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.

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.

Memories in March

There is a little corner in our bedroom that I have recently claimed as my ‘me spot’…. a corner of the couch, next to a window. Times are different and difficult and being at home is all that we do. When I get a wee bit of time, usually when the kids are taking their afternoon nap and the good man is busy with his office work, I sit there with the book I happen to be reading ( ‘Snow’ by Pamuk, at the moment) and my gaze drifts outside occasionally. Sometimes it does so to try to visualize the sights ‘ Ka’  sees in the story and sometimes I gaze to try to fathom what’s going on with our bruised world. I fail.

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Spring is here and, what would otherwise be a cheery time with kids running and neighbors hanging around for a quick chat, is eerily silent. Even the birds are quiet. Quieter. Have they taken notice of how the world is hurting? I wonder.

 

Cars don’t leave their parking spots. There is no movement. Only delivery trucks keep making their rounds, rushing to drop off the essentials people can’t seem to stop buying. I don’t blame them (not the hoarders though). There seems to be no end in sight, an end to the fear that has slowly crept deep into people’s souls. It is palpable and rising with each passing day.   Are those in charge taking notice? I hope so.

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I have stopped following the news. It isn’t helping. My motherland is in total lockdown and in a country with 1.3 billion people, that is anything but feasible. Yet it is happening. While it is extremely essential for a national lockdown since the virus, if it spread, would wreck havoc of un fathomable proportions from which the country would probably never recover, it is also not ideal. Not without a well thought out plan, at least. Or any plan. The lockdown has rendered hundreds and thousands of migrant workers in a state of limbo. With no work and no place to stay, they are returning to their native villages and towns. Many  by foot. National lockdown means no transportation in many places. Buses are being provided in some cases but the ratio of number of people needing help to the actual help in place, is massively disproportionate. Add to that,  the lack of or absence of food and water. The poor must suffer… always. And then there are celebrities who post videos of washing dishes… how hard it must be for them.

I am living my life almost exactly the way I used to before this crisis. It is a privilege and I recognize that. Yes, I don’t go out to the mall, my job hunting has taken a step back and my eyebrows could use some salon care. And yes, I am always thinking about, and when need be acting on,  how to keep the fridge and pantry well stocked so that my kids  remain well nourished. I have the privilege of cooking sumptuous lunch and dinner, baking cakes, reading books and taking photos. I am beyond grateful.  My husband’s work is letting him work from home and there has been no change, yet, in the benefits we receive like medical insurance. I am hoping it stays so but with the hit the economy is going to have to bear, it should not be a surprise if those benefits change. Provided he still has a job once this is all over. But we will cross that bridge when and if we come to that. One step at a time. Meanwhile our popcorns and movie nights, family games,  music time and being goofy together continues and the semblance of sanity prevails. Memories in March have been bittersweet.

 

The world is hurting and there is more to come. Uncertainty looms large. Careless acts of some people continue to put others in danger. Petty fights break out over trivial matters as emotions run high. And yet, the good shines through. Those in the frontline continue to fight for one and all.
I pause a little when posting pretty pictures while heartbreaking stories fill the newsfeed. To empathize and to continue with daily activities  is no longer uncomplicated.  I think about last spring when the now babbling baby girl was only a few months old and all of us were just getting to know each other better. It was beautiful, inside and outdoors.


The cherry blossoms outside the window try to put a smile on my face. I oblige. I see some kids drawing on the road. Their message is simple. I smile. I sip on my afternoon coffee and return to my book to travel with Ka.

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Thanks for stopping by. Let’s be patient, let’s be gentle and let’s be kind.

 

 

 

Cook,Eat, Repeat: Revisiting Japan through food- Ramen

A couple of years to turning forty, I often find myself thinking about regrets that I may or may not have. And while there certainly are things that could have gone better or slightly differently, I don’t have much to complain about. But one thing that I really regret is not having a good camera during my stay in Japan (and not buying one as well) and on top of that, losing more than 95% of whatever photos I had to a case of ‘laptop in the bathtub’ 🤦🏾‍♀️ Before you start wondering…I was working on an assignment  that was nearing its deadline, sitting on the edge of this deep bathtub, while soaking my feet  when a moment of carelessness resulted in a soaking laptop. It was near the end of my stay as well and so I lost most of the photos and a few other stored documents in that mishap. I still cannot believe that I was, to put it as frankly as possible, dumb enough to do that. But that’s what happens when you take the laptop to the bathroom and later question your reasoning!

I haven’t visited many countries yet and so I cannot say with absolute certainty but from whatever I have seen  of Japan and the experiences I gathered during the time I lived there, I can say with a good amount of confidence that it is one of the most beautiful places one could ever visit. And it’s beauty does not merely lie in its mountains and seas, the coming and going of the seasons, the traditional homes, the perfectly landscaped gardens, beautiful castles that are spread throughout the country…it transcends this physical part and seeps into the way of life there. There is a feeling of serenity and contentment in the beauty that enraptures one when in Japan -be it through the mesmerizing Sakura, the sight of women clad in kimonos, in the discipline that they exhibit in their daily routine, in the juxtaposition of tradition and modernity, in their sense of aesthetics that ranges from how they dress to how their dining table is laid out to the placing of the hashi (chopsticks) to the way they say itadakimasu (I humbly receive – a phrase they say right before eating)…the list can be endless. I feel deeply honored to have had the opportunity to work there for two years and immerse myself in the culture and cuisine with the help and love of people I was fortunate to have crossed paths with.

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I fell in love with Japanese food pretty easily and have never  not liked anything that I had except for Ikura (salmon roe) and natto (fermented soybeans), with the latter being a bit too out of my comfort zone! I have made meals with and shared those with my colleagues, my students, amazing neighbors and every time the experience has been rewarding, to say the least. A name that stands out from all the wonderful people who I made memories with is Chikako Yasunaga- a woman who embraced me with open arms and heart and showered me with her kindness and love and called me her fourth child (she has three kids)! I never know how to describe her as I feel any words I use would not do justice to capturing her true essence and the wonderful human being she is. The day before I left Kobe, she came to meet me and obviously brought me food! When we said goodbye, she hugged me tightly and said ‘Chatterjee, daisuki desu‘ (I like/love ‘Chatterjee’- my last name), I suddenly realized I was leaving family there who I probably would not be able to see again and that thought was heart wrenching. I also remember crying a lot after she left. I have watched her cook and cooked with her, shared innumerable meals with her family and I owe a lot of my love for Japanese food to her and so not mentioning her here would be dishonoring her.

Arigatou Sensei.

 

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Yasunaga sensei with her husband (another wonderful person, a professor of law by profession) in Naples! We still send each other little life updates and it is just as easy talking to her over the phone with her broken English and my very rusty Japanese (that she had made me conversational in during my stay in Kobe!) as it was 12 years back!

 

 

So, for this month’s first recipe I am sharing a pretty simple recipe of Ramen that both my husband and I love and is a staple in our home during the winter months! It reminds me not only of Yasunaga sensei’s kitchen but also of my amazing neighbor Tom, who was a ramen enthusiast and we often explored various ramen places in our neighborhood! Those made for some great conversations, long walks and some wonderful food!

This is a version that we make at home and is not an absolute authentic Japanese one, in terms of the way some ingredients have been modified. It is a version that suits us best and also does not deviate a lot from traditional methods of making it. It tastes pretty good too!

HOW TO MAKE

Ingredients

  • Ramen noodles – 2 packages (store bought) Only the noodles will be used
  • Ginger- Thinly sliced , about 3-4 tsps
  • Garlic- Grated, 2 tsps
  • Onion- Thinly Sliced, 1 medium
  • Lemongrass- 1 stalk
  • Shitake Mushrooms- Sliced, 1 cup (I prefer to cut but you may want to keep them whole)
  • Carrots- Cut into matchsticks , 1 cup
  • Scallions- Chopped, 1/2cup
  • Eggs- Hard Boiled 1 or 2 (Typically the egg should not be hard boiled but should have a runny yolk. However, this time I boiled the eggs till they were absolutely well done. The runny yolk does taste delicious though;)
  • Chicken Tenders -6 or Thinly sliced chicken breasts – 3 (Again, typically Pork Belly is used for Ramen or any other cut of pork but I never have that when I feel like making Ramen and so we always have made it with chicken!)
  • Chicken or Vegetable Broth- About 4 cups
  • Water- 2 cups (or as needed)
  • Miso soup powder- 2 packets (store bought) [ Miso paste is traditionally used in making ramen but I have never tried that simply because I have not been able to buy it and so I buy miso soup powder packets. But I do intend to use miso paste in my next attempt and for that I am hoping I will remember to buy it before hand;)]
  • Mirin- About 1/4 cup
  • Soy Sauce- 2 tsps
  • Sesame Oil- 1-2 tsps
  • Salt- as needed
  • Sugar- 2-3 tsps
  • Sriracha- Optional ( I do not use it but my husband does and it adds a slight zing to the ramen)

 

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Method

  • In a cooking pot that is deep enough, heat the oil on medium low flame.
  • Add the ginger and onions and stir for a couple of minutes. Then add the garlic. Keep stirring. Add the mushrooms and stir for a couple of more minutes. Add salt and stir again.
  • Add the soy sauce and mirin and about 1 tsp of sugar.Stir.
  • Add the broth and the stalk of the lemon grass and let the whole thing boil for about 10-15 minutes on low flame. The broth will be infused with all the flavors in your pot and letting a ramen broth simmer for long is key to making it savory. Check for seasoning and add salt and/or sugar as you prefer.
  • In a separate bowl, add the miso powder and make miso soup according to the instructions on the package. Once done, add that to the pot.

 

 

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  • Meanwhile, in a separate pan, prepare the ramen noodles according to package instructions…do not use any powdered stuff that may be inside. We just need the noodles. Once softened, add it to the boiling broth and let the whole thing simmer for an additional 2-3minutes.
  • While your broth is simmering, put the chicken in a 350F oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes or till the internal temperature reaches 165F. (You can bake the chicken either right before starting the broth or simultaneously or after the broth is ready…your choice! ) I marinate the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, a bit of lemon pepper powder, chilli flakes and 1/2 tsp of mayonnaise…it keeps the chicken wonderfully moist. Once done, slice it and keep it aside.

I was in a hurry and I cut the chicken really sloppy…please excuse that!

 

  • Check for seasonings in the broth. I like my ramen broth to be ginger heavy, so if needed I often add some extra ginger (just smash it with the back of the knife and let the broth absorb the flavor for a couple of minutes. Be careful to take that chunk out before serving just like the lemongrass stalk!).
  • If you are using Sriracha, stir that in now.
  • In your ramen bowl, pour the desired quantity of broth and add the chicken, carrots, eggs and scallions (I forgot to add in my bowl!).
  • Slurp! (Did you know that in Japan slurping on the ramen and broth is actually not frowned upon even when eating in a restaurant? It is, in fact, taken as a sign of compliment to the chef! I found this out when I had ramen for the first time, back in 2006!)

 

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Gochisosama deshita!

(For the unnitiated, the Japanese end every meal by saying this – it is a way of showing their appreciation for the food they just had and also for the person who cooked…it means “thank you for the meal or that was delicious”)

What is your take on Japanese food?Are you a fan or do you stick to sushi only when it comes to this cuisine? Do you cook Japanese food at home? Which ones?  Is there a favorite restaurant you go to? What is your favorite Japanese food? What about sake? Have you visited Japan? Do you have stories to share? I am eager to hear your association with this country and its food, both of which I have come to love dearly! Please share anything that you want to in the comment section or write your own post and share your story, photos, recipes….anything that you can think of! It will be wonderful to read:)

Here’s how to participate:

  • Create your own post with your recipe, photos, story anything that you might want to share, representing this month’s theme
  • Create a pingback (link to this post) or leave a link in the comment section
  • Join whenever you can!

 

Thank you for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of untold tales

Every house has a story or two. And stories often remain untold.

Stories about…

“…empty cane chairs on the balcony of the family house that no longer sees people. The paint on the walls outside have started to chip in places while spider webs are the only artwork inside. The reading glasses of its inhabitants remain on the table, next to the open book that was just being read…or so it would seem. The sarees remain folded neatly in the almirah and the dishes in the kitchen neatly kept away. Legal complications have left this house in limbo, unloved un-lived and un-cared. This house does not care if a year ends or another begins. Time has stood still here from a couple of winters ago when, cocooned in her blanket, the old lady peacefully passed away in her sleep.”

 

“…summers that have always been awful in that part of the country. Sweat trickled down the face in rivulets and the heat almost suffocated you. The glare of the mid morning sun sliced through the bamboo shades and water from the earthen pitchers provided the only respite from the sweltering days. The courtyard in the center of the house cracked from the heat and one would have to sprint across it if the bathroom, at the other end, had to be used. But in another corner the mango, papaya, and guava trees provided a shade that would easily calm down the uneasiness and the sweet smelling bel phool (bel flower: a type of the jasmine flower that is native to tropical Asia) would make one linger around the shade for several minutes. The querulous call of the crows would occasionally break the eerie silence that prevailed on such afternoons, both inside and outside the walls. As ceiling fans whirled overhead and circulated the heady aroma of the paan (betel leaves), people enjoyed their siesta, almost oblivious of the stifling heat. From its bare bones today, it it would be hard to tell that in its prime, it nurtured life with love that was rare. It has stories that if told would surely embrace the listener in a warm and exhilarating hug.”

 

“…a small well that stood at the entrance of the two story house and one would have to maneuver with care when passing it or the chances of getting one’s shoes wet were high in the puddles that were to be found at all times of the day. The long verandah with the wooden chair at one corner had seen many a special moments like people bursting out in cheer (and some in anger) as they watched the soccer World Cup back in 1986 when Argentina won a crucial match by the ‘Hand of God’. It had been witness, not once but a couple of times, to a lone langur that would often seat himself on that chair, and hold up the newspaper that would usually be found on the table right next to it and spend sometime ‘reading’ that. Where the langur came from and where it disappears to, was another story the house could tell. It could also share one of its favorite memories which was that of the owners’ nine grandchildren posing for a photograph on the steps of the attic. That old house with the well has been taken down and a grand flat stands in its place where there is no well to be maneuvered.”

 

Another year ends in a day and with that we add, or at least hope to add, another year to our lives. We live another year to tell stories that have remained untold. We live to cherish the past more and weave memories from the present for the future. Let’s make sure we keep telling stories that matter, that make people heard and that remember those who no longer are there to share their stories.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

A Birthday Post

How do I start this post that wants to celebrate the person I share my home with, the one who is imperfectly perfect for me, is a good father to our kids and who would get absolutely mad if he knew about this! When I had an account on Facebook, posts splashed with love would pop up every other day, as couples shared each other’s birthdays and anniversaries and let their whole world know how much they loved each other. And I often thought “if only he would post something similar on my birthday or our anniversary and also not get upset if I did the same”. But he never did and neither did I . I also thought the posts to be too cheesy 😉

As I have come to know this person more and more over the years and as I continue to know him, the elements of surprise and predictability go hand in hand in his case and that combination assures me that we are two imperfect people who are never going to give up on each other. I knew him in high school and then we reconnected after a gap of almost seven years but it never felt that we hadn’t been in touch (sounds like a terrible cliche, I know!). And we have been on a roller coaster ride since. Through the fights and laughs, we have seen each other at our worst and best and learned to pause, reflect and move on. He has been patient and kind and as supportive as one could possibly be when I have needed him the most. He is forgetful of many things on a daily basis and while that is supremely irritating at times, that has also given me and continues to give some of the best memories with him! His passion for music ( a completely self taught guitarist!) and for cooking keep impressing me even today. A ‘perfectionist’ husband can be a difficult thing, specially when the wife is more of a slob but that inspires the slob to be better!

Neel: Here’s to you….who I married almost eleven years ago and whom I have known for ever.

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While this is a very hazy picture, it remains my favorite wedding photo. Remember the time when we got married, you were  going through the most challenging time of your life. We had nothing and yet somehow we survived and came out stronger. You helped me adjust to this very different way of life here and made me see the best in all that there was, in what we had. We didn’t have money or time to travel far and wide and so the only place for us to go to, over and over again was Duluth, that still is my most favorite place to visit. Let’s go there again!

 

From rustic to not so plain, you can cook up a meal that leaves my tummy full and heart fuller and I absolutely do not mind the tremendous mess in the kitchen! Your zen like state, under all circumstances can be annoying at times, but when I take a step back and think about that, I could not be more grateful. You help me keep my balance and I know to lean on you when needed. I applaud you for your patience and I am happy for choosing you to be the yin to my yang.

And what can I say about that guitar! The dedication and passion with which you play, be it simple strumming or nursery rhymes or Pink Floyd, is inspiring and simply amazing and I love it more than I can ever express properly. The little guy looks up to you and I can see how he watches you when you play and that makes me pause.

You don’t particularly like taking selfies and neither do you think every occasion deserves a photo and while we have to agree to diasgree, I am glad that we have these to remind us of simple times at home and the times we have traveled around. I look forward to so many more of such photos together:) If I asked you which was my favorite from this group, you would have no problem pointing at the one in the extreme right bottom…in the waiting room of the hospital back in 2015…waiting to get admitted to welcome our baby boy:)

It is hard to tell, from those kind eyes, that you are a very mischievous person too! Bit by bit, you and the little guy are adding to the pages of your pocketbook of memories.

I remember all the apprehension you had about being able to be a good father and while you are still new in this arena, you are doing a good job with them…let their mamma tell you that!

 

When I look at you and then I look at us, I am reminded of the infinite patience that you have shown and the calm you have maintained when times got tough and so, when I say that we are in this together I want you to know, again, that it’s okay to not feel strong at all times…vulnerability at times, is a good thing. You are doing a great job, my love.

 

You prefer the simpler things in life and while that does baffle me at times, but it also makes me like you more and more. I wish I had captured the your expression when the Cheesecake Factory guys got you the birthday cake slice with the candle and all sang “Happy Birthday to You”!!! You were thoroughly embarrassed and didn’t know what to do…hahahahhahahahhahaa!!!!!

 

One fine evening in Kobe, these roses caught me by surprise and it has been a wonderful journey ever since. One of my favorite photos of us, this calms me down, I don’t really know why. I want you to know today and always, that no matter what we are in this together and there is a whole world of travel, food and fun waiting to greet us! We also have two very handful little ones who are entertaining and exhausting, adorable and full of mischief. I am looking forward to all the milestones that we will be celebrating together, watching them grow.

And look what happened…. this post turned out to be just as cheesy as the ones I used to squirm looking at on Facebook and you are going to be so mad! But for once, I don’t care;) I love you with all my heart and as our song goes “Wise men say, only fools rush in; But I can’t help, Falling in love with you.” My wish for you is that you continue to be the you that I have always known and hold my hand tight. I wish to travel with you all over the world but I want to start with the city that brought us together-Kobe, Japan and explore that beautiful country together.

 

 

Thank you for stopping by and thank you for (hopefully!) not thinking that this was cheesy;)

The night before Christmas

It was the night before Christmas and the house, unlike the one in the story, was in a state of ‘near pandemonium’. Dinner had not yet started and the kitchen was an absolute mess with the cookies that needed to be baked for Santa and the baby’s food that needed to go in the mixer and a sink that was overflowing with dishes from the afternoon. The little boy was finding it difficult to contain his excitement and kept jumping down from the sofa for no good reason while the baby girl kept trying to crawl under the Christmas tree and pull at whatever her tiny fingers could get hold of. The dad was doing his best trying to get the guest bedroom/playroom ready for people coming over the following day and picking up a ridiculous number of tiny pieces of Lego was making it a little challenging for sure. The mom kept breathing and cleaning the kitchen while keeping an eye on the little ones who clearly seemed to be in no rush to eat or go to bed.

Somehow dinner got done and the kitchen was cleaned and it was finally time for the kids to be in bed when the boy said ” I am thinking of staying up as long as it takes so that I can meet Santa when he comes in and ask him somethings I really need to ask”. It took a good amount of ‘logical’ storytelling that convinced him to sleep and let Santa work his magic. After the teeth had been brushed and PJs put on and a Santa story read, the boy remembered that he had forgotten to keep cookies and milk for Santa and carrot for the reindeer. So lights got turned on again in the kitchen and after all that was done, and a ‘thank you’ note written, the mom heard the boy talk to Santa looking up into the night sky through the skylight in the living room. And he said “Thank you Santa for bringing us presents. You know I want a walkie talkie and a Paw Patrol watch. I know that you are  very busy so if you can’t find a Paw Patrol watch, it’s okay…you an get me any watch or none at all…I won’t be upset. Also, could you please remember to get a flower each for my parents and a book too. And a fluffy stuffy for my baby sister.” The mom smiled and wondered when did her little munchkin grow up?

After what seemed like eternity, the kids were finally in bed and the toys had been picked up, it was time for ‘Santa’ to get going with the presents. Of course the parents had forgotten to get those out of the car, where they had been hiding it for almost a month! Cursing themselves, one went out in the cold to get those presents and then the two got together to wrap those and put bows on. The mom and the dad laughed a lot too thinking about the crazy evening just a couple of hours ago and talked about how things were when they were growing up. When all was done and the tree looked complete with the presents around it, they also talked about how at that moment there were kids all over the world who had gone to bed hungry and cold.  They spoke briefly about how things just did not seem to make sense anymore but then they also spoke about how people all around the world were rallying for such kids in their own little or big way. And that mattered. That made a difference for sure. And it may take a while to see the difference, but they believed in their hearts that a difference was being made every moment by thoughtful people who walk the ordinary life everyday and continue to participate in making this world a better place, a place where the innocence of children is not shattered by growling stomachs.

The mom, dad, the little boy and the baby girl wish you all happiness and peace, today and always.

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A Photo a Week Challenge: Babies

What a wonderful topic and one that, coincidentally, is similar to something I had been working on for my own blog! This provides me with the opportunity to combine the two and it makes me happy:)

As some of you know, our baby girl recently turned one while our son will be turning five next month. I keep thinking where did time fly and wonder if it is hurrying past me a little too fast. Days flow into nights, some being more chaotic than others. Do you know what I mean? There is never enough time to get anything done, yet somehow everything does get done. It’s a different story that the house is no longer clean and my ‘to do list’ just keeps getting longer!

I have heard people, who have more than one child, say how their  kids are different from each other, and while it made sense, I never could grasp the meaning in its entirety till I had a second one. Our son and daughter have been different from day one, if I may say, and it is a whole lot of fun watching them grow with their distinct styles! The son- never slept in his crib till about 5 months old and preferred my lap; took his own sweet time to crawl and walk; would sit at a place and be busy with his toys, keeping himself engaged for a good amount of time; never picked up anything off the floor and put in his mouth during the crawling phase or never played with the power outlets; very friendly with no fear of strangers which meant no tears at social gatherings; a gentle boy. Even as a toddler, he was a wonderfully polite who never let us feel the ‘terribleness’ of the ‘terrible two’s and three’s”. He still is a sweet little kid who is gradually exploring independence. The daughter- has been the perfect sleeper from day one, sleeping in her crib long enough to let her tired parents get a shut eye; transitioned from crawling to ‘almost’ standing without support’ quickly; has quite a few shiny pearls that make her laugh more adorable; can never be found sitting at a place for more than a few minutes and is always busy; wants to cry at the sight of any stranger; wants us to keep her company at all times, if possible; finds the tiniest possible things off the floor and puts them in her mouth; loves toying with the power outlets! An energetic kid who keeps us on our toes at all times and teaches us things we did not learn the first time around:)

They are so different and yet bond with each other perfectly, probably like all siblings do when they are younger. They seem to understand each other in a way that is unique and precious and such a wonderful thing to watch. The brother is caring and very protective of his ‘little dolly’, as he calls her often and the little one is in awe of her elder brother. In the mundane inanity of daily life, my babies spark joy and make me look forward to the next morning.

 

Thanks for stopping by! Posted for nancymerrrillphotography.

A love-hate relationship

       I have been in this country for a while now and am used to the snow. Or so I tell myself. About a decade ago, when my flight landed in Chicago and I was rushing to catch my connecting flight to Minneapolis, I remember a brief chat I had with this gentleman while waiting for the air train. He was elderly and had a cheerful demeanor that I still remember to this day. I was fresh off the boat and had been traveling for 16 hours with another 1.5 hours to go. I presume I was getting a little antsy which he sensed, standing a few inches from me and said the following  in a rather deep, yet silvery voice “Where are you headed to Miss? I hope somewhere warm!” And when I mentioned my destination, he broke into this hearty laugh and said “Oh my, you better bundle up nice!” We exchanged a few more words before I got up on the train and a short flight later, I felt the reason for his “Oh my!” as a -15F wind and a blanket of snow welcomed me in Minneapolis.

   I have both loved and hated winter time. I still harbor the same feelings. Once I settled in, I was enamored by the ‘magical winter wonderland feel’ but that passed soon, and the reality of having to dress up in a gazillion layers while running on ice to catch the bus settled in. And whoever has been in that situation knows well that it is not a fun one! I have hated when the heater in our student apartment broke and I have hated when the tires of our car kept spinning in the ice, refusing to move. I have hated every time we have fallen on black ice and that one time when the car skid and hit a pole on the sidewalk, leading to a badly damaged bumper (which we had to tape up later and keep it that way till it could be fixed!). I have hated 7.45 am classes and classes that got over at 8 pm. But I have loved being with my husband and getting to know him a bit more everyday, sharing our likes and dislikes. I have loved living our own life, sharing our hopes and dreams, living our truth. I have loved white Christmas. I have loved laughing and spinning memories with good friends in front of a beautiful fire place. I have loved walking with my husband on his birthday along this ‘picture postcard beautiful’  lane, dotted with twinkly lights, as the snow fell silently around us. I have loved making a snowman for the first time and I have loved watching the snow fall at wee hours and they have soothed my eyes that were tired from trying to finish assignments. This love-hate relationship with the snow that started in Minneapolis about a decade ago, has been rather special and continues to this day as we spend our ninth winter here in New Jersey. Challenges are different and so are the joys. I still love the first snowfall of the season and am still in awe at the captivating silence when it falls. We have little ones now and the sight of snow fills the older one with an amusement and wonder that only kids are capable of feeling! I remember the first time he walked on snow as if it was yesterday. There was awe and pure joy in that, and a bliss to watch. The other day, he held his baby sister tightly and they watched the first snowfall of the season together. I watched them and added the moment to my pocketbook of memories.

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for stopping by. Wherever you are, I hope you are adding memories to your pocketbook too.

The power of love

   Last year, when we found out we were expecting our second child, it made us ecstatic. But that ecstasy was somewhat short lived as we realized the pressures of bringing up two little ones (our older one was just about 3 years old at that point) in a land where we had little help and no grown ups (read- our parents) to guide us and hold our hands when we would falter! And then there was the fear of our little boy’s reaction, though I knew that he would be the best big brother one could hope for. And I was not wrong. Ever since he found out that his Ma’s tummy had a little special someone for him, his curiosity knew no bounds and neither did his love. Kids ask the strangest questions and at times their thoughtfulness takes you by surprise too! Our boy had the usual inquisitiveness about the new member and his actions often melted my heart. If we were out buying him clothes, he would without fail mention that we should also get something for his sister. If we were eating out, he would ask me to make sure that what I ate was not too ‘jhaal’ (hot/spicy) for the one in my tummy. And every night before going to bed  he would kiss his sister goodnight and wish her a good morning just the same way. Every single day.  Emotions at times ran high as the good man and I tried to make space for our baby girl and our voices would rise. Not a scream or any kind of verbal altercation …just raised voices of two freaked out people trying to get a lot done in a short span of time! But, if the little boy happened to be around, he would come rushing by and gently remind us to not raise our voices as there was a baby in Ma’s tummy and loud voices could hurt the tiny baby’s ears. And the day I slipped and fell down in the bathroom at 11.30 pm, four days before my due date, our little boy showed us love and gave us strength that I could not have imagined. A million things were rushing through our minds as we called the doctor and got ready to leave for the hospital while a visibly disoriented little guy was trying to take everything in his stride. My parents were with us and he put up the bravest face he could manage in the middle of so much chaos and trepidation, and waved us goodbye as we left for the hospital at around midnight. I did not have a lot of time to explain everything to him and he too did not ask for any. I watched him as we got into the car and while my heart was racing for our baby girl, it was also beaming with pride for our little guy. Baby girl was fine in the tummy and when we came back home in the morning after being kept at the hospital overnight for observation, I could see his face just light up and the first thing he asked was if his baby sister was alright.

   Our baby girl turned one a few days ago and the little guy was very ill with a viral fever. He still blew up a balloon and drew a little something for her special day. Every day has been a treat watching them together and while I know that this is so because they are both still little, it warms my heart. Our little guy has grown so much and we couldn’t be prouder. It is a matter of time before the “i don’t like you-s”, “he is mean”, “she is not letting me do that” set in and the expression of love might not be so simple then! But for the time being, I am soaking in this unadulterated love… a love so different, so unique…this love between a soon to be five year old big brother and his one year old sister. It has taught me to be kind and brave, no matter what. And it grounds me in humility and puts the faith back when hope seems to be drifting away in this crazy life.