Chairs- Friendly Friday Photo Challenge

  I am late this time but I finally have some for last week’s prompt by Snow for the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge that she co-hosts with Amanda !

   I have never photographed chairs and so when I saw the prompt, I was a little bummed as I thought I would have to miss out participating this week too (I had already missed Amanda’s prompt of Alleys the week before). And then I dug into my archive and found a couple and decided to present a different angle…not just chairs (or seats) but view from seats that are some of my favorites and I am hoping this will be okay. I am also going to keep a lookout for chairs that I can photograph and have a nice collection of my own! Thanks Snow for the motivation:)

 

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Someone had thrown this chair which looked to be in pretty good condition in the recycle dumpster the morning of the prompt! It made me think of a time, not that long ago in the past, when we as students, would be on the lookout for furniture, like this one in recycle dumpsters, that could help our apartment look like a home where people lived, rather than just an empty space! Nostalgia is a good thing 🙂

 

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And these stacked chairs outside the local grocery store, along with many others of a similar type, seem to say- ‘It’s almost summer…buy me buy me!’

 

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My boy was too little at that time to climb the stool and I remember him asking for some help ‘climbing the piano stool’. With no one around, he played it in his own way, lost in a world he has come to love dearly…that of music.

 

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A couple of springs ago, at one of the parks in our neighborhood.

 

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Ocean City, Maryland

 

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Not a very good photo, this is still one of my favorites…because of the memories attached to that particular day and moment. It was dusk and we were on our way back to the mainland after a trip to Liberty Island and as we looked on at her, the PA system on the ferry reminded us of what the statue stood for and a beautiful message that spoke about humanity in the face of all odds. It was a humbling experience.

 

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With not many options in this land that we have now come to call home,  this is how we have been celebrating Diwali and Christmas:)

 

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This was taken way back in 2009 in Silver Bay, Minnesota near the Split Rock Lighthouse. One of the houses along the shore that used to be the cabin of the keeper, has been turned into a museum of sorts with everyday items from that age (the early 1900s) preserved beautifully.

 

Thanks Snow!

Tuesday Tales- The Pink Trash Can

   Many moons ago, I had the opportunity to live in Kobe, Japan as part of the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) Program and to say the least, it turned out to be an experience of a lifetime. Today’s Tuesday Tales is about how a little pink trash can from my first day in Kobe.

                                                       The little pink trash can 

   I was young and it was the first time I had traveled ‘overseas’ and I was hopeful, albeit a bit nervous. I had no idea about what to expect and in a country the language of which I neither spoke nor understood, planning to work there for a couple of years did not seem as daunting as it should have. I was running high on all things bright and beautiful and was honored to be a part of this pretty cool and at the same time, enriching, program.

   It was the month of August and it was hot and humid, a weather I was quite familiar with. After a couple of days of program orientation in Tokyo with probably around 5000 participants from more than 40 countries and mesmerized by all that was going on- from our stay in the wonderful Keio Plaza Hotel, to attending lectures to a beautiful milieu of what seemed like a cultural amalgamation, to making new friends-everything seemed to good to be true. After a three day period, I boarded the Shinkansen from Tokyo  and reached Kobe, along with my colleagues, some of who I became good friends with, that continues till today. We went to the Board of Education building of the city of Kobe where after some more briefing about the whats and what not-s of the program, my co-teacher from the school I was going to be teaching English at, took me to what was going to be my home for the period of my stay in that country, and the first place where I would be staying all by myself for the first time ever…too many firsts, one may say!

   We went up the stairs and opened the door to the place and it was then that reality hit me. I was looking at a tiny place that was just floors and walls, with the tiniest gas stove I had seen. Oh, there was a little futon too but it was all rolled up in a corner and had not caught my attention in the beginning. I dragged my big red suitcase inside, thanked my co-teacher, Ms. Takashima (who by the way, was surprised at the emptiness of the place), closed the door after she left and slumped on the floor in a pool of tears. I was exhausted and scared but the glitz and happy faces of Tokyo and the adrenaline from all the excitement had kept me from facing some realities that the sight of an empty place brought to the forefront in no time.

 I was alone for the first time ever. I had never lived without my parents and I was without friends. It felt claustrophobic in there and it was hurting bad. I went to the bathroom, turned the tap on and just sat in the bathtub, with my clothes till on. And I cried my heart out. I saw no reason to be there and just wanted to run back to the place and people who I left behind, waving through the murky glass doors at the airport.

   After I was almost done crying as I could not cry any more, I heard the door bell ring and someone saying something. I was drained out from all the crying, not to mention the soaking clothes. By the time I had changed into dry clothes, and thought of three excuses about what was wrong with my eyes ( an unhealthy duration of crying does strange things to the eyes obviously), whoever had rung the bell had gone away. When I opened the door, I found a little pink trash can with a pretty lid on it…it was definitely the cutest trash can I had ever seen, with a note on it that said- ‘I hope you will make this a part of your home-Ms. Takashima’. Also hanging on the door handle was a ‘welcome bag’ from the previous batch of JET participants, who were living in the same building as us and it had all the basic necessities to help us through the first few hours.  A dinner invitation for meet and greet was followed by a very teary Skype call home and the day ended with me passing out on that tiny futon.

    As I woke up the following morning and made tea (I had brought supplies from home), I realized I was calmer and less claustrophobic. The little pink trash can, with the note still stuck on the lid, was part of my ‘home’ now and I knew 20 more people than the previous afternoon and I had survived my first night away from my family. And at that moment I remembered something that my Baba always says ‘Din periye jaye. kalker din o eshei jaye‘ (loosely translated- time keeps on moving and, tomorrow always comes). I had never before paid much attention to this saying of his that he uses too much and I realized the truth of those words in that morning, sipping tea in my first home with the pink trash can.

   That pink trash can made that empty space my home and the next two years went by in the blink of eye. I had some of the best times of my life there, I definitely learned much more than I had before, I made some very special memories and even more special friends and I reconnected with a lost friend who I am currently married to and who is a wonderful father to our two kids!

 

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This picture of the school playground was taken by a dear friend and colleague near the end of my stay in Kobe. It has remained a favorite.

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.

Tuesday Tales: Ma

   I was once told by a dear friend when I started this, that I should write daily… for reasons abound. And while I have sincerely tried to pay heed to that advice, I have failed miserably. Excuses can be many but the fact of the matter remains true. Much time has passed since I started this, what many may refer to as petty journal entries or ramblings of a bored mind or feeble attempts at photography as I have nothing special to share nor am particularly talented. And many a times I have been tempted by my insecurities to just delete all of this and move on. And the introvert in me has nudged me a lot too towards that end!  But I continue to stick around ignoring and, at times, overcoming my vulnerability and thoughts that mostly center around what-will-people-think! And the sticking around has helped. I have started getting the hang of blogging and its nitty gritties and am learning a lot in the process. Inspiration has found its way in and I am grateful to those who are making this seem less banal.

   So, in accordance with my current philosophy of being less- critical -and -more -accepting -of -my- flaws- and- moving- ahead- in spite of-what-will-people-think, I am going to be attempting Tuesday Tales. I plan to share tales of people who have filled up my pocketbook of memories with special moments and of past moments that catch me unaware and clean the dust off of forgotten tales. We all have people, adventures that we hold a little closer to our hearts than the rest, and then we also have moments that at times open a floodgate of memories to by gone days and make us look forward to more similar occurrences in the future. Most such tales are personal and will hold no significance for others but we all have much more in common than we think of and I am hoping some of my tales will also find you reminiscing of moments and people that are more memorable than others. Storytelling has been one of the oldest ways of connecting to each other or so I have heard. By sharing stories and commonalities it is possible to see that we are united in more ways than we realize and though it will not solve any global pandemonium, it might offer a bit of a respite from that:)                                                                       

   I tried thinking about who to start this weekly post with and I toyed with quite a few ideas but could think of no one but her. I had written this about her a couple of years ago and when she found out, she told me in these words ” tumi boddo bhalo, tai erom likhecho…shob Ma ra eki hoye…aami keu special na‘ (You are too kind and that’s why you think this way…all mothers are the same, I am not someone extra special). That’s my Ma…always seeing the good in others.

 

                                                                    Ma

She exemplifies nobleness of mind and spirit, of humility and courage. She keeps calm under all circumstances and has NEVER used words that hurt. She has struggled and fought her battles the best she could. She has been resilient when crowded with adversity. She has never complained about the lack of material comfort in her life but has made it richer through poetry and music. She has a beautiful voice and though age and illness have taken much of it away, her love for music remains strong. She gives without ever hoping to receive. She has an indomitable spirit that has only risen. She taught the best she could and gave/gives all that was/is possible. We have had our differences and we have had heartbreaks too and at times, it hurts to say,  my fondness for her has wavered…I guess most teenagers go through the phase of not liking their parents that much. But she has always welcomed me with nothing but love and encouragement. She is not exceptional for anyone but me, my younger brother and our father. She is our biggest critic and most ardent supporter and her faith in us is unwavering. With a heart full of love that is enduring and all encompassing, she lives life believing in the good that is all around. Unabashed in her honesty and humble in her beliefs, she is my everyday inspiration. As years roll on by and I settle in this adopted country, a twenty hour flight away from her, my heart aches a bit more. She yearns for her grandkids and I hear it in her voice everyday. At the end of our daily video chats, she says every single time ‘ Bhalo Thako, shobai Miley anonde thako’, that loosely translated into English means ‘ all of you stay well, be happy’. My heart fills with gratitude and pride to call her my Ma. 

 

 

My Ma with her grandson and granddaughter; me and my younger brother

  We all have people in our lives whose influence has played a significant role in shaping our ideas and beliefs- parent, teacher, neighbor, family member, a stranger who we happened to cross paths with, friend- they help shape who we are, who we wish to be. We are fortunate to be guided by such people, many of who are no longer around. But their words, their work continue to be with us and is a testament to their uniqueness, that we were fortunate enough to be touched by. Don’t you think?

 

 

 

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge- Raindrops

Thanks Amanda @ Something To Ponder About (https://forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/) for this! Hosted by Something to Ponder about and The Snow Melts Somewhere (https://thesnowmeltssomewhere.wordpress.com/), Friendly Friday Photo Challenge has been something that I look forward to every week now…thank you both!

    This week’s challenge made me realize, sadly, that I have never photographed raindrops. And I had to wait for a couple of days to rain and the when it did, it was the middle of the night or really early in the morning – not an ideal time for me to take pics. Bright sunshine followed the rain that made everything look so pretty but it also dried up the raindrops!

   I must say that I am not a huge fan of the rain. I think I should clarify here a bit- When I say I d this, I don’t mean I hate rain or don’t realize it’s utmost importance in sustaining life, in nurturing Nature. And I love to watch the rain fall… I am a normal human! I just don’t like the feeling of having to be outside in the rain, of the incessant rain that makes things feel damp, the gloomy sky that is, most of the times, associated with rains. Maybe it has something to do with my childhood days, I am not sure. Growing up in India, June through September was rainy season and it rained a lot. Many streets got flooded, especially the ones leading up to my school and that used to be a terrible experience for me on days when school would be open. I had friends who loved the rain, I guess most children do, but I never understood what was so awesome about getting drenched. I loved the school closings though!

   What I loved however, was how everything smelled after the rain,; how the grass and the leaves on the trees dazzled; how the hue of the brown soil got richer. Making paper boats with my younger brother and letting them sail on the water logged streets in front of our house is another fond memory as is eating onion fritters on rainy evenings. We did not have a car but some of our neighbors did and I remember, sometimes, drawing outlines on the window panes of those after a downpour.  And I remember reading this beautiful poem, I even remember how it made me feel – How Beautiful Is The Rain by H. W. Longfellow. I think this was the first poem on rain that I read at school, that has remained a favorite to this day. Isn’t it fascinating how we remember seemingly trivial things from long ago while forgetting matters of much recent past?

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   I plan to make ‘raindrops’ my photo project, of sorts, in the coming months and I am looking forward to sharing those with you!

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge-Photo Walk

   This will be my third post for the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge hosted by The Snow Melts Somewhere (https://thesnowmeltssomewhere.wordpress.com/) and Something to Ponder About (https://forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/and when I woke up this morning, one of the first things that crossed my mind was ‘what would the prompt this week be’!

   I love taking pictures and there is no denying that and though I am not good at it, I am quite passionate. I am not the one who has the phone ready in her and at all times and clicks at anything and everything. On the contrary, I have had more missed chances that I would like to acknowledge as I was busy rummaging through what is supposed to be my bag but looks- like- a- sack, trying to locate my phone in vain! But, when I do go on walks, I am mindful about my phone and it’s storage space (another dreadful scenario I face often) and I remember to carry my camera as well. This week’s prompt gave me a chance to look back at many pictures I had taken that I have not had a chance to share yet (I am assuming none of my previous posts have these!) and I feel thankful and happy. None of these are recent but they all are special in heir own way,  with anecdotes that make them close to my heart.

   These first batch of photos were taken during our first visit to my sister-in-law in California and it was our first proper trip ever. Neel had recently got his first job and I was doing an internship at an organization, whose cause I was passionate about. I had never been anywhere before that in this country (other than Minnesota where we both went to grad school) and, on top of that we were visiting family and a very dear friend too! It was a special trip, reminding us of the steps we have had to climb to be able to go on a trip at that point in our lives. We did not have a camera then and so these were taken by my first smart phone:)

 

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San Francisco, CA 2011

   These next set of pictures are in and around my neighborhood during spring time, a couple of years ago probably. These are during the times when my then two year old and I would be going on our afternoon walks, him toddling as fast as his tiny legs would allow and me walking a few steps behind him soaking in all the magic that was happening as the little guy would walk, stop  and gaze at almost everything with wonder and delight! And as I took innumerable pictures of him, I also would occasionally take some of the cherry blossom that add pink and white to our neighborhood during spring.

 

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These final set of pictures are from our last visit to Kolkata , India in the spring of 2018. They are from in and around my in-laws’ house and my father’s house and hold a special place in my heart as it was around this time we found out that we would be adding another member to our family of three!  Now that she is four months old, looking back at these pictures bring back those flutters of excitement and anxiousness and remind me once again, to count my blessings and be grateful . It also hurts a little as I reminisce about growing up in this soulful city- a city I still call home, a city that has seen me through my many ups and downs. It’s the city where our parents and my younger brother live-  indispensable and unequalled, who enrich our lives with their selfless love; people we have left behind to find our footing in this world;  people whose hearts ache a little more with every passing year as we wave goodbye at the airport gates and people who bear more than their age allows  to make life easier for us.

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Apple Tarts

   Of late, the weather here in New Jersey seems to be a bit of a head-scratcher. It has been bitter cold and we have been getting tired of the number of layers we need to put on when going out and then it rains and brings mugginess and then suddenly a warm 66 degrees in the middle of winter throws wants almost makes it feel like spring! The effects of climate change are being felt more and more all around and I wonder what the consequences of this is going to be on the future generations.

   With small children and older parents at home, we have been having a hard time trying to keep everyone as safe as possible from the snorts and sniffles that seem to be the most common side effect of such extreme fluctuation in temperature. It being winter, my parents who are here for just one more month, have sadly been cooped up at home for the most part. But they don’t complain and are only too happy to be spending time with their grandkids and weaving memories! They have put their lives on hold so that Neel and I can ease into this new phase in ours and my heart swells with love and gratitude for them. Ma makes sure we get to eat all that our hearts desire and Baba makes sure to keep the four year occupied as much as possible with stories and games and silliness so that I can get some ‘me time’ and what can I say about how big a blessing that has been. The six of us look after each other- we cook and eat, smile and have moments of absolute bliss, find happiness in what we have and add to our pocketbook of memories.

   While Ma has been making all her special dishes and we have been gobbling those up, Neel and I (mostly Neel) sometimes take over the kitchen to give her a break and whip up something that she would normally not be able to make in Kolkata. Neel has been surprising them with his kabobs and I have been satisfying Ma’s sweet tooth with the likes of cakes and brownies! Today I made apple tarts in the afternoon and they turned out pretty good. I have made them before but had followed a different recipe, one that I did not remember today. And so, I found another pretty awesome recipe at  https://www.lavenderandlovage.com/2016/03/apple-rose-tarts-mothers-day.html (Lavender and Lovage by Karen Burns-Booth) and I am so glad that I tried this! Thanks Karen!

Please see the original recipe here and I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did.

Apple Tarts

Serves 8 to 10 apple rose tarts
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 40 minutes
Dietary Vegetarian

       Ingredients

  • 2 x 215g ready rolled butter puff pastry
  • 2 to 3 Pink Lady apples (or any red skinned eating apples)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons apricot jam glaze
  • ground cinnamon
  • icing sugar
  • cake release spray

      Directions

Step 1 Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6 and spray a 12 x hole muffin or bun tray with the cake release spray.
Step 2 Cut the apples in half, from top to bottom, core the two halves then slice each half very thinly; place the cut slices into a large microwaveable bowl filled with water to cover the apples, and with the lemon juice added.
Step 3 Microwave the apple slices for 4 minutes on high, then drain and pat dry between 2 clean tea towels or with kitchen paper. (If you don’t have a microwave, place the apples, water to cove them and the lemon juice in a pan and heat until boiling for 4 to 5 minutes until JUST soft but NOT cooked)
Step 4 Place the ready rolled pastry onto a lightly floured pastry board, and using a rolling pin, roll it out to add 2″ to 3″ (5cms to 8cms) to the length of the pastry.
Step 5 Cut the two pastry sheets lengthways into 4 to 5 strips, or if the pastry is too long, cut widthways – you need strips long enough to place between 8 to 12 apple slices along the length.
Step 6 Brush the pastry strips with the apricot jam glaze and then sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Place the apple slices (peel size up) along the top third of the pastry strips, overlapping them slightly as you lay them out.
Step 7 Fold the bottom two thirds of the pastry up and over the bottom of the apple slices and then gently roll each strip to make a small “muffin shaped” tart – see photos. Place the apple rose tarts into the prepared muffin or bun tray.
Step 8 Bake the apple tarts in the pre-heated oven on the middle shelf for between 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is crisp, golden brown and puffed up and the apples are cooked, but not too dark.
Step 9 Allow them to cool in the tin for 2 to 3 minutes, then gently ease them out of tin and place them on a wire cooling rack.
Step 10 Dust with icing sugar to serve; they are fabulous when served warm with ice cream, cream or crème fraiche.
Step 11 Can be frozen at the pre-baked and baked stage. Allow to defrost before baking or re-heating.