Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Something Good

Sandy has a wonderful prompt for us this week at Friendly Friday Photo Challenge . We could all definitely seek out moments of happiness, of gratitude,  of beauty, of humanity, of the good in the middle of these not only scary times but time where our collective consciousness will need to win over vested interests and bigotry that shamelessly continues its parade.

NJ has been one of the hardest hits areas in the US and as of yesterday the number of positive cases stands at a terrifying 92,000+. Grocery shopping is an ordeal and storing  that in a safe manner a bigger one. Our son keeps asking why he does not go to school anymore and why are the parks closed. He knows that we are in lockdown because of something terrible called Coronavirus, the gravity of terms he does not fully comprehend. But he understands and has been enormously patient but being a 5 year old, he does have his little moments from being cooped up in the apartment. The almost incessant rain and freeze warnings do not let us enjoy the ‘ spring’ outside. But we have been learning to be with and work around each other’s quirks and needs and we are definitely spending a lot more ‘together’ time (obviously!).

 

As I was thinking about what to post for this week, I thought about moments that have been pivotal this past month to our family and these are the ones that stood out. Our little girl is a confident ‘walker’ now and while that has made it easier for her to get into a lot more mischief and as a result increase my mini panic attacks, it is an absolute delight to watch her.

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Brother sister duo are also learning to be there with and to be there FOR each other much more and this moment caught my eye the other day where both were in their own little world, seemingly oblivious of everything else. Such moments are what has made sense of the tough times we all are part of. The little boy is growing up fast and takes his role of a big brother and a soon to be Kindergarten-er very seriously and that is hilarious to watch at times. In his conversations with his sister he often brings up how big he has gotten that he will be starting Kindergarten from September and going to school in the big kids’ yellow bus. He is excited for sure. And my heart beats fast thinking about how better the world would be and how safe would it be for kids to be going back to school in a few months. But I choose to keep aside that worry for a later time.

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Conversations about the pandemic and how it is impacting people all over the world and how those on the frontline are doing their very best to keep others safe, is a staple of households everywhere. And kids are smarter and kinder than we give them credit for. The little guy drew these as  a ‘ thank you note’. He also set up his grocery store where he took orders over the phone and then delivered produce to people in need. All a child’s play, but this gives me hope that the next generation maybe will be kinder and smarter and will know better.

 

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We love to cook in our home and that has definitely been a huge stress buster. On some Fridays, we dress up and as our son puts it- ‘pretend -go -out- to- eat’. Little moments of joy have made isolation less tiring. And we love music too. Every evening we make sure to sing and play the guitar and sometimes drums and whatever song we sing, “Life goes on’ by the Beatles remains constant!

 

 

My home country of India is in lockdown and has been so for quite a few weeks now. But it plans to lift the lockdown soon and without adequate testing and infrastructure in place, I shudder to think what might happen if ‘it’ spreads. Our parents and many family members are old, each with underlying conditions and I am scared to think anything beyond ‘what if this spreads’. My parents have been spending time at home more than usual and one of the things they have been doing is going through family albums and as we call each other everyday, I get to hear stories associated with special photos. And I absolutely love it. It has been a lot more this last week and my brother keeps sending me some of the old photos from the albums and this one is a favorite for so many reasons. I will not go into all the personal stories here. This is a picture of my mother with me and I am about 3 weeks old here. She is a first time mom in this picture and when I look at her looking  at me, I see the same love in her eyes today as she sees her grandkids over video calls. She is almost blind now and with whatever little is left, she takes in all that she can of their little faces and big smiles. She hurts inside, I know,  but she does not show it for a moment. She lives life thanking her God for all the blessings showered on her and her family and I know not how she does that. This is a picture that speaks to me of selfless love that a parent showers on her kids at all times, under all circumstances. Age and distance do not hold much power over a mother’s love.

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Spring has sprung ( I really hate this cliche but end up using it more than I am willing to acknowledge!) and while rain has tampered with these fragile blossoms, I was still able to take a few photos, though all with my cell phone.

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Thank you Sandy for your wonderful thought for this week. These have been some of the highlights of the past month and while personal, I am sure many around the world are reveling in such moments big  and small, writing their own stories while also discovering those which have already been written, may be a little forgotten.

 

Thanks for stopping by. Stay safe and celebrate the little moments.

A Photo A Day: 30 days or so

We have all settled into or made amends with this ‘new normal’ by now, the one that is probably here to stay for a while…much longer than what was expected. With no healing in sight, people are going on with their lives to the best of their abilities, some with courage and perseverance more than many. Some days I am riddled with guilt for cooking an elaborate dinner or baking a cake while families are being torn apart not only in my state but all over the world. I recognize my privilege that lets me cook that pasta I have been craving for and my head bows in gratitude, as I am sure is the case with you too. But then there are days where we celebrate more and reflect more and know that doing so  does not make us oblivious of the pain that is hurting all of humanity at  the moment. We stand in solidarity with each other today more than ever in the recent past and when the world heals, hopefully we will revel in the little moments of our lives a bit more, perhaps more than the big meticulously planned moments. Everyday moments like the whiff of the morning coffee, the sound of our loved ones’ laughter, a sudden throwback to a moment from our childhood, remembering the lyrics of a long forgotten song, going to bed knowing our loved ones are doing okay are priceless and amidst all the lessons this terrible catastrophe has taught us, this is an important one. Everything is cancelled at the moment but Nature has been following its rhythms and Spring is not cancelled nor are Sunrise and Sunset.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you and your loved ones are doing well.

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Yellow

It has been a while since I participated in Friendly Friday Photo Challenge.

But that changes this week as Amanda splashes a pop of the happy yellow and encourages us to bring that to each other through this week’s prompt! This is a color very dear to my heart – uplifting, vivacious, hopeful…is that why we color the sun yellow?

Here are some from the archive and a couple of new ones!

 

At ‘Robert Is Here’, Florida. Way back in 2013

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Summer Tales

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Fall Memories

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SAMSUNG

 

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Child’s Play

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Of sunsets

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Stories from life

 

 

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Kitchen chronicles

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There is one more picture that I would have liked to share…that of a ten or twelve year old me wearing a dress very similar to the quirky art studio photo shared by Amanda! That image evoked many fond memories not only of the dress, that was a favorite of mine, but reminded me also of the simplicity that is childhood. Growing up is overrated! My mom has been going through albums back in Kolkata, trying to find one of me in that ‘frock’ as we called it back home, and I will add that picture, when and if she finds it:) Moms are the best!

 

Thanks for stopping by and where ever you are, may you always have a pop of the bright yellow in your life!

Time for Spring… well, almost

My husband and I moved to New Jersey  from Minneapolis about nine years ago and it took us a while to be fond of the place. There was a bit of a shock involved, to be honest, in the beginning. Everything from highways to alleys, store fronts to gas stations made us go ‘ What’!! And let’s not talk about the way people drove here that included the dreaded and shameful ‘honk’. Reeling from the pain of leaving, what I still think of as, ‘the best group of people one can possibly know’ ( at least was so in our case) in Minneapolis, it took us a bit of time to really like it here.

Anyways, it has been nine years since and in spite of the things that we still sort of roll our eyes at,  it has become home. Our kids were born here and from two poor grad students we have grown into responsible adults ( hopefully) and all of that has happened in this place that is frowned down upon by most of the rest of the country. But it’s okay. This place, like any other, grows on you and you learn to navigate that which maybe unflattering.

But one thing that we still have not gotten used to, and hence cannot bring ourselves to like, is the weather and its fluctuations that are sure to drive one a tiny bit crazy. It could be 81 degrees Fahrenheit today and 42 tomorrow and 65 the next day. And what is supposed to be Spring, should be known as the ‘rainy season’ like we have back in India. There is no confusion that way. We knew, when growing up, that June-August or early September was the rainy season and we went about our lives accordingly. But here what is ‘advertised’ as Spring- that tempts you to start packing your mittens and hats, makes you look forward to that cherry blossom viewing you have been planning for a while or your simple yearning to turn that heater off- is actually a very heavy rainy season and all your plans go for a toss. It rains a whole lot and that is a blessing, I understand. But the dampness and gloom and grey skies can toy with the spirits at times! The cherry blossoms take a hit too.  The last couple of years, they were exceptionally short lived because of the torrential downpour. This year looks to be following a similar path.

Under the stay-at-home order, we rarely go out even for groceries. And the rain and cold do not allow for much of a walk around the neighborhood as well. But a few days back, we had a warm spring day and it was beautiful and we went out.  Sights of spring greeted us. As I clicked some pictures, I could not help but think when will the world heal.

(Some of these photos I have already shared but here they are all together.)

 

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Peeking out.

 

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Poor shot but spring-y nonetheless.

 

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A whole lot of green

 

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It was Holi as well around that time and some kids had braved the cold to splash around a little color:)

 

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This little guy could hardly contain his excitement at being able to run around.

 

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The tiny buds were almost ready to blossom and what a sight that would be-the pink against the cloudless blue sky.

 

 

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Some are always ahead of others.

 

 

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The Spring rain!

 

Thanks for stopping by. How are you welcoming spring? Or those getting ready to welcome Fall, how are you ushering it in? Times are different now but it keeps moving even so. Wherever you are and whoever you are with, and be it spring or autumn, hope you get to collect moments, big or small, that fill your heart and help you hold on a little longer.

A Photo A Day: 30 days or so

Amidst all that is going topsy turvy, my phone let me keep clicking everyday…almost.

 

 

 


Thanks for stopping by. Wishing you all health and peace during these trying times. Wish our world heals fast and we learn to be better. Kids should not have to be kept from playing with each other, old people should not have to spend their precious days away from one another, families should not have to share happy moments through glass windows.

Dylan has been on my mind.

 

 

Cook, Eat, Repeat: “Aam Panna”

Here I am with my third and final post for this month – the ‘Aam Panna‘ (Aam- Mango in Hindi language  and Panna – a concoction of sorts).

As Google will tell you, it is drink made from raw mangoes that helps one cool down during the intense heat of the summer months in India and supposedly has heat-resistant properties. While I can’t comment with a 100% guarantee on the latter, I can certainly say that it is something that is just perfect for the hot and sultry days of the summer in my home country. And if you gave it a try, I am sure you too would love this wonderful  concoction of raw mangoes, mint, a bit of sugar, a pinch of black salt and a pinch of roasted cumin!

Living in a land that is far away from the sights and smells I grew up with has been an adjustment and even after all these years, it still is. I wonder if it is the same for others  who are away from their motherland as well. I have heard some people say, who have been here much longer, that they still feel that something is missing, something no amount of opulence and comfort can make up for. A pull that does not let go, a love so deep and poignant that it is hard to put into words.

This drink is humble and accommodating and reminds me of growing up in India. It reminds me of quiet afternoons and the fiery Gul Mohor (flame of the forest); of the exhilarating champa (plumeria) and bushes of hibiscus; of that sole peddler whose voice could be heard over the whirring of the fan blades, trying to make the last sale of the day; the occasional tired barks of stray dogs lying in the shade of the trees, coiled and too tired, from the heat, to move; of my Ma’s beautiful voice humming a tune while going about the daily chores; of that heavily fragrant smell of ‘Keo Karpin hair oil that Baba could not, and still cannot, do without; of the repetitive thud of a ‘cambis‘ ball hitting the wall as my brother tried to get the ‘spin’ perfect; of that small black and white ‘Oscar’ television that stood in the corner of the room, hidden by an embroidered TV ‘cover’; of special summer programs that we watched on that same TV with cousins who often visited when school was closed; of secret crushes and stolen innocent glances; of undiluted love from warm embraces of my Rangadadu (my mom’s uncle..my favorite grandpa among all). It’s a drink that reminds me of the matters of the heart.

 

HOW TO MAKE!

There are many ways by which you can dress up or dress down this simple drink, all of which you will find online, in plenty. Here’s how I like mine!

Serves :  Happy souls! Time : about 20 minutes (that includes 15 minutes of boiling mangoes)

Ingredients : Raw mangoes (either 2-3 fresh whole ones or about 2 cups of frozen pieces)// Water- about 2 cups for boiling and more(about 1 cup per person) for making the actual drink// Sugar- 3-4 Tbsp// Mint Leaves- a handful// Black salt- 2 tbsp// Roasted and ground cumin powder- 2 Tbsp// Ice Cubes

Method : If using fresh raw mangoes, cut the mango in small pieces and boil in water for about 15 minutes. If using the frozen ones (which are already usually cut into pieces) you may have to increase the boiling time by 5-7 more minutes. Once done, strain.

[Note: Sometimes the frozen mango is cut in slices and not chunks- in that case the boiling time will be about 7-8 mins total only. ]

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In a blender, add ice cubes, the mangoes, and the other ingredients mentioned above and puree . (Note that you will not be needing the entire batch of this purée  for a glass of aam panna. You can store the rest in the fridge for 3-4 days easily).

 

In a glass, add a couple of ice cubes  and fill about a little more than 1/4 of the glass with the mango purée . If you want a slightly fuller taste, and this is better tasting for sure, fill 1/2 of the glass with the purée. Then  fill up the glass with water. Add a couple of mint leaves and give the concoction a good stir! I sometimes also add just a pinch of the roasted cumin at the end, on the top.

 

 

[  You could grab cumin powder from your spice shelf or if you happen to have whole cumin, spend a couple of extra minutes and roast about 2-3 tbsp on a pan in low heat till their color turns darker and you get that wonderful smell. Grind it using a mortar and pestle and store in an air tight container. Using this will enhance the flavor much more].

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Aam Panna is indeed a very refreshing drink and you can easily adjust the sweetness by adding more or less sugar!  Go ahead and make one yourself one and be sure to pour out another for your loved one!

Thanks for stopping by. And I will see you next month, which is just next week, with something totally different! Till then, cook- eat- repeat!

 

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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!

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.