Summertime

If only there were a magical place we could send all our worries to from where they would never come back to haunt us, to take away our peace or to toy with our very existence! But such a place does not exist. What does exist is our resilience and humanity, hopefully. The latter being the factor that determines if we move forward not only as a civilization but as a species. This year has been a test for all and now that we are more than half way through and into the gorgeous days of summer , I can’t help but wonder if we have been able to look past the inconvenience that it has brought the ‘me and mine’ to feel for the ‘us’ that the me and mine are part of. The eternal optimist in me would like to think positively:)

Growing up, summer looked a little different from what it does today. School would be off for just about a month and there would always be a lot of ‘holiday homework’ that had to be done. Somehow, we could only get to that when the holiday was almost about to be over and what a scramble that would be! Visits from cousins , ice creams and the gorgeous mangoes were the staple of every summer. Some years we would take a trip to the mountains in the northern part of the country and those 2 weeks would have their own charm. There was something else that was special about summer vacation- story books and all the extra time that could be spent with them. And if sometimes the book happened to be new, I would spend a good number of days just smelling the pages, carefully turning those lest the smell went away. The crisp pages and that almost heady aroma had their own mesmerizing effect on me and it felt as if I could spend days cocooned in the comfort that books always wrap us in. For brief moments of time, they would take me beyond the sweltering summer days into an imaginary or real world that would engage the mind with the fleeting ‘what ifs’ .

I recently read somewhere that summertime is together time and I loved it. It so is together time since the kids are home and while it can sometimes feel crazy, it is also an amazing time to explore and add pages to the pocketbook of our memories This year however, this phase of summer where kids are home, started long back in early spring under dire circumstances and will likely continue well into the next summer months. Gorgeous days are passing us by and while many here in the US have flouted rules and crowded the beaches and pool sides we have stayed home, as have many, venturing out only in the neighborhood.

The simple joys of summer are indeed escaping us this year and it is particularly difficult for the little ones. Sand castles and picnics on the beach, play dates with friends, the animals at the zoo and at the farm, road trips, barbecue parties are all missing (as are hassle free trips to the grocery store but let’s not go there!) Near where we live, every summer there is a wonderful week long street food festival along with music by local bands and it’s an amazing time for all to come together as a community. Those were canceled, as were celebrations around July 4th. Everything is on hold and while this is a temporary pause, the future, at times, seems uncertain at this point.

While going through some of our summer pics from previous years amidst all that is not happening, I found peace and happiness in what has happened. What we have been able to do together as a family and in the memories that we have made. This year may have been different but I am hopeful that when the next summer comes, we would all have healed a little, and become a little wiser and a little more compassionate. The neighborhood parks would no longer have the yellow tapes around them anymore and going to the beach would be okay. As would kids running around in the sprinklers and playing tag. Families would be all together on their picnic mats and whatever they were bickering about would be forgotten as the sparkling fireworks would light up the warm summer night.

Flip flops and sunglasses have not been used that much, neither have hugs. An air of caution looms large and that dampens the spirit of summer. But flowers bloom and rainbows appear. We sing and have dance parties. We continue with the new patterns that have been woven to make the most of this quarantined life. But adventures await and we cannot lose hope. Stay well, you all.

Thanks for stopping by.

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.

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: 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.

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.