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!

Smile

   I am bad at many things… riding a bike,  drawing, writing a poem, small talk…the list can get pretty embarrassing! For me, people who can draw are superheroes of sorts. I can look at videos all day long of people creating magic through pencil or brush strokes. And people who can write poems belong to a different league altogether! And here I am not talking about the greats whose works of art have mesmerized generations…I am talking more about regular people who harbor such superpowers, while going about their lives in an unassuming manner.

   I am always mortified that someone, maybe my kids, someday will ask me to draw a picture of something. And I feel nervous just thinking about that! Same with writing poems. Ever since I have started blogging I often come across posts with beautiful poems that evoke so many emotions and then there are prompts that add the element of surprise and challenge too. And people write in response to those challenges making the act of writing poems seem so trivial while I stay as far as possible from such endeavors. Not my cup of tea!

   But the other day after a blog ‘conversation’ with Manja , I decided to make an attempt at trying to write a poem, of sorts. And I feel uneasy to say the least. I know I am probably making a fool of myself but as I have recently decided to put myself out there with respect to trying things previously unimaginable, I am going to go ahead and post this first ever ‘poem’! Thanks Manja for the encouragement!!

 

“Smile”

A smile can carry one a long way

Or so I have heard.

It masks the worrisome mind well

And helps heal a troubled heart, that is not yours.

Wear a smile, they often say

It is beautiful and it cares.

Smile at the person you just walked by

It may be all that she needs to turn around just another ordinary day.

Unspoken words that a smile brings

Can comfort the weary soul that has traveled far

Looking for that of which he is not sure.

When darkness comes and fear strikes a note

Smile through the fear and smile through the pain

Look around and hold on.

You will hear a tap, a gentle knock.

Who’s that, you may ask

It’s me, Hope, is the answer you will get.

Pause, to smile a bit

And through teary eyes and heaving heart,

Let her in.

 

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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.

 

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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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Friendly Friday Photo Challenge-Feelings of Spring!

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

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

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

   These pictures of spring were taken a few years back:

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

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

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

 

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

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Happy Spring folks!