Returning back to normal after 2 long years

After two years, the world is now opening up to life as we knew before the pandemic hit us in 2019. The kid’s school will commence from 21st February. However, it’ll only be for students of class 4 and above. So, we still have three more weeks of online classes and exams to wrap up this session before he gets back to school.

Family picnic and games

As much as I would get annoyed by my schedule gone choc-a-block due to his online classes and additional academic pressure, the reality of missing him at home hits me hard now. After a couple of weeks or probably a month, he would be back in school while I would deal with an empty house for hours.

Playing football at Maidan

Of late, instead of taking him to restaurants or fancy places, we are making trips to parks and playgrounds. The happiness on his face beyond four walls is unmatched. Last weekend and last month, we went to Maidan at Park Street for a mini picnic and games. There’s nothing more refreshing than spending hours with family amidst nature, inhaling fresh air.

Maidan

Here’s hoping for a brighter, safer, and healthier future for all of us.

The fountain in front of Victoria Memorial

Happy Saraswati Puja – 2022

Yesterday was the puja of my favorite Goddess, Ma Saraswati. When I went through the archives of my blog this morning, I realized I’ve always published a blog post on or after the day of Saraswati puja. It started the year my son was introduced to reading and writing (hathekhori). Now that he’s in class 1, I’ve no desire to make an exception.

Goddess Saraswati

Like every year, my father took up the responsibility of carrying out the puja at home. Since last year, my son has become his self-proclaimed assistant, and I’m reduced to a mere audience at home. The enthusiasm was a bit on the higher side this year since my husband could manage a day off from his hospital duties.

My father and his tiny assistant

After fulfilling the rituals of worship, prayers, and pushpanajali, we couldn’t resist overeating the prasad called bhog in Bengali. From luchi, dum aloo, suji in the morning to khichdi, labra, beguni, and chutney in the afternoon, we ended up with an overdose of the delicious bhog.

The phase of preparation

His books, notebooks, pencils, and even the laptop were kept at the feet of the deity to seek the blessings of the Goddess of knowledge. Thus, the kid didn’t have to come up with another innovative excuse for not studying. It was a no-study or workday for all of us, and as a family, we relished this time for fun and bonding.

The ritual continues

I hope and pray for the Goddess to bless the world with wisdom and knowledge so that we make the right choices for ourselves and the generations to come.

A special birthday celebration this year!

The year was 2011. I turned thirty on 29th May and was about to get married in three weeks. I had taken a week off in April for the engagement (ashirwaad, as we call in Bengali), and had applied for 2 weeks’ leave in June for the wedding. So, the birthday celebration was restricted to office colleagues and a couple of friends in Mysore. When I spoke to Ma that afternoon, she insisted that I buy a new set of clothes for my birthday. I laughed it off, saying that I was already getting an ensemble of clothes for my wedding. That was the end of the conversation, or so I thought.

On the day my husband and I left our hometown to begin a new chapter as husband and wife, Ma handed me a new salwar kameez set. During the peak rush of wedding preparations, Ma and Baba hadn’t forgotten my birthday gift. Little did I know that it was going to be my last birthday gift from her. In five months, her love and gifts became a memory for my survival.

A special birthday celebration this year

In the last decade, I’ve restricted my birthday gifts to usually books, journals, pens, cakes, or items related to my writing journey. I never accepted a dress for my birthday. But this year, I made an exception. When Baba asked me to purchase something of my choice, I asked him to buy me a new dress. It took me a decade to get over the fact that Ma would never coax me to get a new dress for my birthday again. Besides, 1.5 years of the pandemic taught me that it is essential to savor every moment with those who mean the world and hold on to them as tightly as possible.

The gifts from the child

Amidst all the gifts, the kid gave me the most thoughtful one. While drafting the second novel, I wrote the plot, updates, and scenes in a journal simultaneously. By the time I sent the story to my literary agent, I reached the last page of the journal. While I got a few amazing notebooks/diaries as gifts, the child made his father search for an identical journal and pilot pen sets so that I feel happy and write a story for him next.

Notebook lover

Tender moments and thoughtful gestures like these make me believe that we still have hope left in the world.

My Friend Alexa Post 8 – Durga Puja in the time of COVID-19

In the last three posts, I wrote about my experience of celebrating Durga Puja in Mysore, Bangalore, Kolkata, and Berhampore. For the last post in this series, I wish to speak about the way life and the idea of celebrating a festival changed for us this year.

Life during the pandemic taught me perseverance and resilience. My son and I hadn’t taken a trip outside Kolkata since March. It was more out of compulsion than by choice that we decided to return to Berhampore after more than a year this October. Leaves were canceled at my husband’s workplace during the festival. Both my father and in-laws weren’t in a position to travel back to Kolkata at such short notice.

Tuneer offering his prayers at home

After the mandatory isolation period, the only distance that I traveled in Berhampore was from my in-law’s house to Baba’s home for a couple of days. I consciously decided not to step out of home for pushpanjali or pandal hopping. We offered our prayers at home. The bhog preparation for our para pandal happens on the ground floor of my home. Thus, we weren’t deprived of the delicious food options during the festival.

Baganpara Durga Puja

While I have a couple of pictures of Tuneer celebrating with my father and in-laws, I could only click a single picture of Ma Durga in the pandal near my home. I took the snap standing 10 meters away from the pandal while I was leaving for my in-law’s place. My husband clicked the other picture of their UCC Durga puja, which has entered its third year since inception.

UCC Durga Puja

We missed out on meeting friends, enjoying the endless adda sessions, visiting multiple pandals, and eating out at restaurants. But it was a conscious decision to stay indoors, not just for our safety but also for the ones who are most vulnerable to this deadly virus. I wish to remember 2020 as a year that showed us the importance of minimalism and sensible choices.

I hope you had a grand Durga Puja, celebrating in your way but without compromising on precautions. Here’s wishing you and your family a Shubo Bijoya Dashami/ Vijaya Dashami and Happy Dusshera. May we overcome the hurdles to go back to the old normal very soon.

“I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa 2020″ campaign.  This is the eighth and last post in the series; you can read all posts here.

My Alexa Post 7 – Durga Puja in Berhampore/Kolkata

For the past four years, I have spent every Durga Puja in Berhampore, a place where I grew up and also happens to be my husband’s home town. Last year, we decided to explore puja in Kolkata for a couple of days before heading to Berhampore on the sixth day of the puja.

In Berhampore, the puja near my house smells of childhood nostalgia. It was a delight to see my son soaking in the festivity and ambience, just like I would relish these four days in my childhood. My husband and his school friends started a new Durga Puja in 2018. The experience of watching grandeur unfold in front of my eyes, and showing my son the strength of sustainable friendship was mesmerizing.

This post will take you on a tour of my puja experience in 2018. Happy Maha Ashtami to you and your family.

“I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa 2020″ campaign.  This is my seventh blog post, and you can read the previous six articles here.

Durga Puja in Berhampore

Snippets from the Thriller Writers’ Panel Discussion at the Women Writer’s Fest, Kolkata

On Saturday 8th Feb, I traveled with my debut book ‘Deal of Death’ to The Saturday Club, Kolkata for an insightful discussion about women writing thrillers. The panel was moderated by Baishali Chatterjee Dutt and had prolific authors like Kiran Manral, Sharmistha Gooptu, and Damyanti Biswas along with me speaking on how ‘thriller’ was an umbrella genre comprising of various sub-categories. We focussed on the stereotyping that women writers face while writing books in a genre predominantly occupied by writers of the opposite gender. In an engaging and thought-provoking session, we shared our experiences of becoming writers in this genre and the way forward.

Sharing a couple of pictures and bits of my opinion recorded live.

The Thriller writers panel
The Thriller writers’ panel

Meeting Anupriya, Damyanti, Paromita and Kiran Manral
Meeting Anupriya, Damyanti, Paromita and Kiran Manral

 

The media coverage in the form of an article on the event is available here.

The full recording of the event is available on the FB page of Shethepeople.tv here.

Do let me know what you think about the session.

Favorite Indian Detectives – Byomkesh Bakshi by Saradindu Bandopadhyay

Who –

Byomkesh Bakshi

Creator –

Saradindu Bandopadhyay

Novels in the series –

Originally written in Bengali, the stories/novels of Byomkesh were published in the form of a collection titled ‘Byomkesh Samagra’ in 1995. Most of these stories have been translated into English recently. The author’s sudden demise left the last story ‘Bishupal Badh’ in the Byomkesh series incomplete.

About the detective –

Byomkesh was introduced to the literary world as a private investigator on a mission to bust a drug racquet in colonial India. He appeared in disguise under the pseudo-name of Atul Chandra Sen in the novel ‘Satyaneshwi’. The plot was set in 1924-25. This is where he is shown to meet his future housemate, friend, and novelist, Ajit who eventually decides to pen down Byomkesh’s cases in the form of stories. This dhoti-kurta clad resident of Harrison road in Kolkata has his man Friday named Putiram and abhors the term private investigator or detective. Instead, he prefers to call himself as Satyanweshi (the one in search of the truth). Byomkesh belongs to that rare breed of detectives in literature who gets married and starts a family. He meets his future wife Satyaboti during one of the investigations where her brother is considered a suspect. Eventually, they get married and have a kid who’s known to the world as Khokha.

The author and his creation
Saradindu Bandopadhyay and his Byomkesh Bakshi

Continue reading “Favorite Indian Detectives – Byomkesh Bakshi by Saradindu Bandopadhyay”

X for X’Mas Season 2018

As we race towards the finishing line of the A2Z challenge now, I thought of touching upon a different topic related to the admission frenzy. I have often spoken about my anxiety and stress related to the process in the initial days,  especially when Tuneer faced a problem of the language or before his first interview. While Sr. T seemed unfazed on the surface, I am quite sure that I had successfully managed to pass on a bundle of my worries to him. Tuneer was trying to balance his preschool life while riding on the roller coaster wave of admissions. Just before the winter break arrived, all three of us were physically and mentally exhausted beyond the limit (kind of what most of the A2Z participants feel now).

By the time the holidays started, the kid had already faced two interviews and one rejection. We were sure that the only thing that could lift our spirits up was a family holiday. In the X post of my last year’s A2Z challenge, I had written about the way all of Kolkata comes together to celebrate Christmas in a grand way. X’mas, as the city still prefers to call Christmas is about midnight mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral, eating cake from Nahoum’s, trying out street food delicacies on Park Street and visiting Bow Barracks on December 25th. We have done all of these for the past two years and it wasn’t meant to be any different this time as well. But a desperate need for a mini break landed us at my in-laws’ house in Berhampore this December end.

The much needed break after a strenuous phase of interviews
The much-needed break at Berhampore after a strenuous phase of interviews

Continue reading “X for X’Mas Season 2018”