10 January 2021

It was a cold ride

I had not had a bike ride for a week. Usually, if it is 55 degrees (12 Centigrade), I will go out. But being off road for so many days, I finally gave in to the fact that it had not rained, the sun was out intermittently and the temperatures were at least 43 degrees (6 Centigrade).

45 mile round trip and I had get into the hot tub immediately to get the core temperature up…

9 January 2021

From the bartender’s corner – High Rasam

Continuing with the India themed cocktails.

Muddle a couple curry leaves with a few drops of lemon juice with a muddler. Add ice, Himalayan pink salt, 3-4 ounces of rasam (strain out everything other than the liquid) and 2 ounces of vodka. Shake and pour in a cocktail glass. Spring some dried and powdered cumin seeds from the top in the end.

Sharp to the tongue and very flavorful.

9 January 2021

The train. The letter. And how life came back one full circle.

Circa 1972. I seem to recollect it to be a cold December day. Which is why the door was closed. I was barely 6 and my sister 4. Brother was too small. My sister and I had drawn up “keet keet” (hopscotch) boxes on the concrete floor with chalk that mom got for us from her school and we were busy playing.

I remember distinctly my parents sitting on the bed – perhaps drinking tea – and talking about our (me and my siblings’) future. I remember it mostly because they were speaking favorably about me and my future (I was still in kindergarten then) and I was trying my best to pretend I was not listening to them.

The next ten years – before I left home – that positive feedback or opinion was rarely repeated. Instead it got replaced by the common refrain of a train. Translated in English, they would keep repeating the metaphor of a train. As a first born, apparently, I was the engine. And my siblings were the compartments (cabooses). Whichever way I went, they would follow me there. And therefore it was incumbent on me to not go astray.

This was at an age when I was fascinated by steam engines. I used to sit at Kalna railway station (my granddad’s place) waiting for the Katwa local to pull up and watch those folks in the “engine” throw more coal into the compartment with red hot flames leaping. In one of those moments, on the spot, I had set myself a lofty goal to become a steam engine driver some day.

As you can imagine, this created a mixed metaphor in my mind – that of the fiery belly of a train engine and something akin to a choo-choo dance with me leading and the siblings following. Seemingly, strictly in decreasing order of age.

After I left home in 1983, I do not believe my parents ever mentioned that train thingy anymore. Although the exhortations to take care of my siblings all my life flew fast and thick anytime I met them.

Fast forward 48 years to 2020. Another cold December day. My mom had left for her heavenly abode a couple of days back. I remembered that about five years back, when I was visiting her (again, it was December), she had given me a sealed envelope and asked me to open it when she was no more.

Dutifully, I retrieved the letter from my vault upstairs and opened it up. There were a lot of things in it for me. Some that I knew. Some that I did not.

Remarkably, when it came to my siblings, her tone had changed. People who can read Bengali can attest to this translation from the excerpt in the picture… She mentioned that she had convinced herself that I had all the capabilities of performing the duties of a first born child!

Now, if only I could force my brother or sister to play hopscotch with me. Although, my more athletic brother is going to beat us hollow…

2 January 2021

“A mother understands what a child does not say”

So many of you have reached out to me upon realizing that my mom is no more that it has been downright humbling. If my mom ever got to know how many well wishers she had – many that she had never met – the shy woman that she was, she would have undoubtedly made a beeline for the kitchen to make some more tea before she could comprehend that you cannot serve tea over the internet.

At the outset, allow me to express my and my late mother’s gratitude for giving us the sense of how we are and were always among friends and well wishers.

I am personally going to miss her. As does every son. This hurts. I will leave it there.

For quite some time to come, every single morning after pulling out of the garage, I will involuntarily pick up my phone and then throw it back on the car seat realizing nobody will pick it up. Just like it happened on Dec 18th, 2020.

Her call had come. My calls will have to wait.

Being the eldest son, she pushed me away from the nest as far as she could in the hope that I will bring financial stability to a farmer’s family that struggled through the early years of existence. I left home at the age of 16. Every few years I geographically moved further and further away from her till going any further would have, ironically, brought me closer to her. The earth being round and all that.

Yet, years later, the same financial stability and technology brought us closer than she could have ever dreamed on that early dawn of July 10th, 1983 when she waved her first good bye to me. Fate and luck conspired to create a situation where we got to talk to each other nearly every day! Almost 4000 times after moving to Atlanta in 2007 alone. And we have seen each other every 90 days or so in that rough time frame.

She was going to be 77 soon. In the year she was born, every baby in India had a life expectancy of 33 years. She got to see three kids grow up and be successful in their own ways. She got to see five grand children growing up healthy and beautiful. During my visits, my brother, sister and I took her to visit her siblings and even her own birth place. Till the last day, she was with my dad to whom she had dedicated herself wholly and unequivocally.

She maintained an independent living till her last day instead of staying with one of her kids. Her biggest worry as she would narrate to me every single day was whether the sun would be up that day or not. Should it not, she would not know how to dry the clothes that morning. (She refused modern amenities like washer, dryer or for that matter TV or a microwave). Above all, she left on her own terms: without suffering or being a bother to anybody.

If you come to think about it, that is not a death to be regretted. That is a life to be celebrated!!

Join me and raise a glass to that life this evening!

All of you who have reached out to me with unfettered generosity, I remind myself that you are but a reflection of your own mother. And to that what your mothers have raised, I will raise a second glass for myself this evening.