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Grab a cuppa, tell a story or listen to one.

Everyone loves stories. Everyone has a story to tell.

Month

July 2014

Life Is An Adventure

A plunge in the Arabian Sea !

There are people who are adventurous by nature, no matter where they live or what they do for a living. On this blog, we have decided to explore the life and stories of such people. In this quest we are not looking for extraordinary adventures but how a person would seek adventure in the day to day works of life. Swapna Haldar writes today about her husband who is an author, a professor and a mining and geology expert by profession  and also a true adventurer at heart.
Some people are very adventurous in life. My husband is one of them. Where we lived, is an arid region and the advent of rain during the Indian monsoons, in the months of July and August, is celebrated like a festival. Nestled among the hills, this city of lakes is a very  beautiful place. In the rainy season people throng to the lake to measure how much water has accumulated. We were also one of them.

My husband always kept a nylon string with a hook attached to it. Wherever he would find some water, he stopped the car or the bike and threw the string, with some earthworm attached to it, into the  water. Sometimes luck favored and he would catch a few fish but most of the time he did not catch any. It never disheartened him.

There is another interesting aspect about his adventures. Wherever he finds water, whether it is the Atlantic, the Pacific or any other sea or lake, he loves to swim in it. 

One summer, we were spending our holidays at a famous beach city on the Arabian sea. It was a cool pleasant day, naturally we decided to go for a canoe ride in the sea. We  went out in the narrow canoe with the boat man rowing and the father and the daughter sitting in the middle. We were far out in the sea. We could see a few more boats out there. The nice azure blue water was shimmering in the sun.  All of a sudden there was a splashing sound and my daughter’s cry “Papa”! I looked back and saw my husband swimming in the deep blue Arabian sea, fearless. The tourists in the other boats applauded his adventurous spirit and started taking photographs. (Picture shared in today’s post.) 

People like him make life so incredible. 

Want to share more such adventure stories with us ? Please email at chatoveracuppa@gmail.com 

The Little Pink Skirt


It was on Christmas eve few years back when we had  close family friends visiting over and my house was buzzing with fun and laughter, just what you want for holidays. The tree was decked up and lit, milk and cookies were left for Santa and some carrots for the reindeer too, the garage became a gift wrapping station, the kids sang jingles along with the radio and there was ample sugar goodies to keep everyone happy. When the gifts were opened on the Christmas morning, there was a little pink skirt gifted to my little girl from her favorite aunt. I remember the twinkle in her eyes upon seeing the skirt. She tried it on immediately, twirled in it while watching the frills move along with her. She touched the sequins at the end of the frills almost mesmerized by it. Her eyes glowed as bright as the glitter in the fabric. The  gift from Santa, mom and dad and the grandparents sat opened but ignored near the tree. 

She asked if she could keep the skirt on. Of course, I said. She wore it that entire day, slept in it that night and wore it for the next two days. Taking it off only while taking a shower. All negotiations to part with the skirt even to get it washed and cleaned did not work. The aunt who had gifted the skirt tried her tricks – the sequins will come off, you won’t be able to wear it your friend’s birthday party and the likes of that. That did not work either. My mom, being the grandparent felt we should leave the little girl alone. She was only four and after all it was Christmas, the holiday time. Everyone did what they liked.

On the fourth day however, she refused to take it off even for her shower. We had a mother-daughter argument behind the closed doors of the bathroom. I remember her being absolutely mad at me that day. The shower had come to my respite. The coolness of the water washed it all off. When we came out of the bathroom, she was wearing another pretty dress, her face still grumpy and eyes welled with tears. Her favorite aunt looked at us with almost a guilt – I wish I had gotten something else as a gift.

Later that day we went to a beach. My little girl soon forgot about the pink skirt, her moment with me in the bathroom and how accidentally her own hand had turned the shower on and drenched her and her pink skirt. When she was done playing at the beach and it was almost time to go home, I called for her. “I need to teach you a little magic.”

We went towards the ocean. I asked her to make a fist. “Remember, you told me you get angry and you don’t know why. Whenever you get angry, make a fist, put all your anger there and then open the fist and let it all go. You can pretend to put in the sand, throw it in the ocean or just in the air. I promise, it will not come back to you.”

Many have laughed at me for teaching something so philosophical to someone so young. I leave it to you to form your opinion.

Two years later, she has another new pink skirt with sequins at the bottom, her aunt still gifts her a  special dress every single year and we no longer need to tell her when  she needs to open her fist. She does it by herself. Most of the times she is able to identify that she is getting severely angry or upset. She has found her techniques too. She makes peace with a cold drink, drinking water helps. Taking a shower helps. Asking her to smile helps. Playing the piano or making a colorful artwork helps. She loves to write, letters and notes to us. Expression in any different form helps curb the temperament. Even crying is ok. Yes, for most part it helps relieve a lot of emotions.

Few days back, I overheard a conversation she was having with her toddler sibling “Don’t get mad at me. It is not good to be angry.” She gently held his hand, made a fist and helped him open it up. “Feeling happy ? Right. I told ya! “

Epilogue : I have toiled with this post for very long. It is easy to write glorified things about your loved ones and yourself. It is not quite easy to be forthcoming about other things. But as a parent I choose not to be blinded specially when I see this all around, when I deal with it myself. Anger issues happens at all ages and is so very common in adults. But it can be curbed early on. Mind you ,temper and tantrum have a fine line between them and both are not the same. Temper however short-lived always creates a negative impression, is usually hurtful.  So why not confront it early on. I come forward with this post today because I know many parents may have a similar story to tell and I am sure they would have devised better techniques than I did.

Story Credit : Piya Mukherjee.

Soccer or Tennis


We have been witnessing some great tournaments recently, the Wimbledon finals and the FIFA finals this Sunday. Both tournaments had a moment of display of great sportsmanship. We watched both the games with a  9 year old sports enthusiast, a tennis and soccer player, an equal Messi and Roger Federer fan. Event with the upsets, this young sport aspirant had great lessons to learn from both games.
Wimbledon is the oldest tournament in history and took place recently. Also, the FIFA World Cup just got over. The FIFA World Cup is the biggest soccer tournament and happens once every four years. This year, my favorite team, Argentina, made it to the finals but lost against Germany because of a late goal scored by Gotze. In Wimbledon, my favorite player, Roger Federer, made it to the finals but lost to Novak Djokovic in a great five set thriller. I liked the way Federer congratulated Djokovic at the end of the match and Djokovic told Federer,“Thank you for letting me win!”
Much like the guard of honor the Germans gave the players of Argentina as they collected their medals. Great sports is about good sportsmanship. 
Somebody asked me recently, “Which is better, soccer or tennis?” I like them both equally because they are both fun and active sports. Some people say tennis is better. Some prefer soccer. For example, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, two tennis greats, loved both tennis and soccer as a kid. But they realized that two sports would distract them from tennis. So they had to make a choice.They both chose tennis, so that must mean that they liked tennis better.

Soccer and tennis are both active, fun, competitive, and awesome sports. I am a fan of both of them. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, but I believe that tennis is equally important. So I think that you can’t compare these two amazing sports with each other.
I think will grow up to be a soccer playing tennis pro!

The Candy Philosophy



It is the FIFA final on Sunday. As the world awaits for the final anxiously, Amrita Ghosh remembers a moment from 1993 when she witnessed the finals of a cricket match in India. Cricket is just not a sport, it is a religion in India. Sachin Tendulkar there is your Messi. During the course of the match, her father talked about the Candy Philosophy and how it applies to any great sportsman anywhere in the world. So till the FIFA finals begin, read and enjoy the Candy Philosophy. 


It was 27th November, 1993. My first visit to Eden Garden with one hand tightly held by my father and I remember, by the other I was busy protecting myself from the mountains of multitude with awed curiosity. The occasion was India vs. West Indies, The Hero Cup final. 
I can still feel that deafening buzz while taking our seats. One old man, sitting right next to us, proclaimed: “I am not going back. It’s a good place to die in!” Sensing my puzzled contempt, he offered me a candy and laughingly continued: ‘So, first time here, kid?‘ By that time, my mother taught me not to accept any eatables from strangers, and I was particularly suspicious of those with half-closed piercing eyes like him. I silently declined the offer and he ended the conversation as abruptly as he had begun it. 
My father seemed to instinctively know everything that was happening around even when the crowd’s roar was threatening to bring the sky down. He shouted in my ears: ‘Even if you don’t like chocolates, you should have taken as a mark of respect. An elder person was offering after all‘. Almost in the same vein, he told somebody with a loud exasperation: ‘Dada, the ball will keep low. No grass on the wicket. We are not in for a lot of runs.’ With declining hearing faculties, my mind was becoming too numb to dwell on the diametrically different parental advises when India came to bat. I eventually greeted the team with resounding claps looking at everybody around doing the same, but I couldn’t hear my own. It was just a feeling of two sweaty soft palms bouncing into a temporal space-time warp. 
Once again, my father sensed my conundrum more than I had intended: ‘Nobody was asking you to eat. You could have just taken‘. 
Me, in positive discomfort, wondered, ‘Wouldn’t it have been a cheating then in some way? My one hand takes something while the other is contriving ways to get rid of it..I have, on the other hand, made my choice and stuck to it. Isn’t that good?‘ Both Prabhakar and Jadeja returned to dressing room by then and the sudden outbreak of silence in the crowd disturbed my stream of thoughts. 
Father resumed after a long pause: ‘If this is the way they play, I’m sorry to tell you that you will not be able to see India emerging victorious in your first live match experience.’ Somebody else joined this time: ‘Dada, how can you say that now? Sachin is yet to come! He is going to take the responsibility.’ Another stranger jumped in : ‘Arre, how can people always expect that man to do some miracle? He is a human too. Look, Ajhar is striking it well.’  The first one retorted: ‘But Kambli is taking too much time to settle down. How come they haven’t sent Sachin yet?‘ 
I was too young to appreciate or even understand the nuances of the game or batting order strategy that time. I remember my concern and restrained sulking of not being able to hold up the banner of 4 and 6 that I’ve prepared on chart-papers, on every appropriate opportunities. Other spectators were unapologetically intruding into our little personal conversations and I was getting increasingly frustrated at not being able to keep the decibels within the exclusive range of our audible limits. 
Just as despair was about to take possession of me, on that breezy winter afternoon, I finally managed to keep my shrieks at check: ‘Seriously Baba, why people expect so much every time from Sachin? And then, how he delivers almost always? And if he can, why others lag behind so much? Is it only about a vast difference of talent? Please keep it low!‘  ‘Well, as I understand it,’ he started, ‘apart from the fact that he is a master class, he handles the pressure way better. He takes the responsibility, enjoys it, but as it is a team game, he doesn’t feel the need to consume it or to be consumed by it!‘ 
Very well, your candy philosophy!‘, I sighed and moved my attention back to the on-field proceedings. But it somehow clung to me, those words he had uttered. I only realized its gravitas way after when Sachin himself proclaimed that he was not enjoying the responsibility as a captain. He was either consuming the pressure or being consumed by it. 
Today, with my better maturity to understand why Sachin’s straight drive is a sheer poetry, I am glad with the billions that he has never stopped enjoying as a batsman and giving all of us enormous enjoyment in turn.

Take a candy..oops, take a bow, Master! 

Amrita Ghosh, it is her first time here at Chatoveracuppa. She is a storyteller who has her way with both the pen and the camera. We will begin with words today and very soon share with you her amazing work behind the camera. Amrita blogs at http://aghoshmyspace.blogspot.in

The chef

We are half way through summer holidays already. As Nandita Hazra enjoys her summer vacation, she recounts this recipe which ANYONE can easily make at home.

We asked him to do the honors – inaugurate our very new “Bullet” – and I was surprised that he readily agreed. The ingredients he chose were very unique! First he chopped up an overripe mango and put the pieces in the jar of the blender, then went in some pieces of unseeded  lychees, and I’m sure it’s beyond your guessing what he put in next? Orange ice cream soda it was which he poured in and pressed the button. Lo and behold, it was like magic – what we witnessed next was a golden orange yellow smoothie, a color to be seen to believe. Then he poured it out in beautiful painted glasses and very graciously served all of us.
First I took a sip, then another and another, it was so refreshing and tasty. Now the secret – the chef is non other than my grandson, a nine year old, who is always ready with new ideas. So if you need any help when you are trying out this smoothie, do contact him, he will give his advice!

Quick Corn Chat–and Legos are for all

Bong Mom Of The Bong Mom’s Cookbook blog and the book, contributes this post for today. We both at Chatoveracuppa have been an ardent fan of her recipes (yes because we are bongs(as in Bengali too) but also because of her style of storytelling and because like us she is crazy about her cuppa, her cha. She puts her point across very easily and candidly while detailing a recipe, a recipe that is always easy to follow and has tempting results. Since we are talking about Legos today, this post has a recipe that children can try at home. 

Thank You Bong Mom. We are so excited to have you at Chatoveracuppa today. Cheers over a cup of hot cha! 

Legos are for all ! 
This post is going to be about a quick and easy Corn Chaat for you to serve as a side with all the  barbecuing you might be doing, but more importantly about Legos and my rant. So, bear with me. 

A few weeks back I was at *LS’s school(kindergarten) for some show that they had put up. As expected there were other Moms there, most of whom I had never met, and pleasantries were exchanged.


In lieu of these conversations a mother of a little boy asked me, “Does LS play with Legos?”. Her voice bordered just that little bit on curiosity and disbelief.

I was a little taken aback by the question. A big box of Lego is very much a part of our play room. It has been so for years now, since *Big Sis was born. Many years ago, my previous workplace was donating boxes of basic Lego bricks after a lego competition and I had lugged a huge box home anticipating a future where I would not have to buy any other toys, because of course there were Legos. These were the basic Lego bricks, in red, blue, green, yellow and white, all the exact same size.

When BigSis was around two, I bought her another Lego box, this one too just had the bricks but they were at least in various sizes. And since this huge pile of Lego takes a prime spot in the playroom, it was only natural that LS got introduced to it.


So, I wasn’t really sure what this lady wanted to know and I said, “Yes, LS does play with Legos. But she plays all kinds of things with them“.


Which is in fact true. LS uses Legos to make food for her kitchen, she uses them to make cake, to make cell phones and even wrapped cereal bars !!! She even devises complex games, like shown above where one player has to throw legos down a chute and the other has to guess the color, to play with them.

When Big Sis has nothing much to do, she builds figures and buildings with Legos too. And then LS is her big sister’s assistant . 

With little imagination, a Lego can be anything.And all this can be done with just plain simple universal Lego bricks.I have never bought a Lego Star Wars or a Lego Super Hero. My girls are not interested in star wars or Super heroes(at least not yet) and I do not believe in Lego’s specific marketing of combat themed sets for boys . In fact I have never even bought a Lego Friends as I don’t think girls should need special Legos either. I love the basic universal Lego bricks and that is what keeps my girls busy


So, then the lady tells me, “Yes, my son said, LS is a girl but even then she plays with Legos. I told him, maybe she has an older brother and that is why she plays with Legos


That really got my goat. I mean is that how successful Lego’s marketing has been. To even impress upon educated modern-day Mothers that “girls don’t play with Legos unless inducted by brothers” ??? Lego might have its own profit making ideas to shift from being a non-gender universal toy but why can’t even parents look beyond marketing and just accept the bricks for all the imagination they can stoke, be it a boy or a girl.


Does your child play with Legos ?  Do they play with the basic bricks or the new themed boxes of Legos ? 


Now for this easy and quick Corn Chaat which is very easy to put together and goes very well with all the outdoor barbecuing you might be doing this summer. It is healthy and cool also super simple.


It is so simple that it is almost a child’s play. A child who is adept with the knife in kitchen because they have to chop onions and cucumber. But if an adult takes care of the chopping, even a 5 year old can do the assembling. 

It all starts with a bag of steam-in-bag corn.

It could have also started with fresh corn on the cob, but then you will have to spend a wee bit of time in boiling the corn.

You could also start with a bag of frozen corn and just microwave it.


Next, put the steamed corn in a big bowl.


To it add

chopped red onion

chopped green cucumber

chopped green chilli

finely chopped tomatoes


Squeeze in a bit of lemom juice.


Sprinkle some pink salt and chaat masala. Toss gently to mix. Taste and adjust for everything.


While serving in a summer afternoon, garnish with chopped mint leaves.

*BigS (Big Sister) and LS (Little Sister) referred in the post are Bong Mom’s girls. 

Define Your Own "ALL"

The Indra Nooyi interview and a fresh round of discussions around “having it all”. I read the post out of curiosity, commented on some FB posts here and there, thanked my Ma in silence and then I thought why not write about it here.
First things first, my Ma, she would never wait for me or anyone to fetch anything for her. She would just get it. That is just her and that is how she raised me. Fetch things for yourself. She lead it by example. 
A friend had once remarked while visiting my home that gender was insignificant at my home. There is no “He” and “She”, there is just “You” and “We” in the language you speak (Bengali), she had said. She felt that inherently reflected a difference in how I had been raised.  Different than her home where she was always told that she could do or had to do everything that boys could do. Looking back, I am unsure of the influence of the language as such. But I thank my folks for the other half of it. I think that made a whole lot of difference in what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do and the choices I would make thereby. (If you understand what I mean.)
Today I am a mom and I have a career too. I have two young kids to raise. My mind is habituated to constantly juggle between work deliverables, conference calls, deadlines, sick kids, unfinished lunch boxes, missed piano lessons, feeding charts, baby milestones and so on and so forth. At times I surprise myself on my ability to do all this correctly though not perfectly. The results are incomparable. There are performance appraisals at one end and smiles and warm hugs at the other end. I crave for both. I am trying my best to lean in.
A path travelled by many, a decision made by many much before “Lean In” garnered attention or the Indra Nooyi post raised another debate. A decision that is however in my opinion very personal and unique to each mother. Each one has different rationale and circumstances. I have myself toggled between opting out, leaning in and partially leaning in, in raising my two young kids so far. Each time the decision was difficult, emotional and driven by unique circumstances and my own state of mind.
There is no one answer. There is nothing wrong or right. I have friends who have opted out and others who have leaned in, each one of them competent at what they do or what they can do, each one of them raising their kids as diligently as possible. What I have observed though is that it is the stereotypes prevalent in the media and the mindsets in the society, within the organizations, that judge these decisions. Decisions that to me are completely personal. 
 

“Having it all”, the “all” in that phrase is defined at an individual level. It is not a common definition and cannot have a common answer. I have my “all” and I am happy with it. But, my “all” is different than your “all” and therefore I do not understand most of the debate and discussions around that infamous term. It is misleading. What was / is right to me may not be right or work for everyone out there.  
It is a tough ride no matter what.   
There are mothers who chose to opt out or make adjustments to their career to stay at home to be with their kids. They do not have it easy. It is not easy because once you have given it up, the road back to where you were is just uphill. But most do it willingly and that is their choice. The determination of these mothers cannot be readily understood unless we put ourselves in their shoes.  
Leaning in has it fair share of challenges and is heavily reliant on a strong support system in the family, the employer’s policies and understanding from the co-workers. That is if the dad is up for attending PTC’s or doing the pediatrician visit all by himself when required (Mine thankfully does all and lot more). If the new mother does not have to worry about job security while on maternity leave. If the co-worker can stop raising an eyebrow when a parent leaves work every day at 4:30 in the evening because the day care closes at 5pm. If the manager continues to delegate work without an iota of doubt on your efficiency (since becoming a mother).  Unfortunately, these “Ifs” still largely remain “Ifs” even today for most of us who chose to lean in.
So instead of debating choices that mothers make, let’s be more respectful and understand them better, help to facilitate those choices.  Lets respect the multiple identities of a person, the multiple roles a person is capable to play. But most importantly, MOTHERS, to you I only say this, define and live your own individual piece of “all”, the way you want to. No one else should do it for you. No one else can possible do it for you. 

This post has been written by Piya Mukherjee, the resident author at the Chatoveracuppa blog. This is her personal perspective on the discussion around the Indra Nooyi interview and why “having it all” is not a practical term. 

Fragrances And Memories



Foreword By Piya Mukherjee : How can Brazil lose to Germany? How can that even happen? That is on everyone’s mind today. Our’s too. And that is why a little distraction might just be a good thing in the form of today’s story. Fragrances, scents, aromas, many a times remind us of someone we know, love or miss so deeply. 

When I read this story, it reminded me of the smell of vanilla beans that used to fill our home when my mother made the most delectable bread pudding. I remember longing for the pudding as much as loving the aroma.There are no takers of bread pudding at home now so I rarely bake it. But every time I go to a bakery and sight a bread pudding, I smell the same vanilla as from my mother’s kitchen many years back, even when it is behind the glass. 

This story by Swapna Haldar is a similar one about the Gandharaj flower and the beautiful memories linked to it. Read it for yourself.   

We lived in the western part of India. It is a mostly arid region. One can not find sweet scented seasonal flowers there. It was like a ritual that every summer vacation, holding my daughter’s hand, crossing 2000 km I would reach my mother’s house. Ma also eagerly waited for the only child’s annual sojourn. River Ganges was a few minutes walk from the house. It was a very pleasant and quiet place. As I was fond of reading books, along with her library card, Ma would arrange for other library cards also so that I had no dearth of books to read. 


Every afternoon my routine was to visit the library. At the entrance of the library premises, there was a Gandharaj tree (king of scents) and summer was the flowering time. Till the next afternoon, my mind would float in that scent. Many years have passed, we have moved back to a city close to where my mother lived, the library  has also shifted to a different location. In our neighborhood, still a few sweet scented flowering trees have remained. And during my evening walk, whenever I pass by those trees, Ma occupies my mind.

Swapna Haldar has taught high school kids for almost fifteen years and now loves to write short stories for her two grandchildren. 

Back From A Break

We took a little break this weekend. A break from storytelling, blogging, tweeting and we updated Facebook just once. It was intentional and the fact that the cell phones had poor service just helped the cause. We are so glad we were able to do that, unplug ourselves and surrender to nature. A last minute trip is always more exciting. The ladies here did just that. We packed our bags on little notice and off we went to MammothMountains and Tioga Pass near the North entrance of Yosemite National Park
Tioga Pass – The road in the picture is snow covered and closed in the winters.
A road trip in the hot summer, that too in the desert or the Sierra Nevada’s is not pleasant.  But once up there, the breathtaking views, the clear lakes, the quietness, the wilderness and the serenity of it all took over all the exhaustion from being on road. The kids who have fun together no matter where we are, enjoyed doing what they do best. Finding little things to keep themselves happy. They hiked in the woods, dipped in the lakes, had a pebble throw match in the lake, ran after a squirrel, got wet in the sprinklers, ate Veggie chips and water for lunch one day and made Maggi (the infamous Indian noodle) for us another day. 
The pebble throwing match – Look who’s got further !
We did not have any planned activities or things to do for them, which is the case always. And because we are like that by nature and they know it too well, they explore and figure things to do. That is how most of our childhood was. We explored and found things to do and as a result we were never “bored”.  So the children made daisy chains of flowers instead of rainbow looms, discussed why butterflies had so many colors, what to do if lions or bears were to attack them in the woods and many other things that were either “cool” or “awesome”. 
Our guides, trail finders for the hikes
Soumi spent a considerable amount of time behind the camera and that is the reason why you see beautiful pictures in today’s post. As for me, I did nothing but soaked it all up. It is not every day that you are on a clear lake at 9945 ft surrounded by the Sierras and the pine trees, the clouds kissing the mountain peaks and the white of the mountain peaks glistening in the sun.  I missed having a book though. Of the several lakes that are recommended, we spent time at none of them. We stopped at a lake out of nowhere because we simply wanted to get out of the car. We walked through a campground and reached this view. Priceless ! 
 This trip reminds me of a childhood trip that I made to Mirik, a town with a lake, nestled in the hills of Darjeeling in India. It was not a popular tourist destination then. We had driven there with our close family friends in adverse weather, amidst rain and thunderstorm. The view from the driver’s seat was limited to the front of the car. As a child, that adventure, driving with no visibility on winding roads, the picturesque small town and having nothing to do but enjoy nature has stayed on with me even two decades later. I hope our trip to Mammoth and Tioga Pass remains etched in our children’s memory in a similar way.
Make a trip to a national park or go on a camping trip with your kids this summer. You will be surprised that they will enjoy it as much as Disney land. 
The woods are lovely dark and deep. But I have promises to keep. 
And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep. 
~Robert Frost. 

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