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.

Monday Motivation

Continuing with my ‘Monday Motivation’ post!

   It was ‘Mother’s Day’ yesterday, and I was determined not to write anything on that topic. I have had several conversations with close friends on the importance and validity of such a day and those discussions have had interesting outcomes…let’s just leave it at that! For me, motherhood has been and is a huge part of who I am. It defines me and I have no objection to people rolling their eyes at that thought. Because it is true. At this point in my life, that is who I am and I proudly embrace it. It is exhausting and endless and yes there are times when I feel overwhelmed but at the end, every drop of sweat is worth all the craziness and ask any mom and she will happily say the same.

   The importance of the role that mothers play in the lives of their child/children is undeniable and it nurtures and shapes the young mind. However, we all have women in our lives who have played/play an equally important role in guiding us through the ups and downs, who inspire and lift up people around them and without whose presence we would not be who we are. They are present as aunts, grandmothers, family friends, cousins, teachers, neighbors, nannies, friend’s moms and play a variety of roles as our confidants, our friends, our role models and at times who raise us. They too deserve as much love and appreciation on ‘Mother’s Day’ as sometimes their stories go unrecognized and they are left in the shadows while the world celebrates the mothers only.

   My mother was raised by her two of her aunts and uncles and the love that she has for them is just the same, if not more, as that for my grandmother. Her aunts never had children of their own and were unmarried and my mother was fortunate enough to grow up in a household that had a bunch of people who all played the role of equally devoted mothers and fathers. They nurtured my brother and me too and loved us with their whole hearts, celebrated our victories and wept in our sorrows. I was more close to them than I was to my grandmother and I know that’s true for my brother too. They loved just like a mother does and I know how much my mom misses them, now that they are no more.

   To women all around fighting their unique battles, however big or small, to women driving change, to women taking a stand, to women celebrating life, to women standing tall in the face of unfathomable sorrow, to women pausing a bit to take it all in- you are invincible.

 

And here are the two pictures I took today!

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The thought that I want to leave you with, this week-

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Have a happy week, folks!

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?

 

 

 

Monday Motivation/Challenge

    Who hasn’t heard about the Monday blues…right? It affects, I think most, even my four year old (in his own I-can’t watch-TV-as-much-as-I want way maybe!) and is dealt with in, what I can assume, a variety of ways from heading straight on to procrastinating to trying to feel happy about a hopefully productive week. What do I know? As a stay-at-home mom, many think we have it easy. And, I would rather not engage in who has it easy and the whys and why nots associated with such a trending topic, that ironically has been a ‘trend’ since probably for ever! When I was a grad student, there was no time for the Monday blues and for a brief period after that during my internship, my  enthusiasm for the work I was learning about, took care of any hues of the blue. Things have been different for many years now, I have battled what I can only call a form of depression in a manner I knew best and with a lot of support and understanding from Neel. For someone who has always had a job and had hopes of making it in this new place, not being able to have one for whatever reason, has been and continues to be an issue that I struggle with accepting even today. And when I gave up looking for jobs, I tried to make peace with the fact that it was going to be okay. I can’t honestly say if it has been okay or not, but I have moments every day where I still find myself thinking about the big ‘what if’. But, I am beyond grateful for my munchkins who keep me busy and in spite of exhaustion that gets the better of me at times, I am loving and learning from all the madness and love that oozes out from the little ones!

    So, maybe I don’t ‘qualify’ for the Monday blues (though I have quite a few to set the record straight!) but nonetheless I sometimes need a bit of motivation to push me through the day…I am guessing we all do in our own ways. For the past couple of weeks, I have been beating my blues by taking photos on Mondays -photos of bright things, mostly around the house and, kids permitting, outside. Colorful things that make me smile or reminisce fondly. I have been surprised by how everyday things that we tend to not pay special attention to, are cheery in composition.  Cranking up music that I find myself humming at that time also helps! Here’s my thought- I am going to try and take photos every Monday, blues or no blues and share them with you and you are welcome to join in through the comment section! Maybe you can share how you beat the blues or what motivates you, how you seek inspiration or simply the photos!

 

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As I got down from the car this morning at my son’s school, this greeted me and felt as                                             if it had been set this way to cheer me up!

 

Colorful blocks, cars from an imaginary race and oranges, waiting to be                                                    washed…we are surrounded by colors!

 

A couple of things I had made a while back. for my son’s room, that I rarely                             look at when in there, but the colors caught my eye this morning.

 

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Though on its way out in many areas around here, its beauty is still                                                                          ethereal, don’t you think?

 

This was my Monday story and I would like to leave you with this thought. I came across this a while ago, reading ‘Consequential Strangers’ by Melinda Blau and Karen L. Fingerman and I keep revisiting this in my mind, especially under current global circumstances where ignorance and disdain seem to be the current mode of operation.

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Hope you all have a good week!

 

 

‘What’s the Word’ Wednesday

    I tried coming up with a better name for this weekly post (I have been thinking of starting this for some time now) but could not! Nonetheless, I decided to go ahead with this.  From now on, every Wednesday,  I will be posting a word  particularly meaningful for me that week or something  defining most of my thoughts or a word that I simply like. I also plan to post words that are probably not part of our everyday parlance a lot and maybe simple words from different languages (for example, those that are used in greetings) from around the world. Words that define our lives, guide us in our quest for a better tomorrow will also obviously be shared too. What’s the point of such a post, one may ask! I am not too sure, but I am eager to try out how much I can learn and re learn from this.  The essence of words shape not only our day to day workings but our bigger purpose in life too.

     It will be awesome if you could join in and leave a word that you like or has particular significance in your life in the comment section! I might also use the word in my next post (with full credit to you, of course!) and we can get rolling this way, together.

Here’s my first word for this post:

                                                                 PERSEVERE 

  • To persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles or discouragement; continue steadfastly.  (Dictionary.com)
  • To persist in a state, enterprise or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition or discouragement. (Merriam-Webster.com)

 

   In the face of all opposition, when you hold on and refuse to let go, you persevere and it has been my belief always, that one who perseveres, succeeds. Struggles are endless and they dampen our spirits,; at times obstacles seem insurmountable and yet most refuse to give up. That’s the power and beauty of the human spirit…it is indomitable and it refuses to succumb to adversity .

I would love to hear back from you.What words you like or dislike, what guides you, motivates you…anything.  Please feel free to join in with a word or phrase or saying of your choice. You can also use photographs, quotes..anything that depicts or captures the significance of the word.

Happy Wednesday, you all!

 

 

 

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge- Mood

   It’s Monday and I am a tad bit late for this, but here is this week’s prompt from The Snow Melts Somewhere for the Photo Challenge-Mood. Hosted by Snow and Amanda from Something To Ponder About, the weekly prompts have been my motivation for taking new photographs and I am thankful to them for that! In case you haven’t checked out their blogs, I  suggest that you do so:)

   As Snow pointed out, weather does have an impact on the mood of many…myself and the good man included. The gloomy and cloudy weather, that sadly seems to be spanning a significant portion of spring here in New Jersey for the past couple of years, at times dampens the otherwise cheeriness that tiny green leaves and chirping of birds bring. I don’t mind the long winter months as long as there is bright sunshine and so,  in spring when the cloud does not seem to disperse for long stretches, I weirdly find myself yearning for winter!

   We were at a stop light and this tiny barn shed flanked by two trees caught my eye, this Sunday. One was still bare while the other was covered in the spring leaves. I liked it and hence, I clicked! And once we got going again, it made me think about how sometimes change takes time. It can’t be rushed, it probably  shouldn’t be. The process unfolds on its own and interfering restricts the meaning. And I realized – that is what my ‘mood’ has been, for the past few weeks.

 

IMG-0705                                                          Sometimes, change takes time.

   As someone who likes things done fast, this is an extremely valuable lesson. It lets me do things as and when they should be done, and that includes mundane things like doing laundry, but at the same time teaches me to pause and take a step back from rushing through life. It helps me take control of my emotions when my four year old is unable to grasp concepts that may look basic to me but are certainly not so for him! It’s OKAY if he gets confused by squares and rectangles, it’s OKAY if he gets distracted peeling off the wrapper from the crayons instead of coloring and it’s most certainly OKAY if he sometimes jumps on the bed while I wait to read him his favorite story. He is supposed to be doing these! It helps me wait for the right time to get a job, allowing me at the moment,  watch my kids achieve their own milestones. It also reinforces beliefs that I have always known to be true and which I have held on to at times when all was not smooth sailing.  It also guides me to remember Rumi’s ‘let silence take you to the core of life’, but a monumental piece of teaching that it is, I often fail to adhere to its principle. However, I am trying and I hope one day I will be able to grasp a tiny bit of its essence  and in the process learn to live organically and mindfully.

 

A long read

It IS a long read!

    Dealing with exhaustion is not easy, be it emotional or physical. It is overpowering and intense and can wreak havoc if not attended to with the love and care that it deserves. We all have had moments, days, months where we have felt like ‘there is no more energy left’! Triggers are different for different people and the way they deal with that, also varies. But, we have all been there. While my household is blessed with the giggles and mischief of two tiny humans, it also entails round-the-clock work that seriously never seems to end! ‘Maybe I am lousy than many; maybe I am a bunch of other things that super moms are not; maybe I am not doing things right’-are just some of the thoughts that crossed my mind during those times and definitely did not alleviate the intense exhaustion. It brought me down with a crippling fear of being ineffectual.

   I stopped and took a step back. Step back from over thinking, something that I am hugely prone to; step back from holding myself to sometimes impossible standards; step back from not appreciating me; step back from not nurturing me.

   I was recently re-reading a book that talks about, amidst many other wonderful things, the importance of spending time thinking about things that mattered to us, nurturing those and in the process taking care of one’s own self. It made me think about meaningful things that I considered of absolute importance in life, not merely for my own self but also for those with whom I share my ups and downs, who hold a special place in my heart, who matter to me and with who I associate.  And I came up with the following:

What's Important

   They are not in any particular order and this is not an exhaustive list by any means but there are the things that have the highest significance in my life. I am not implying that I abide by all of these to the letter, but I do make a sincere effort. I must mention that I owe all of these to my Ma and Baba as I grew up in a household where money was always tight but these values were in abundance and held on to, strong. I owe them everything and I am especially grateful to them for teaching my brother and me, through their smiles and struggles, what really matters.

    I am a kind person…so I have been told, and I am mindful of the words that come out of my mouth and cross my mind. Words hurt. And they can break you. I learnt from my mother, very early in life, how to be inclusive of people and their thoughts, how to not hurt anyone with my words and actions and for this, I can never thank her enough (I wonder if parents can ever be thanked enough…for their relentless and selfless love). I have always appreciated the tiniest bit of effort, thought, act that has come my way or goes towards someone else and my heart is grateful for all that I have , all that I am and all that I am not.  I am obviously not perfect and I slip more than I would like, but I strive to make an effort to learn from my mistakes and hopefully one day I will be better than what I am today!

   In our everyday lives, we often underestimate the importance or power of appreciation and I personally know people who are never appreciative of anyone. I wonder if  they think that showing appreciation would somehow undermine their ‘importance’ (yes…don’t roll your eyes, people are strange!). But appreciation can work wonders. It bridges gaps, mends hurt hearts and makes one feel good. And that can have a lot of positive impact going forward…be it in a professional setting or be it within the four walls of our homes. But it has to be genuine…from the heart. A charade of thankfulness seldom works in the long run…just like any other form of pretense!

   From a very young age, my father instilled the importance of gratitude. We saw how thankful he was for his job, for his family, for the roof on our head and for the food on our table. We learned early enough to not take things for granted and to always honor whatever came our way. Gratitude is powerful and sublime- it keeps one grounded.

Honesty encompasses every other emotion in our lives and so to say that you can be kind or empathetic or courageous or grateful without being honest, is pointless.

   My reason behind saying all of this is, in this cacophonous life, we, or least I sometimes miss the bigger picture. I get lost in the struggles and joys of everyday life and let small things get to the heart. I stop being mindful and let negative emotions creep their way in. It makes me not like myself! I then realize that while I cannot control the false or hurtful narrative that some might create of me or forget to utter a kind word, I know the truth and I know me and that is all that matters. I pause to appreciate myself for not letting bitterness get the better of me, I pause to tell myself it’s okay if one day I slipped a little in my duties as a mother, I pause a little to read a book or watch something on Netflix for the hundredth time! I always go to bed with one thought- I will be better tomorrow and though I am far from being where I want to be, I am taking tiny steps towards that. I am flawed and I recognize that. And I am learning from people who are around me now, people I read about, people I have seen growing up and I am grateful for all they teach me, which includes my four year old…who continues to teach me every day with his acts of kindness.

   Life is incomplete without books, music, travel and while I am yet to travel far and wide and I hope one day I can, I have enjoyed every little vacation or get away I have gone on, starting from traveling with my parents and younger brother when we were little, to traveling with our little ones now! My father loved to travel (he no longer can because age has caught up with him, but still jumps at any chance that presents itself) and when we were growing up, he made sure we went somewhere, whenever we could.

Baba is known for his very straight forward talks and his laughter. He has a big soulful laugh that you can feel comes from deep within, something you cannot fake and I love this about him. I have seen and felt the power of laughter growing up and I see it in the infectious smiles and laughs of my four year old and my four month old. It brightens up any damp day and makes me appreciate life a bit more.

   And what can I say about family, friendship and love? I don’t think I can ever put into words what these terms encompass and how they hold us, mold us and inspire us to be the best that we can. These are the Pillars of life that give meaning to every emotion; the Elixir for all that is hurtful and toxic.

 

 

  [ My son brought this ‘lunch’ for me as he noticed the other day that I had not had my lunch and was busy finishing up a few things. So he came up and said- I saw you have been working hard and you are busy and so I made you this…you can have some pretend lunch to keep your tummy full 🙂 ]

What guides you? What inspires you?