“ I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers“- Anne of Green Gables
With no vacations or even a small road trip this year, we enjoyed the crisp and bright days of autumn in our neighborhood and through occasional visits to some nearby parks. And I am grateful for that.
Fall is on its way out here in Jersey and the bare branches against the evening sky of violet and pink and grey often remind me of Joyce’s Araby. The street lights, children’s voices echoing through the streets and a chilly evening air complete my reminiscence of North Richmond Street.
The other day, while going through some of my keepsake boxes I came across bits and pieces of memories and as I went through each of those (and there were quite a lot), I realized how every single one of those had a story of its own, the very reason we have such boxes! As specifics other than the obvious ones kept getting tossed around in my mind, I figured out I was storing not just the one memory attached to one thing, but a host of others as well that had crept their way into each, with time. And I was reminded again that the most beautiful, the most precious things in life can never be things. Those are always people and the moments that we create with them, those are frowns and tears, smiles and giggles, celebrations and losses.
I found a pendant that I had bought for my Ma back in 2008 from Japan. I saw a diaper ( a fresh one of course!) that was from the first box of diapers we had bought for our son. Among other things, I found ticket stubs of a movie we went to for our 5th anniversary , a lunch receipt from the restaurant we had our meal on the day we moved into our current apartment, a bracelet gifted to me when I was 14 years old by my then best friend. Old albums brought back memories of last day of school, of my then 89 year old grandmother who had made the journey from her home to ours to attend my wedding, of a neighbor who had made time to surprise and see me off at the airport when I was leaving for Japan. My first crush, my first fight with my best friend, the one and only day I was reprimanded by a teacher in high school, the time I heard about one of closest friend’s decision to end her marriage, the first time I spoke with and advocated for a victim of domestic abuse and countless such moments are carefully stored in pockets of my mind and heart. And, it suddenly dawned on me that I am a mosaic of all the people I have loved and held dear and of all those who have loved and cared for me. We all are.
In all that we do, that love shines through in its own way. Sometimes it comes to us through the smell that fills our kitchens, the very smell that used to fill the kitchens of our childhood at our parents’ place and sometimes it informs our parenting style. From simple things like the habit of always mixing a salty snack with something sweet ( I get this from my father) to the reason some songs sound more magical, it influences our reactions to situations and moments, it lets us make choices and it works with our own understanding of the matters of the heart and the world to help us move forward in life. The innate characteristics that define the ‘I‘, are not only our people and our experiences, old traditions and the ones we start on our own, the life we have left behind and the one that we currently lead, they also are a million other bits and pieces from all across the universe. These come floating by through the changing seasons, through revolutions that bring about change, through portraits of places far and wide, through the words that are carefully chosen for biographies that find place in our nightstands, through our daily strifes as well as stories of success. We are the custodians of all these and so much more.
I like the title “Whilst Walking’! There is something in the word ‘whilst’ …almost an old world charm, a place where one may embark upon a leisurely stroll down cobbled roads, with quaint and happy colored houses, with flower pots hanging on the window sill and maybe a whiff of a peach cobbler mixed with the smell of a cold winter afternoon! And it makes me happy to be able to participate in Amanda’s challenge after a long time. Life in lock down has been different for sure, both challenging and, at times, filled with little surprises. Considering we have been in this mode since March, seasons have come and gone and our neighborhood was all that we had to celebrate them with. I have taken more pictures than I should have probably, but then again, can you ever have enough pictures?
Summer was a happy time and any bend or turn welcomed me with flowers. This white flower, the name of which I know not, had the smell of the ‘gondhoraj lebu‘ (the king of lemons, lebu being the Bengali word for lime/lemon)- more here) and as is the case with me, for a brief moment transported me to my grandparents’ garden that had two trees of this plant and another of the equally aromatic and juicy kagji lebu (another kind of lime, that is close to the regular lime found here in North America). There was a beautiful jasmine tree and a big guava tree, and once we were there, the busy road right outside the big walls and that big iron gate, somehow ceased to bother us with its cacophony.
We have been visiting the grounds of Princeton University for nine years now and they still mesmerize me just as much as they did the first time I looked up at the grand buildings and the ivy back in 2011. It goes without saying that this was our solace during these past few months, the only place we visited and sought some form of normalcy. It was a different summer but it was beautiful nonetheless.
Sometimes, if we look around we can see how perfect nature is. We just have to be willing to see.
And just like that we slipped into the bright and colder days of autumn. The rebellious and riotous red and the golden yellow and vibrant orange leaves dazzled against a blue sky that can be found only during these months of pumpkin spiced lattes. They have now transformed into the trees of Christmas cards and story books, of frosty mornings and snowy nights.
Seasons have come and gone and soon we shall be stepping into another year that will usher in spring once again. What has been lost this year cannot be put into words. The heart feels heavy and it also fills with gratitude. Gratitude for family and friends, for scientists, doctors, nurses and all those in the medical world, for the front line workers, emergency responders, journalists, for the power of democracy and advocacy, for those who stand tall and stand brave in the face of all opposition. For those who inspire and for those who our kids look up to. For people who don’t give up on those and what they love.
“Nonetheless, the images are precious for the people or events they capture” aptly says Sandy of old photos which may not be in good condition. Old photos help us revisit memories long forgotten and also share the joy, tell the story of people who render life to those photos. And this challenge, I particularly love not only because of its uniqueness (as if I needed another reason to love the Friendly Friday Challenge!) but also because it comes at a time when I have been going through old photos with my parents over video calls every week for some months now and so it’s almost serendipitous:)
In this post that I scribbled about a couple of years back, when I had just started this blog, I mentioned my father’s habit of getting picture post cards, from places we traveled to, as souvenirs (along with actual souvenirs!). Here’s an excerpt: “One of the things that my father always did during our travels was bring back picture post cards of the places we visited which were not necessarily of very good quality, in terms of print. Nevertheless he would always bring those back with pictures that made that place famous. And eventually, we had a huge plastic bag full of these very bright colored cards which we would stumble upon once in a while going through family albums… we did not have a very good camera at that time and none of us were ever sure if we would do a good job of taking a picture! And so, he wanted to have something that would, many years down the line, remind him of the places he had been to and things that caught his eye.“
This is an actual picture postcard of The Mysore Palace (read more here and here) in the city of Mysore in Karnataka, India. My father had picked it up in the year 1990 during a family trip. I toyed around in Canva to add the words. During our visit, we did not get to see the palace in all its glory like this, but we brought back with us a tiny slice of that in the form of this! The quality still is good, considering it has been thirty years!
And then, since we just celebrated Diwali, and also since Canva knows how to keep you exploring more, I made this basic postcard!
During the days of Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five, my imagination and I would often venture on adventures of our own, albeit mini ones and during some such ‘travels’ I would wish to stumble upon a picture post card from somewhere that would prove to be a major clue in solving the mystery at hand! Though such picture post cards never appeared but the idea of getting a real picture post card from someone, who happened to be traveling, always lingered in my heart. Anyways, moving on from my fanciful tales now! The other day, my husband and I were talking about our travels as a couple and it made me want to go through some of our travel photos here in the US and found this one that I could see myself sending to someone! Thanks Sandy for these ideas:)
While traveling seems to be a thing fraught with considerable amount of uncertainties at the moment, we can all look at our photos,old and new and slip into irreversible reveries that bring a smile and perhaps, even a sigh.
There was no trick or treat this year. So, the kid went on a scavenger hunt in the house on Halloween! These are the clues, some made up by the mom while the rest from the treasure trove called “Google” 🙂
My hometown of Calcutta (now Kolkata) recently celebrated its biggest festival, the Durga Pujo (more on this here), one which transcends the religious aspect of it to embrace diversity and camaraderie that can probably only be found in this City of Joy. It is unique and unparalleled and I say this not because I am biased, but because it is a fact, a way of life as known, lived and shared by her people. But as strange and painful that this year has been, it has limited the scope of being with our loved ones and, the festivities have a different look this year. However, from what I hear from friends and family, the festive spirit has not been dampened. People found ways to be with each other during this time of the year, celebrate Durga and Her victories in unique ways over Zoom calls and live-stream sessions,which may have made great philosophers re think about the relationship between art and reality, considering how mixed up the ideal and virtual have been this year.
Way of life here in Jersey is a far cry from the festivities there. The enthusiastic and enterprising bunch that Bengalis are, we have brought our own version of those celebrations wherever we have moved to, and adapting to a new life has not meant that we have parted ways with tradition that is intricately woven into our personal and societal tapestries. Being the product of a global culture, man and his beliefs keep evolving and he pursues one that probably suits his needs the best. So, as opposed to a five day celebration, Durga Pujo here in North America is a weekend affair as school auditorium, the typical venue for the grand celebration, is available for rent only on weekend, obviously. This year, we adapted further…we had to. Google Meets and Zoom calls came to our rescue and we too, celebrated virtually. Many of us decked up and made traditional and scrumptious food fit for the kings, at home. And since Fall is in full bloom, we also were blessed with glimpses of an autumn mosaic.
Way of life as once known has greatly changed and we have all adapted to that, to the best of our abilities, some wittingly and some bearing a bit of a grudge. Online school, while far from being ideal, is the way of life for us as is distancing ourselves from friends and family, physically. It is stressful and tiring and stealing moments from the abstract realities of life, has become a norm.
Amidst a hundred memories and a thousand more to come, people all around are trying to make the best of what they have, may be soaking them in some extra love and wrapping them up with a big warm hug. Fatigue sets in but we refuse to be harnessed by the drudgery of routine…such is the beauty of human resilience. We are cautiously hopeful and our wrinkled hearts keep summoning courage, courage to face all that is unknown. That is the way of life now, has always been and perhaps will always be. As we all celebrate our culture, our milestones in ways that are set in stone or in ways that have evolved, I hope we don’t forget that we are all part of a bigger social and human construct, one that makes our beating hearts unique.Our little stories become part of the woven tapestry called life in which we all have a role to play in that. These help us carry on, these moments, these celebrations, these stories, especially in times like the one that we are living today. Times that are in desperate need of a resurgence of empathy and respect. Let us not forget that happiness is not proprietary, but shared. And that should always be the way of life.
” There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path”: The Buddha.