Friendly Friday: Essential Tools and Tips

What a fun post from Sandy for the Friday photo challenge! I am always on the lookout for suggestions on anything and everything…what an amazing opportunity it provides to learn from one another on things that range from everyday cooking to traveling somewhere far. And there is often a better or easier or more efficient way of doing things that we stumble upon through such exchanges:)

Storing Fresh Coriander!

Just last week or one before that, a fellow blogger and I exchanged a few lines on the dilemma of storing fresh coriander. My husband and I love this incredible herb and it is a must buy on our now bi weekly grocery trips. But how to store it in a manner that will keep the leaves as fresh as possible for as long as possible has always been a bit of a challenge. We have tried putting the stems in water, keeping them covered with a plastic bag (like Ziploc), wrapping them gently in paper towel. Three to four days is the max that they have retained their freshness. It always made me a little mad that this should not be that difficult a task. Ultimately, we started making a paste or ‘chutney‘ of the leaves (after keeping aside some fresh ones)…that way they wouldn’t go to waste and while we could not use fresh coriander, we could always have the next best thing in the recipes that called for this herb. However…!!!!!! We stumbled upon this way of storing them (and most of you, if not all, probably already know this and are laughing at my naivete now!) After untying the bunch, we lay out the leaves for a bit to let the water dry out and then separated them in two equal portions- one portion had leaves/stems which looked less fresh while the other bunch had the freshest ones. In a plastic box, we put a small piece of paper towel at the bottom and then arranged one portion as loosely as possible (as opposed to a clump) and covered that with another small piece of paper towel. Closed the lid and did the same with the other portion. Marked the boxes 1 &2! It has been a week and our first bunch, with the less fresh leaves, looks like we got them yesterday!

Mayonnaise is Good!

A chicken ‘baking- changing’ tip came from a friend many years ago and I have, since then, never baked chicken without adding that ingredient …mayonnaise! Did you know that a little bit of mayonnaise when marinating the chicken makes them super moist and soft? It does not interfere with the other flavors that you may intend for your chicken. If you have not tried it, I suggest you do!

A pinch of black salt!

Who loves watermelon juice? I do, I do and I do!! The men in my house…not so much. The good man does not mind a watermelon margarita and the little boy prefers staying away from the fruit and the simple juice. Most of us add a dash of lime or lemon to the juice and sweeten it with some sugar is needed but have you ever tried adding a pinch of black salt? Don’t be repulsed by its almost pungent smell. A pinch of it does wonders to drinks like watermelon juice and sometimes even a simple lemonade…but just a pinch. You may have to throw out a couple of glasses of juice to figure out your preferred ‘pinch’ but once you figure that out, you might just be surprised!

A little list!

The last tip, again most of you already probably do this, that comes in very handy when traveling involves the suitcase and its contents. Before I proceed, I should say that I am a very ‘make -a-list-for -everything-that-you-do’ kind of a person and a lot of people find that odd and funny (though I am not sure why this would evoke either of these reactions!). Anyways, so I always have a list for everything. And when I pack suitcases, I always write down the things, in a piece of paper, that are going on inside of each and keep it in the outer pocket of the particular suitcases. This is extremely handy when we travel to India as there are usually 4-6 suitcases and carry-on luggage involved and after having traveled for a close to 20 hours, memory tends to skip important things ! And even when you know which suitcases you need to open first to take out what, trust me this little piece of paper can give your mind that much needed rest.

While trying to take a picture of a suitcase, I casually put my hand in the front pocket to see if I could find the piece of paper that might have traveled with us on our last trip to India…and see what I found!

Thanks for stopping by! Be safe.

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Nostalgia

The Nostalgia that I write about , that I study, that I feel, is the ache that arises from the consciousness of lost connection”. (Michel Chabon, The New Yorker)

One of the reasons I started this blog was to seek a way to reflect on the past, to be able to connect to it and channel that in the present. If you have followed even some of my posts, you must have noticed that most of what I try to write, including A thousand memories come rushing by, my very first post, has nostalgia tugging at the heartstrings. Nostalgia is a good thing, they say and I believe. Many still look at this amazingly powerful yet subtle emotion as a hindrance since it apparently prohibits one from moving ahead by dwelling on the past, but I vehemently disagree. Thankfully there is research to back me up!

The other day, I was talking to my good man about The Friendly Friday Photo Challenge and how I was looking forward to participating in it. Upon finding out the theme, he said “Are you sure you will not go overboard?” You see, Nostalgia is my thing and I am almost proud of it.

My parents and a one year old me. This is a photograph that reminds me of a time that I ‘visually’ remember very little of, but somehow know a lot about from all the stories I have heard. So, while my memory is unable to recollect images from this period in my life, it can narrate stories to my children from when I was a baby. And I am always reminded of the fact that irrespective of time and place, children continue to be delighted by similar things.

I keep reflecting on the past. Not to pine over what is not there but to draw from memories that remind me of my roots and also of the treasures that I have, unknowingly gathered, growing up. While a tingling of sadness is undoubtedly associated with nostalgia, it also refreshes our memories about the times spent with dear friends, or that one special trip, or some favorite food, songs that we danced to or could not stop humming, family vacations, childhood home, summers spent with cousins under the shade of the big mango tree, or that ‘tube well’ that fascinated the neighborhood kids.

This is a photograph taken back in 1987. My cousins (on my mother’s side) and I are sitting on the steps of a small room on the roof of my grandfather’s home. This is surprisingly the only photograph that we have till date of all the 9 of us together. Many photos have been taken since but for some reason or the other, one or two of us have always been missing. This was also my grandmother’s favorite photograph and she never failed to mention that we were her navratn (an allusion to Mughal Emperor Akbar’s nine extra ordinary talented group of people in his court)

Nostalgia teaches us to be to be kind and brave, no matter what. And it grounds us in humility and puts the faith back when hope seems to be drifting away in this crazy life. For people who have chosen to live in places far far away from where they grew up and where the way of life has little resemblance to the one left behind decades ago, nostalgia is almost a resource to help power through. Don’t you think?

These are paper clippings that my parents have ‘framed’! Back in 2006 I was honored to be part of the group of 23 teachers who were selected to be in the Japan Exchange Teaching Program (JET) and apart from being an incredible opportunity, little did I know that it was going to change the course of my life! I had an amazing best two years in Japan, fell in love with the place, the food and made some friends for life. My husband and I reconnected in Japan and here I am, raising two kids with him. This photograph, (which embarrasses me a lot!!) reminds me of a turning point in my adult life and an incredibly important one at that:)
This is our alma mater, a place we embraced with our hearts and minds, made friends who are like family and went through some very tough times that forged a stronger bond. The time spent in this city, that recently witnessed a horrific incident and eventually set in motion movements across continents, gave us moments that we will never cease learning from.

As we keep on adding to our pocketbook of memories where the past and the present keep merging, today’s photographs and road trips, family movie nights and celebrations, books read and meals cooked will all be there for us to look back on in the days ahead. And this topsy turvy world, that the indomitable spirit of powerful souls refuses to give up on, will heal one day and we will all look back on the role we played in healing this…let’s make sure that our future generations have something to look back on, where they know that we were not just silent observers.

One fine winter morning, we found ourselves waiting in a hospital, filling out paperwork and getting ready to be parents for the first time. Little did we know what the next 16 hours would bring that would ultimately lead to an emergency C section and end with a crying baby boy in my arms. I had realized when I was pregnant, like all moms do, that it was possible to fall in love with someone I had not even met. And when I did meet that person, I felt for the first time what it was to love someone more than anything or anybody in the whole wide world, a love that cannot be put into words, a love that transcends all other types. And a few years later, I had that feeling again when a little baby girl joined the family.

Life keeps giving us moments that turn into memories. Scattered across the memory are these vignettes and we treasure them, some knowingly and many unknowingly. Nostalgia lets us revisit these when we want to and at times, even creeps up on its own and leads us to them. Whichever way it happens, I hope, we keep cherishing the moments of past and present.

Thanks for stopping by. Be safe.

Cacophonous Thoughts

These thoughts have been gathering in my mind for the past month or so and trying to put those in a cohesive manner was a bit more challenging than I had anticipated. They have ranged from the rights and wrongs of raising kids in my house to the precarious state of affairs worldwide. Hence the title of this piece!

The saying goes : ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. With a shared value of wisdom and experiences grandparents, aunts and uncles, the neighbors all join in, in their own way and try to make sense of the art and science of raising a child. Clueless parents are only happy with the help, I am assuming. Or may be this was a thing of the past.

Raising kids in a culture that is quite different from the one my husband and I grew up in is a challenge to say the least. Well, it is always a challenge for any parent to raise a kid and is probably more so in today’s world where, at times, humanity seems to be up for discussion. To that when you add stark cultural disparities, you can find questioning yourself more, with added layers of complexity.

There’s no secret formula, a fool proof plan to raising kids and neither are there 20 easy steps. And I know that. All parents know that. So do you wonder, like I often do, why are there so many books which aim to guide parents navigate the challenges of raising ‘good’ kids. That ‘good’ encompasses a great many number of attributes that basically cover everything from academics to athletics, daily drama to discipline and character to common sense (that seems to be on the decline more than ever before). In the recent past, I ended up, what can be only described as ‘panic buying’ , a few of these and have around three more on my Amazon ‘Save for Later’ list. I started reading and when I realized I was doing things differently, I panicked a bit and now the books are on the shelf waiting for me to calm down a bit. While I will probably be returning to those books, I am unsure of how practical their guidelines are going to be, for the simple fact that culture plays a huge role in upbringing and these books omit this crucial part. But I am also curious to find out. Maybe I will find books written by and for parents like us who are trying to raise first generation kids in their adopted countries.

Dreams for our children are limitless and pure…possibilities are endless. And I can’t help but wonder if that’s where it all starts- that mythical pool of endless possibility. Or probably the idea of that in our heads, reinforced by society that dictates the terms of success and the lack of it, more and more with every passing day. Let me explain and I might be wrong, as I am not a professional but I will take the risk! When my kid was about four and a half years old (he is five now) there were curious moms asking about the clubs he was attending. My answer of none was not the one they were expecting and while most were polite enough to not probe further, I was stumped when asked by some, “but why”? Why was a four and a half year old not taking piano lessons or taekwondo or soccer or art classes or one of the many other ‘endless possibilities”? I really did not know how to explain except for that I thought it was too early. For some time after that, my husband and I would often find ourselves engaging in in -depth discussions, if we were doing a disservice to our kid, by not enrolling him in these activities, who could shine if only we had started early; whether he was going to be falling behind his other Pre-K classmates; whether he would be able to catch up. And then it struck us…he was not even five! When did this become a thing- that a four year old was required to be in a certain number of activities that ‘would be’ instrumental in his development in life? I still have a hard time with the idea of extra curricular activities for toddlers and little boys and girls who should be able to run around and day dream and use the power of their imagination to play and basically, be little boys and girls.

I realize that parents often have to make choices that are in the best interest of the kid. And more often than not, such choices make kids sad! Curfew may be set at a time that is different from those of the other kids, some may be allowed to go out to movies with friends while in some families sleepovers may be frowned upon. I remember, growing up, not being allowed to go to movies, go out with friends in the evening without adult supervision. Sleepovers were always a big no no. And I resented my parents sometimes for these restrictions. There was this feeling of being deprived and it felt like a huge deal at that time. I realize that there are going to be similar things as my kids start growing older and I too, will be disliked, by them. How to deal with that ‘rejection’ is something I guess I will figure out when the time comes. Till then I will gladly indulge in as many squishy hugs and runs at the sound of every “Maa” , and snuggle with them and have tickle fights till our sides are aching from all the silliness and laughter. Along the way mistakes are bound to happen as we are all flawed. And what is perfection anyways? If we can hold each other, hear each other, respect and grow with each other, love each other and be there with and for each other, the voices of doubt, of dissent and of displeasure will probably fade out.

It has been an interesting few months to say the least and I say interesting because the good, the bad and the ugly side of the species known as ‘human‘ has been in full display for the whole world to see, to learn and unlearn and re learn from. The pain of losing loved ones, of not being able to say goodbyes, of living in fear, of not knowing what will stop this lethal virus, of losing jobs, of waiting for hours in line for food -to say a few -has resonated with people across continents. And then the whole world witnessed George Flyod gasping for breath and with that sweeping movements started uniting people across nations, with movements that are powerful and inspiring beyond words. The other day, on Instagram I saw this emotionally charged video of a little African American girl raising her hands up in the air as she sees a white policewoman get down from the patrol car and walk towards her. I felt my eyes fill up. The video is a beautiful example of the fear these little kids have probably internalized and will always live with. It is also a wonderful example of how this policewoman, who also breaks down as she sees the little girl’s hands, has a conversation with her and tries to assure her that not all hope is lost in this world. I cannot even begin to imagine what conversations that little girl’s parents and countless parents like hers have had with their children and how are we humans if we let our skin colors define us.

I digress.

Raising kids in a culturally different environment is a challenge for sure. The focus is often on the dichotomy of the right and wrong, when it comes to adaptation of cultural practices. There is an identity confusion of sorts and the dilemma of trying to fit into a culture that is not inherently theirs and at the same time, celebrating and internalizing the cultural aspects of the one they are part of. And before I proceed further, I should say that I am talking about people of South Asian descent who are raising first or second generation kids here in America, though I doubt the choice of adopted country would make it any different. So, Diwali, Eid, Christmas are all celebrated as are Halloween and Poila Boishakh (the Bengali New Year) and kids learn to play baseball and take ‘tabla’ classes. They are in acapella groups in their schools, belting out American classics while in the evening they take Bharatnaytam classes. These are wonderful examples of how we are all part of this big wide culture known as humanity and all of these individual bits, be it playing in a jazz band or taking tabla lessons, are celebrations of our uniqueness as well as similarities. But I also can’t help but wonder if this can be confusing for the child. I don’t know. And then comes the issue of race. Of skin color. Of being brown. As brown parents of brown children, I too need to have a discussion about race with my 5 year old soon and then with the younger one when she is a little older. I am terrified, if I am being honest. To raise kids who are not only mindful of different cultures and race, are aware of history that has been unkind (to put it as mildly as possible), to be able to know when to stand up and what to stand up for seems daunting and something I am scared of being not able to do correctly. I am scared to burst their bubble of ‘we are all friends’ and though we are different but we are the same…because clearly that seems to be just a bubble. But that bubble needs to be burst and that needs to happen sooner than later. I don’t want to tell my kids yet that they may be subject to occasional bursts of ‘not nice’ behavior and how should they react. We have been subjects of such behavior a few times with things like ‘you should go back to the country you came from’, ‘ you come and ruin our country’ and a few other choice sentences of hatred. We have had police called on us in the parking lot of a Target for an offense that was the person’s who had called the Police (who, thankfully, knew the right from wrong). And those have left us shaken and saddened. But we have also had wonderful people who we are friends with and who have welcomed us with open hearts. And that’s the world the little kids know but the fact that the reality also has elements of the ‘not nice’ is something they would have to be made aware of soon. I hope with all my heart that they are able to navigate the ups and downs of growing up, when the time comes.

Meanwhile, my plans of enrolling my son in swimming and soccer classes will have to be on hold for another year! He and his friends and the school going kids all over the world have been out of their little world for months now. While there are plans in progress of in-person instruction here from the new academic year starting in Fall, I am unsure of whether I will be sending him to Kindergarten. As are many others. To expect 5 year olds to wear masks and maintain social distancing, while navigating the big scary new school and trying to hold back tears at being away from home after a long time, is not realistic. So, while we have been ‘training’ and wearing face masks when we are out and trying to not touch our faces and practicing social distancing, I guess we also have to make plans for homeschooling for this year and I am absolutely unsure of how that might unfold.

Fields remain empty as of now and the usually busy walking trails are either empty or sparsely populated. Greetings have become mere nods and there is nowhere to go. My hometown of Kolkata has never seemed so far away as it has in the past few months. That home and hope glimmer like a distant mirage. The thought of being able to hug my parents seems like an illusion, as the unknown looms large in thoughts. Till the time we can hug each other again, I continue with my video calls and they soak up the joy the sight of their grand kids bring them. But the world is in the cusp of something bigger and brighter is what I am choosing to believe in, when humanity will not be up for discussion and we will be more informed; our actions will be less selfish and guided more by empathy; where choosing to wear a face mask will not be spun around as making a political statement; where common sense will be more common. Till then, stay safe you wonderful people.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

A brief pause…

It has been more than a month since my last post. The decision was to take a break from this attempt of mine at blogging, while I tried to figure out what the purpose of this was, the direction I wanted this to take going forward. While I do not want to attach a ‘this’ or ‘that’ label to this space that I have come to love dearly, I would prefer if it had an outline at least. The work on that seems to be an ongoing on!

The world is a different place than what it was a month ago. We are witnessing something magnificently powerful at the moment, with a worldwide cry for solidarity tearing through ceilings that needed to come down long ago and a pandemic is wrecking havoc through our civilization. People and their resilience are being tested to the limits and while hope seems to elude us at times, it also encourages us to be our best and how can one not respond to that call. As an eternally optimist soul, I believe and have to keep believing that this shall end and shall end for good.

I hope to be back more often! Till then, here are some photos I took while I was away and it feels so good to be able to share these with you. I also have so much catching up to do, going through your blogs and I can’t wait to start! A month’s break was good and though I had wanted it to be longer, I hadn’t realized that I would be really missing this community this much:)

Thanks for stopping by. Stay safe, be kind.

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Covid Discoveries

There are so many things that I wanted to write for this particular post where Sandy asks to  but that would require time and patience- both of which I am currently running a little short on!  Not willing to let go of the challenge totally, I decided to go with these two-

I discovered that  cake could be made with mayonnaise ( makes total sense but never did I come across a recipe before! We were running low on eggs and I did not want to bake an eggless cake and NY Times cake to my rescue with this recipe).

 

 

 

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Books can still keep me up till the wee hours of the morning on any day! Also, this is a new book which, these strange times that we are all living in at the moment, made me buy. It had been sitting, almost daintily, in the cart for a long time that I finally proceeded to checkout a couple of weeks ago.

Posted for the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge.

Thanks for stopping by and till next time- stay safe and keep adding moments to your pocketbook of memories!!

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Working Together

I tried finding photos that would be apt for Amanda’s prompt at the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge but my  archive could not help me out. I realized, apparently I am not the kind of person who takes pictures of people… in groups. And I am trying hard to think why!

I had given up when a random scrolling through the phone gave me an idea that , I am hoping, would convey the message of this week’s thought of community, of working together.

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This is the scene that greets us every morning, noon, evening and night…when we look out of the windows or are on the balcony or go out for a stroll. The cars are all there , at all times.  People do not go out. A couple of spots here and there can be found without an occupant, perhaps running an errand that is mostly only grocery shopping now. This way, the community is working together following the orders of the governor and playing its part in trying to ‘flatten the curve’ that seems to be in no mood to do so.  It baffles me to see protests around the country here demanding a reopening of America. With posters like  Give Me Freedom Or Give Me Death, My Body My Choice and similar ‘I-could-use-many words-here-that-would-need-to-be-censored’ ideas, a handful of people are running the risk of undoing all the hardship, the sacrifices that the doctors, nurses and health care workers, along with frontline workers have been enduring  for the past few months. And I can’t stop thinking about this line “ you can’t cure stupid”. But being an eternally optimistic person, I believe in the power of good and I am hoping that  the community will stay together and we will see this storm through.

 

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It was Earth Day last week and the little guy painted this. As we were talking about the blue water and the green land, about ecosystems, about climate, about how we all are responsible for keeping our ‘HOME’ safe, he said, just like any 5 year old would, ‘you mean how here in our home we take care of each other?’ It is a simple idea for a 5 year old where his innocence has not been destroyed yet and he believes if we all did our part we could easily take care of our ‘HOME’! I wanted to add this photo here to hold on to that hope, to that belief  that people are good and maybe their generation will know better and work together more to keep our planet safe and beautiful.

 

That is all that I have for the prompt…I know it is not what is expected but this was my take on it. Amanda had a very thoughtful idea and I did not want to miss out on my favorite photo challenge!

Thank you Amanda and Sandy for coming up with such wonderful ideas.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay home, Stay Safe.