Field trip I

pebbles from afternoon trips…


Where ever I go these days feels as if I am going backwards.  We went to Jetty Pier last afternoon. I did a flawless packing for the baby—food, diaper, sweater, water, pacifier, a cap in case it gets cold, spoon, wipes, bowl, a few balls and dolls.

when her feet meets the beach

I took my notebook and pen and color pencils. I thought of writing a poem, or something in bangla. I remembered all the seas. Those little girls looking at the ocean for the first time in their life. The whooshing of waves drowned their moffusil hearts; they clung to their mother and aunt whose sarees flapped in the beach wind as they walked into the sand of Marina beach, Chennai

They are blurry from here.


the memories, dust, clay, mudIMG_7800

rising up and then down…

Towns break down into pebbles

and girls into sands.

Under my feet

Clouds are flying.



Is it the same with everybody who are thirty one and lives in a different language thanIMG_7789 the one they were born into? I look at seagulls and one of them stare back into me. Into my waters and into my doors.

Then, it leaves. I photograph a footprint.


Our dry lips step into each other

IMG_7791We Taste, taste taste the seawater…


You know the feeling when the waves draw back from under your feet

The feeling when his car pulls away from the driveway

 And you do not know how to move

The sand is slipping fastIMG_7784

And you do not know how to move.

Field Trip 2

World has more dandelions, more perfect blades of grass than ever now that She walks. She walks like a boat, a little wobbly still and floats around in the chilly trail of Rain-tree park. Summer is at the door letting the winter play it last gusts and sonatas.


walking with her down the trails of rain tree park is a meditation. I never notice when the grocery thoughts and finances and dinner-plans and immigration thoughts fall off like those little earrings. She walks into the deepening sunlight that shines through the tall oaks on to the cool concrete and grass of the trail like oil, edible and warm (almost).


I follow our shadows and she sits to greet a dandelion.


“take your time little girl, take your time” I tell her. Then we walk some more. Oaks and sky, puddles and violet nosepin flowers, we walk and talk.




windows and stares


This is not political. I do not read newspaper. I do not have a television. My facebook stays shut. I have no news to give you.

My sister shares thoughtful podcasts with me.

I do not have many friends to talk about the world. The world which is out there is getting darker, they say.

We are having Soybean curry for dinner tonight.

My daughter laughs. She laughs quite a lot. The world is still edible to her.

Pebbles roll between my teeth. I lose appetite sometimes.


A text on whatsapp: Companies will stop matching 401K.



I want a house. Not very big–three rooms and a bookshelf, the expensive kind. I can show you the list of books we want there. At least a hundred or, more. Me and him— whenever we are on the same bed, yellow and warm after a meal or sex (such a middleclass cliché) we built this house. Red-yellow-green bell peppers of dream.


And there will be some green patch in the backyard and batik curtains in the windows.



In America windows come with blinds. White, long, strips of plastic, does not fly much in the wind. “Blinds”—funny name for a window curtain.

I watch them every morning. Lying in bed without my glasses I watch those blinds grow luminous.



I have all my sarees in the suitcase.

All my bangles in a bag

All my blouses, all my bindis

All my friends

Far faraway.



My husband suffers from aimless empathy. My husband is a soft person inside.IMG_7717

He cries sometimes when we pass a homeless man on our way to “Trader Joe’s”

Then he buys bread and banana, cookies sometimes and, goes to give that person.

I am not that soft. I stuff our cart, I have a “grocery list” app. I have twenty things to buy. I look at bunches of rosemary, basil and dill. You do not get these stuff in India.

My husband sounded blue and cloudy, yesterday.

-What is their fault, those people at the airport, in the airplane?

-It’s not in our control

– So should I go dance and eat as if everything is alright?

– Well there is no point cribbing, maybe you should go serve in an orphanage or something…

-will that solve the problems of those people stranded in the airport?

We fought in whispers, over the phone, the baby snored through at my belly. Then we were sour and exhausted. We hung up.

Baby cried out-one loud “naaa”…

Did she have a bad dream? “ei to ami”- I mumbled in her ears wrapping my hands around her. Her breathing evened.


In India, which is what I call my hometown from afar, baba goes to bazar, on his scooter. The Scooter is old. We are planning to retire him at our backyard. He will be there—half immersed in our backyard earth. And we will plant some moss in his carrier.


In India, girls are not safe. A man walked at me at the crowded Howrah station and pinched my breast. Another grabbed them in an empty gully.  He came from behind. He rode a bicycle. I do not trust men who walk at me, I do not trust men who come from behind. Even if you talk about it (I did not), even if you don’t …nausea remains. Sand like inside the mother of pearl.

I want her to grow up free and full of color. Like a tree, I want her to have roots and air and water. I want her to walk the street fearless and like a petal, like a fire.

This is not at all political. This is personal.


I am falling. My tongue is separating from my mouth. My tongue is sad and floats in the ocean of alphabets from many languages. My tongue no longer sings a meaningful song.


Then in the blue eyes of foreign country I stare. Stare for long and wander at the shopping malls. Slender mannequins and deep fried egg-rolls rolls inside my mouth and I do not know what to buy.

In this apartment we have central AC and dishwasher. Internet is free and is a walking distance from the university.

My college was a cycling distance from my home. My college was a hundred and seventy six years old (we celebrated the foundation day) and sat by the River.

My home.

The uppermost room was for worship. Maa wanted a red waxed floor. We painted alpona on puja days.


In the bathroom, I sit and my face goes numb under my palms. The darkness is full.

Academy and one stage fearing teacher

The school was much smaller than I thought.  And the kids, much much older. I am not talking about their age, I am taking about their eyes. Eyes with which our student’s  first spoke to us at the Orange county academy. They were oceanic and strangely mismatched  the youngish faces.

Stage-fear meets love

I have always had stage fear. And this was America. This was the America I have never expected to encounter. This was the America they only spoke about in articles and was occasionally seen on roadsides. “Bring your own water, we don’t have  clean water here”, Mrs. Caffery said as we toured the academy.  Academy of barely forty students. Students wearing over-sized and hand-me-downs, students with unruly giggles and heavy breath. “Many of our students come from disturbed households…you know like abusive parents…”Mrs. Caffery  lowered her voice as she told us about the troubled waters( not okay to drink). This was the america I only heard about, faintly…

Then  we met. I have always had stage fear and they were waiting for us to teach them how to write or, were they simply waiting for it to be over? I felt my tongue dry up a little bit. English was still a second language on it.  Could they see it- the crude patchwork of accents on my speech? Could they hear the novice in my voice?

Then we started. Our first story  about a sad town by the river was written on the white board…We did not make a copy of it.

The tree is tossing and turning and is confused.” wrote Emily, the quietest of the group on the day we worked about description. She never shared her work aloud. Her face tilt down with a hint of a coy smile.

Eyes and oceans

” I am not good at this, I cannot write” Katie said in every class. Her eyes spoke otherwise. she sat on her desk with blank page, fidgeting, fighting off the words that seem to come to her. The day before she left she wrote a paragraph. She tried but could not hide the sparkle that lit her face as she handed methe page . It was a winning day. Kettie never wrote anything else when she came back after spending two months away at a “safer place” from her abusive mother. I wanted to hug her. I never did. In america One has to be careful about physical touch. People may not appreciate it.

We worked on image and metaphors, Haikus and limeriks and we asked them to focus on their senses. I smelled tears and shards of  broken stuff in their words.We drew meter schemes on board, we distributed flash cards–each day some windows opened, some closed.

Stephen wrote love poems. His spellings sprawled, and alphabets tangled, I noticed the dirt in his fingernails and the hot air balloon of affection floating around his work. Slowly, we returned with more pages to read.

Kelly wrote  and painted her Keywest childhood. Days felt content  because George was no longer sleeping in the class, he was actually writing pages. Lewis’s leg hurt but the redness of his eyes reduced and in his stories crazy wild things were happening! They ere writing!

Poems went From “Cuddly and Fluffy” to ” the bluest part of my heart”

I have always had stage fears and I never taught writing before and  I walked from there for ten weeks  and every week the fear balled a bit smaller and melted…

“how is it going, do you need any help?” I walked around the desks, reading their eyes and words…I learned written was only the tip of the iceberg.

As I now sit with the pages full of poems and prose..love and hate, heartbreak and longing, fear and expectation, it feels strangely delirious. The joy of not teaching but being able to be a part of this world is magical.