In March when the severity of the pandemic started hitting us here in the US, winter was coming to an end and we were looking forward to spring. Little did we know, like everyone else, how drastically different that spring would be. As would summer and fall.
While life as we knew came to a halt, more severely for some than others, the natural world around us kept following its course and we took solace in its beauty. Vacations had to be skipped and maybe we missed capturing gorgeous sunrises or sweeping views from the mountain tops, but that perhaps gave us a chance to explore what we see everyday but maybe do not appreciate as much.
We cooked a lot more at home for sure!
And just like that December rolled in and while many places around the world are in the grasp of the pandemic more than before, there is a ray of hope that was no where near the horizon when all of this began. Tireless efforts by the medical world with the whole world rooting for them on in their own way, the world may be a brighter place soon. Festivities will have more cheer as we will be able to hug our loved ones and travel freely and the playgrounds will be as noisy as they are supposed to be. Till then, we will have to hold on for a little longer.
Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe. Stay kind. Posted for Amanda’s Friendly Friday Photo Challenge.
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.
Amanda invites us to reflect on quiet places and share a picture or two. If I had to choose between living in the heart of a big city where tall buildings could make you twist your neck if you tried to look all the way up and where people never stopped roaming the streets and the music never ceased or, in the suburbs, away from all the hullabaloo where people probably went to bed at 8 and there were farmlands around, I would always choose the latter. Noisy places and a super-fast life do not make to my list of top 50 favorite things! When we moved to New Jersey, it took my husband a great deal of convincing and a whole year to go visit the Big Apple!
Back when we lived in Minneapolis, one of our favorite spots to just escape to at the end of a tiring day, of course during the summer months, was this spot overlooking the mighty Mississippi. We sometimes packed sandwiches, chips and some juice and it made for a lovely picnic too. Life was stressful as grad students at that point in time and this was a place that helped shut out all the commotion in our minds about deadlines and tests and the somehow ever dwindling bank balance.
One of my favorite places that I keep revisiting in my mind is Duluth, Minnesota. A couple of hours from Minneapolis, it is a pristine place where Lake Superior reigns supreme. The blue of the lake and its vastness sort of puts one under spell and it is so easy to just shut out all the humdrum and lose oneself in its beauty. Pretty hikes, picturesque cottages, beautiful shoreline and very few people would give you all the quiet that you seek. You can hear silence and feel at one with the gorgeous nature that wraps you in a warm and peaceful hug.
Many years ago I had visited the Hiroshima and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was like no place I had been to ever before. A hauntingly beautiful place that leaves one with emotions that are complex and sure to evoke thoughts that escape the banalities of our daily lives. The picture quality is not good at all here, but this is one of the few photos that survived my laptop -in- the -bathtub debacle.
During these days of COVID-19, when the world is hurting bad, quietness is easy to come by and often can be found in the strangest of places. A popular hiking trail, a park that usually is teeming with children during the spring and summer months are such places, where it has been eerily quiet these past few months. While a semblance of normalcy has returned now, at least where we live, the quickening steps at the sight of others passing by says a different story. Words are not exchanged and kids are yet to play freely with each other. With masks covering their innocent smiles, there is a strange sense of quiet that is not ideal and neither desirable, but at the moment, essential.
We often escape the sights and sounds of big cities for some peace and quiet and to listen. To listen to sounds that a gurgling brook makes or perhaps the chirping of birds that get canceled out by the blaring alarm of our mobile phones or car in our neighborhood; the sound of crickets chirping as the sun sets and the rustling of leaves as the squirrels gather food. Or just to listen to the sound of silence. Like when snow falls. Have you noticed that quietness?
Sandy invites us to yet another fun challenge this week and I so agree with her on the world being divided into two types of people- the ones who wake up and go and the ones who go there eventually. I am with Sandy in the latter category. Ironically however, my job had always required to wake up really early- back in India I used to teach at an undergraduate college and classes started at 6.45 am and a 30 min car ride to did not make it any easier. And then when I went to Japan to teach, I had to take the 7 am train to reach my school. Not a whole lot of fun for a person like me!! But the faces of the kids made it all worth the effort it took on my part to get ready in the morning.
While reading Sandy’s post, I was thinking how our morning rituals perhaps keep evolving as we move through life. In Japan, it always involved grabbing a coffee from one of the vending machines and an o-nigiri (Japanese rice balls) or the extra delicious Cream Pan (Custard Cream filled buns), depending on my mood. And there was this bakery right where I came out of the station and that was always bustling with busy morning commuters because all of their bakery items were just perfect!! Or maybe I am partial because of my BIG sweet tooth 😉 Some weekends, me and my friends would also walk over to a nearby McDonald’s and get their breakfast and Sandy’s photo of that meal, brought back many a happy memories…thank you Sandy!
When I started life here, most of my classes at grad school were in the morning too and in case you didn’t know Minnesota winters are not very ideal for morning classes! Bundled up with steaming hot tumblers of tea or coffee in their hands, students and professors would be rushing to get into the buildings. My morning ritual mostly involved trying not to slip on the icy roads while running to get the bus!
Here in New Jersey, a decade later and no longer working at the moment, my mornings look a lot different. They usually involve cuddling with my kids before the day begins and then going about the chores of everyday life. I am a tea person (for my morning beverage) and a right cup sets the mood for the day. Now that school is virtual, my mornings are spent helping out my son as needed while he has fun figuring out the tools.
Over the years, however, I have sort of ‘formed’ a ritual that I try to follow from time to time in the mornings and that gives me some much needed ‘me time’ which clears my head and helps me relax. I quietly slip out of the house, while my kids and husband are sleeping,with the camera in hand with the aim of taking photos. It is mostly around the neighborhood and typically in spring and fall. That time of the day helps explore better without too many people around and I must say, I have loved doing this for some years now. Even when on vacation, I make it a point to get up early, if not to catch the sun rise (which also I try never to miss) but to just find out a bit more about the surroundings. I think I may have gotten this habit from my father who would always get up very early, while on vacations, and explore the area around our place of stay and before setting out for ‘sight seeing’ he would always take us out to to experience the local flavor, some ‘hidden gems’ as he would call them. When I look back, I find that many of those made for more memorable moments than the bigger tours.
Here are some photos that are the result of that ‘morning ritual’ I have made for myself.
For some of us, these rituals keep changing, evolving as I mentioned earlier. But then there are so many of us for whom these are more like a routine. My father and many like him of his age back in Kolkata had a set routine for the mornings. Get up, have tea while reading the newspaper and then go out to the bajaar (the market) for daily supply of fresh fish and vegetables. Once back home, it would involve getting ready for work and leaving home, in case of my father, as the clock struck 8.45am. Across oceans, decades later as I pour my morning tea, I often wonder if my father misses his morning ritual now that he has retired from work . And I can’t help but think how has the pandemic affected millions of people all over the world as they adjust to different morning routines, carving out new rituals while letting go of older ones. It may be relaxing for some, while for some it may be making more sacrifices and working harder than before.
Bazaar, a term that is being used more frequently in the western world, is of Persian origin. You knew that. And while the original term has been in use since forever in its place of origin and neighboring countries, the term has also meandered its way through the mountains and rivers and made itself at home in my home country of India. Since forever. In the eastern part of the country, in West Bengal, it is called ‘baajar‘ (where the almost refined sound of the z has been replaced with a more rugged j, in its attempt to put a Bengali stamp on it). Market is its counterpart.
For Bengalis, baajar is a crucial part of their existence. Let me put it this way- going to the market is what starts their day. At least it used to be so till online grocery shopping started catching up to meet the demands of the ever busy millennial. The older generation continues to keep the tradition alive even today on days their health and the weather permits.
Going back to the 1990s and early 2000s, the man of the house and in some cases the woman, would take a couple of ‘tholis’ ( rectangular shaped bag made of cloth or jute – for vegetables and fruits and a couple of nylon- for fish and meat) and make their way to the local baajar to get the daily supplies of fresh friuts and vegetables but most importantly of fish, the most important component of a Bengali’s daily diet. Meat also found a place, typically on Sundays. There is an enthusiasm and excitement that is quite something, specially if you consider that going to the baajar is a daily affair. And it especially centers around the fish! Refrigeration can meddle with the freshness and sweetness of the fish and hence most Bengalis go to the baajar every day or every other day. On Sundays the fish that is bought tends to be special as is the way it is cooked since fish is more than just food for the stomach, it is food for the Bengali soul too. And the baajar is a wonderful place to witness interactions that can rarely be matched elsewhere. The gleaming face at being able to get the exact fish the heart was hoping is a reflection of pure joy. Neighbors catch up with each other as their fish gets cleaned and cut and packed. Stray cats can be seen making rounds of the stalls in hopes of getting the fat and fins that are discarded. A fish market or macher baajar needs its own post and a whole set of pictures to help you understand the passion and frenzy and love that make it a venerated place for a Bengali. People are also seen flocking to the sections where fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers are sold but the frenzy is missing and that makes it less exciting!
This week’s Friendly Friday invites us to share pictures of markets and while I do not have any pictures of the market or baajar I grew up with, somewhere my father went every day till before the world and its workings got disrupted, I have some from our local grocery store that I had randomly taken last year I think. Like many other prompts, this week’s prompt also serves as an inspiration to take pictures of markets. Thanks Sandy!
Away from the madness of a Bengali baajar, here in my adopted country, the scene at our grocery store is different, to say the least (the concept of baajar back home is more like that of a farmers market here). While the big chain grocery stores have slowly started infiltrating the Indian market now, bajaars still remain vivacious and the seat of many a passionate conversation and hearty laughs. And it’s not just the fresh market that has so much life in it, you can visit any market in India (and trust me there are many to be found in every city that you may visit) which add to the charm and beauty of that place, that embrace the local culture and is sure to be a feast for your eyes (check this link) as well.
For this post, here are some photos from a trip to Florida where we had stopped at a local fruit store and some from our grocery store that has wonderful seasonal display of flowers which brighten up the otherwise plain looking building. It is somewhere I never fail to make a stop before entering the store and hover around for a wee bit time. A far cry from the sights and sounds of an Indian baajar, our store sees a riot of colorful flowers in summer and come Fall there will be pumpkins of various shapes and sizes and then Christmas will see its trees and related decor.
Sandy helps us revisit one of the most fundamental and pivotal relationships in our lives- the one that influences our childhood to a great extent and the one that continues to shape our growing up beyond and perhaps, always. Friendship provides refuge and a place to refuel. It is marked by everything from silly laughs and pinky promises to stimulating conversations and a trust deep enough to know that you are in a safe place. The unstoppable passage of time often meddles with regular meet ups and living in different corners of the world makes it harder. But friends find a way to be there- always have, always will. Don’t you agree?
I remember when we were in school, many of us did not have telephones in our homes and so summer vacations were always a bummer! A few of us wrote letters to each other and as I have written before, I still have letters that were written in the 90s by friends who are still just that precious and just that much thoughtful. We just don’t have as many pictures though! The memories are good enough.
This is a picture of me (right corner) and my three best friends taken on the last day of our high school. We were allowed to dress in traditional attire and that day was meant for fun and festivities, and lots of hugs and tears too. We have seen each other through times that have been anything but smooth and we have held each other and cried with each other and rolled on the floor laughing about the silliest of matters. Steeped in the affairs of our own little families and separated by oceans, today we hardly get the time for a daily catch up. Text messages and Google Hangout lets us share our current stories and take pointers on the kids that we are trying to raise. It makes me happy to think that for some of us our friendship began when we were as old as our little ones are now.
Friendship looks different today with social media playing such a huge part. Still, the basics of this relationship look the same and have the same beginning. My son often has his video calls with his friends where they play and share stories and read to each other, make puzzles and form their bonds, just in a different way more so now because of the current circumstances. But the seeds are being sown hopefully that will last for a long time.
And then we have our toys and the ‘stuffy family’ and of course, as cliched as it may sound, books and music to keep us company and be our friends. Change of time hopefully will never mar this .
For now, they seem to be each others best friends and while neither has any idea of what that means, they sure have their own little world- one that they are learning to share and get into mischief in! The brother understands what the little sister wants when she says things that I too am unable to comprehend. Their own little world has just started taking shape and I can’t wait to see what that evolves into!
Like the rain that smells just as good as it feels after the stifling heat, like the taste that our favorite dessert leaves us with in our hearts and like the groove that our favorite song unknowingly puts us into, friendship influences our essence. It does not require anything external to stay put. Thanks Sandy, this brought back so many memories:)
I am yet to take photos in the macro mode but I absolutely love seeing such images… the details are simply gorgeous. Last week Amanda invited us to examine our photos a bit closely and I found these from my archive, some more recent than the others!
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.