you smile.

Please share your own memory, an anecdote or just the recipe of your favorite drink or drinks and let’s all toast to a wonderful New Year!

Here’s the recipe for two cups of Calcutta style ‘bhaar cha’. I must note that there are quite a few versions of this and so to claim that this is THE ‘bhaar cha’ will be incorrect. Many also add cloves and cinnamon.  Tea that is typically sold as “Chai Tea or Masala Tea” here in the Western World  is similar to the more aromatic version with cloves and cinnamon. But this recipe is a much lighter, yet fragrant enough version. I, for one, do not like the smell of clove or cinnamon in my tea and hence always omit those when making myself a cuppa! So, if you are like me too, go ahead and give this a try and I hope you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s how you make it

Serving size – 2 cups
Total Time  –  About 10-12 mins

Ingredients–   Lipton Tea bags: 4

                Water: 1 cup

                 Milk: 1 cup

                 Cardamom: 2 pieces

                 Ginger: a quarter inch, smush it a little with the back of a spoon.

                Sugar: 3 tsps (less or more depending on your sweet tooth)

Method  –  Add water in a saucepan and to it, add the cardamom and ginger. Let it boil on the stove top for 3-4 mins on a low flame so that the flavors from the spices are released. Increase the heat and bring the water to a boil.  This may take another minute or so. Then, add the milk and carefully let it bubble. Add the tea bags (I cut open the tea bags and pour out the tea into the saucepan) and sugar and boil on high for a quick minute till the liquid is almost about to pour out of the pan. Lower the heat and partially cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for about 3-4 mins. You have to watch it carefully so as not to let the tea spill over and leave you with a very sticky saucepan and stove top. You will notice that the tea might change color from a brown to a darker brown (almost orange-ish). Strain it. Let it cool a bit and taste for sweetness.

You might have to make it a couple of times to get the perfect balance of sweetness from the sugar and the flavor from the spices. Neither should be overpowering!

As I had mentioned previously, this is a version of the Calcutta “bhaar cha” that I prefer…a bit subtle yet flavorful enough to be enjoyed on a cold day:)

I remembered to take a photo only after I had taken quite a few sips!

 

This is a monthly challenge so you will have the whole of January to share anything you like on your favorite drink/s. You are more than welcome to share more than just one drink recipe! I will be posting through the month about drinks that are my favorite and I am looking forward to hearing from you. What’s your favorite cocktail? What do you like to drink after a stressful day? Is there a special drink that is reserved for your most important people? What’s your favorite beverage from your childhood days? What’s your favorite holiday drink? Are you a tea or a coffee person? It can be anything! The recipes don’t necessarily have to be original as long as you share them with due permission from whose the original recipe is/ share the link to the blog/website you are sharing the recipe from.

Here’s how to participate…pretty much standard stuff!

  • Create your own post with your recipe, story, photosanything that you might wish to share that represents the theme of the month.
  • Create a pingback (link to this post) or maybe leave a link in the comment section.
  • Join whenever you can!
  • Visit some of the other posts shared.

Cheers and thanks for stopping by!

 

Of untold tales

Every house has a story or two. And stories often remain untold.

Stories about…

“…empty cane chairs on the balcony of the family house that no longer sees people. The paint on the walls outside have started to chip in places while spider webs are the only artwork inside. The reading glasses of its inhabitants remain on the table, next to the open book that was just being read…or so it would seem. The sarees remain folded neatly in the almirah and the dishes in the kitchen neatly kept away. Legal complications have left this house in limbo, unloved un-lived and un-cared. This house does not care if a year ends or another begins. Time has stood still here from a couple of winters ago when, cocooned in her blanket, the old lady peacefully passed away in her sleep.”

 

“…summers that have always been awful in that part of the country. Sweat trickled down the face in rivulets and the heat almost suffocated you. The glare of the mid morning sun sliced through the bamboo shades and water from the earthen pitchers provided the only respite from the sweltering days. The courtyard in the center of the house cracked from the heat and one would have to sprint across it if the bathroom, at the other end, had to be used. But in another corner the mango, papaya, and guava trees provided a shade that would easily calm down the uneasiness and the sweet smelling bel phool (bel flower: a type of the jasmine flower that is native to tropical Asia) would make one linger around the shade for several minutes. The querulous call of the crows would occasionally break the eerie silence that prevailed on such afternoons, both inside and outside the walls. As ceiling fans whirled overhead and circulated the heady aroma of the paan (betel leaves), people enjoyed their siesta, almost oblivious of the stifling heat. From its bare bones today, it it would be hard to tell that in its prime, it nurtured life with love that was rare. It has stories that if told would surely embrace the listener in a warm and exhilarating hug.”

 

“…a small well that stood at the entrance of the two story house and one would have to maneuver with care when passing it or the chances of getting one’s shoes wet were high in the puddles that were to be found at all times of the day. The long verandah with the wooden chair at one corner had seen many a special moments like people bursting out in cheer (and some in anger) as they watched the soccer World Cup back in 1986 when Argentina won a crucial match by the ‘Hand of God’. It had been witness, not once but a couple of times, to a lone langur that would often seat himself on that chair, and hold up the newspaper that would usually be found on the table right next to it and spend sometime ‘reading’ that. Where the langur came from and where it disappears to, was another story the house could tell. It could also share one of its favorite memories which was that of the owners’ nine grandchildren posing for a photograph on the steps of the attic. That old house with the well has been taken down and a grand flat stands in its place where there is no well to be maneuvered.”

 

Another year ends in a day and with that we add, or at least hope to add, another year to our lives. We live another year to tell stories that have remained untold. We live to cherish the past more and weave memories from the present for the future. Let’s make sure we keep telling stories that matter, that make people heard and that remember those who no longer are there to share their stories.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

A Birthday Post

How do I start this post that wants to celebrate the person I share my home with, the one who is imperfectly perfect for me, is a good father to our kids and who would get absolutely mad if he knew about this! When I had an account on Facebook, posts splashed with love would pop up every other day, as couples shared each other’s birthdays and anniversaries and let their whole world know how much they loved each other. And I often thought “if only he would post something similar on my birthday or our anniversary and also not get upset if I did the same”. But he never did and neither did I . I also thought the posts to be too cheesy 😉

As I have come to know this person more and more over the years and as I continue to know him, the elements of surprise and predictability go hand in hand in his case and that combination assures me that we are two imperfect people who are never going to give up on each other. I knew him in high school and then we reconnected after a gap of almost seven years but it never felt that we hadn’t been in touch (sounds like a terrible cliche, I know!). And we have been on a roller coaster ride since. Through the fights and laughs, we have seen each other at our worst and best and learned to pause, reflect and move on. He has been patient and kind and as supportive as one could possibly be when I have needed him the most. He is forgetful of many things on a daily basis and while that is supremely irritating at times, that has also given me and continues to give some of the best memories with him! His passion for music ( a completely self taught guitarist!) and for cooking keep impressing me even today. A ‘perfectionist’ husband can be a difficult thing, specially when the wife is more of a slob but that inspires the slob to be better!

Neel: Here’s to you….who I married almost eleven years ago and whom I have known for ever.

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While this is a very hazy picture, it remains my favorite wedding photo. Remember the time when we got married, you were  going through the most challenging time of your life. We had nothing and yet somehow we survived and came out stronger. You helped me adjust to this very different way of life here and made me see the best in all that there was, in what we had. We didn’t have money or time to travel far and wide and so the only place for us to go to, over and over again was Duluth, that still is my most favorite place to visit. Let’s go there again!

 

From rustic to not so plain, you can cook up a meal that leaves my tummy full and heart fuller and I absolutely do not mind the tremendous mess in the kitchen! Your zen like state, under all circumstances can be annoying at times, but when I take a step back and think about that, I could not be more grateful. You help me keep my balance and I know to lean on you when needed. I applaud you for your patience and I am happy for choosing you to be the yin to my yang.

And what can I say about that guitar! The dedication and passion with which you play, be it simple strumming or nursery rhymes or Pink Floyd, is inspiring and simply amazing and I love it more than I can ever express properly. The little guy looks up to you and I can see how he watches you when you play and that makes me pause.

You don’t particularly like taking selfies and neither do you think every occasion deserves a photo and while we have to agree to diasgree, I am glad that we have these to remind us of simple times at home and the times we have traveled around. I look forward to so many more of such photos together:) If I asked you which was my favorite from this group, you would have no problem pointing at the one in the extreme right bottom…in the waiting room of the hospital back in 2015…waiting to get admitted to welcome our baby boy:)

It is hard to tell, from those kind eyes, that you are a very mischievous person too! Bit by bit, you and the little guy are adding to the pages of your pocketbook of memories.

I remember all the apprehension you had about being able to be a good father and while you are still new in this arena, you are doing a good job with them…let their mamma tell you that!

 

When I look at you and then I look at us, I am reminded of the infinite patience that you have shown and the calm you have maintained when times got tough and so, when I say that we are in this together I want you to know, again, that it’s okay to not feel strong at all times…vulnerability at times, is a good thing. You are doing a great job, my love.

 

You prefer the simpler things in life and while that does baffle me at times, but it also makes me like you more and more. I wish I had captured the your expression when the Cheesecake Factory guys got you the birthday cake slice with the candle and all sang “Happy Birthday to You”!!! You were thoroughly embarrassed and didn’t know what to do…hahahahhahahahhahaa!!!!!

 

One fine evening in Kobe, these roses caught me by surprise and it has been a wonderful journey ever since. One of my favorite photos of us, this calms me down, I don’t really know why. I want you to know today and always, that no matter what we are in this together and there is a whole world of travel, food and fun waiting to greet us! We also have two very handful little ones who are entertaining and exhausting, adorable and full of mischief. I am looking forward to all the milestones that we will be celebrating together, watching them grow.

And look what happened…. this post turned out to be just as cheesy as the ones I used to squirm looking at on Facebook and you are going to be so mad! But for once, I don’t care;) I love you with all my heart and as our song goes “Wise men say, only fools rush in; But I can’t help, Falling in love with you.” My wish for you is that you continue to be the you that I have always known and hold my hand tight. I wish to travel with you all over the world but I want to start with the city that brought us together-Kobe, Japan and explore that beautiful country together.

 

 

Thank you for stopping by and thank you for (hopefully!) not thinking that this was cheesy;)

The night before Christmas

It was the night before Christmas and the house, unlike the one in the story, was in a state of ‘near pandemonium’. Dinner had not yet started and the kitchen was an absolute mess with the cookies that needed to be baked for Santa and the baby’s food that needed to go in the mixer and a sink that was overflowing with dishes from the afternoon. The little boy was finding it difficult to contain his excitement and kept jumping down from the sofa for no good reason while the baby girl kept trying to crawl under the Christmas tree and pull at whatever her tiny fingers could get hold of. The dad was doing his best trying to get the guest bedroom/playroom ready for people coming over the following day and picking up a ridiculous number of tiny pieces of Lego was making it a little challenging for sure. The mom kept breathing and cleaning the kitchen while keeping an eye on the little ones who clearly seemed to be in no rush to eat or go to bed.

Somehow dinner got done and the kitchen was cleaned and it was finally time for the kids to be in bed when the boy said ” I am thinking of staying up as long as it takes so that I can meet Santa when he comes in and ask him somethings I really need to ask”. It took a good amount of ‘logical’ storytelling that convinced him to sleep and let Santa work his magic. After the teeth had been brushed and PJs put on and a Santa story read, the boy remembered that he had forgotten to keep cookies and milk for Santa and carrot for the reindeer. So lights got turned on again in the kitchen and after all that was done, and a ‘thank you’ note written, the mom heard the boy talk to Santa looking up into the night sky through the skylight in the living room. And he said “Thank you Santa for bringing us presents. You know I want a walkie talkie and a Paw Patrol watch. I know that you are  very busy so if you can’t find a Paw Patrol watch, it’s okay…you an get me any watch or none at all…I won’t be upset. Also, could you please remember to get a flower each for my parents and a book too. And a fluffy stuffy for my baby sister.” The mom smiled and wondered when did her little munchkin grow up?

After what seemed like eternity, the kids were finally in bed and the toys had been picked up, it was time for ‘Santa’ to get going with the presents. Of course the parents had forgotten to get those out of the car, where they had been hiding it for almost a month! Cursing themselves, one went out in the cold to get those presents and then the two got together to wrap those and put bows on. The mom and the dad laughed a lot too thinking about the crazy evening just a couple of hours ago and talked about how things were when they were growing up. When all was done and the tree looked complete with the presents around it, they also talked about how at that moment there were kids all over the world who had gone to bed hungry and cold.  They spoke briefly about how things just did not seem to make sense anymore but then they also spoke about how people all around the world were rallying for such kids in their own little or big way. And that mattered. That made a difference for sure. And it may take a while to see the difference, but they believed in their hearts that a difference was being made every moment by thoughtful people who walk the ordinary life everyday and continue to participate in making this world a better place, a place where the innocence of children is not shattered by growling stomachs.

The mom, dad, the little boy and the baby girl wish you all happiness and peace, today and always.

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