"March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." It's an old English proverb of unknown origin. In the west, this month can be cold and windy with sudden blizzards and snow-storms. It is also the harbinger of Spring. Growth happens - on trees, in bushes, shrubs and thickets. Creation uncurls, and steadying herself on a still-frozen ground takes stock of her situation. She is ready. A fitting month to celebrate women!
So, it was an honour to be invited to an interview by Ayesha Sardar of Public Allies Inc., a non-profit organization, and share the platform with local author Sutha Arulanantham on March 24th. Here's the link https://youtu.be/1Ss0-Qm0OY0
Kindness is like a warm shawl on a cold day.
A number of years back I was journeying to an appointment at a hospital that was quite a distance from home. Armed with the numbers and locations of the various trains, buses and/or streetcars I was supposed to take, I started on my way. But soon realized my meticulous preparations hadn’t prepared me for the mishmash of streetcar lines, bus stops, flashing lights, whizzing cars and hurrying feet.
Exhausted by the long journey and completely out of my depth in this part of the city, I took refuge in a bus shelter to review my situation. A quick glance at my watch confirmed my worst fear. I did not want to be late and must quickly find my way out and to my destination.
Soon a woman sauntered in. She was dressed in a pink jogging suit, and looked to be about 50 or 60. Stamping out the cigarette she had been smoking, she looked me over before saying in a gruff voice - good morning. I responded. She smiled. I did the same. She asked if I was okay. That’s when I almost broke down. But controlled myself.
She seemed to know her way around these parts and when a streetcar screeched to a halt where we stood, she ushered me up the steps; after speaking to the driver, she took a seat opposite me. Two stops later on the way out she told me that my stop would be coming up shortly but not to worry, because she had told the driver to make sure I got off safely. When the driver announced my stop, he pointed out the hospital. As I was getting off, he told me where to take the streetcar for the return journey to the train station. And then, he said, good luck. Possibly because I was going to the hospital.
I wonder where these people are now; how have they fared during these exhausting and sometimes frightening times; are they safe? Are they well? I will never know. However, I will never forget them and their kindness.
An act of kindness has the power to change one’s life – of the giver and the receiver. It can turn a freezing day into firelit warmth; give sadness chance to hope again; connect people.
Book titles intrigue me. What makes an author choose a particular one? Why this and not the other? Of course, the story itself must have a link to the title; otherwise, it will make no sense.
I have always had a fascination for the moon. Mysterious and cool; at times bewitching but always present promising yet another new day. We have a full moon. A waning moon. And who hasn't heard of the sickle moon. Each with its own secret power.
So, when some readers began to ask me why I chose the title of my novel Moonlight – The Journey Begins, I thought it was time to share my reasoning behind it.
Chandni means moonlight in Bengali. The moon is rather special. She appears to be quiet staying in the background letting the sun get all the glory. There comes a time, however, when the moon will sweep aside all obstacles to achieve that for which she is created. I am speaking of the moon’s role in the life of the earth and seas – the gravitational pull which is the primary tidal force.
And so, we return to Chandni my heroine. Just like the unassuming moon, when the time comes Chandni will fight against all odds to claim and possess what's hers by right.
Moonlight - The Journey Begins available in paperback, hardcover and e-book format at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, itunes, Kobo, Nook, Indigo and FriesenPress Bookstore
Cold, clear, crisp, with a wind to match. Or, cool and sunny. Both with a blue sky above like a canopy of joy. Winter. Which one of the two do I like best? Since I have experienced both, I can say without a doubt - both.
Fields of snow, a gale-like wind, tall trees with heavy white-laden branches. Hands stuffed in the pockets of a down filled jacket, feet in fur-line boots, woolen hat pulled down to my eyes. I am determined to walk. Good stuff, they say. Don’t ask who ‘they” might be – they are there all the time. I agree exercise in the outdoors pumps up oxygen making the brain work. And, you do feel good after. We learned that in school. On cold mornings when all we wanted was huddle at our desks, one teacher, in particular, made us march and run. We hated it. But, now, I understand why she did it and thank her for her wisdom.
Mary Oliver says in her poem – White Eyes,
“In winter all the singing is in the tops of the trees…” where she imagines the life of a bird in winter, sleeping in his nest on the top of a pine tree.
I encourage you to read the complete poem – you will be drawn in immediately, as I was, into a world that surrounds us which we ignore. How many times have I missed the chirping of birds as I walk briskly in an effort to pack as many steps as I can? Many times, to be completely honest. Now, while walking, I hear the chirping of birds. They seem happy. I want to see where they are and look around the frozen landscape. Finding no flying creatures, I continue on my path. However, there are plenty of bushes; add good strong trees with long limbs, and it tells you there’s a whole world carrying on over there. Such a delight!
It took me a while to come to terms with winter. This cold northerly one, so different from the soft, cool winters of my growing years. Although we did have cold rain in January. That didn’t put a damper on things. Youth doesn’t care if the air is moist, the floor damp, room cold. They are wired differently. At some point, we have all been there.
I have first-hand knowledge of the power of the lowly charcoal brazier. What warmth and comfort it brought us during our growing years! The dining room had an electric heater. We loved the charcoal brazier and plotted and planned to have it indoors all night. But our parents would have none of that and the container was banished outside before lights out. Upon reflection, I have to agree that the brazier with its combination of heat and comfort is perhaps one of my fondest memories of childhood. And why I love winter.
I remember having to climb up snowbanks piled high in front of the bus stop. This made it equally challenging for the driver to open the door to let in passengers. Streets were never cleaned well in those days. Things have changed - salt trucks are usually out before the onset of a snow-storm.
Winter is a time of waiting as the earth renews herself to the tune of drowsy lyrics sung by her companions also doing the same. For us, it can be a time to learn patience, tend to our inner selves, enjoy a slower pace. Rejuvenate our spirit.
Take care. Keep smiling.
In this photo, we are cooking rooti on the electric stove top.
The kitchen in my childhood home had two doors opening out to two corresponding verandahs. A nice sized room with plenty of sunshine coming in during the two months of really chilly temperatures with the added luxury of turning into a shadowy haven during the summer months. This ideal set up was challenged by rains during monsoon. We thumbed our nose at pouring rain by carrying cooked food from the kitchen to the dining room located in the main house, crossing the courtyard under shelter of a large black umbrella.
My earliest recollection of our kitchen is of Ma sitting on a peera (low wooden stool) in front of the unun while our cook/ helper rinsed and washed, cut and sliced vegetables fresh from the market. The unun (Bengali term) or Chulha (Hindi term) was made of bricks and clay. Its U-shaped top was wide enough for the cooking vessel to fit snugly, while heat rose from the depths of the stove’s belly. Through a small opening in front and close to the floor, one was able to fan at the flames. Fire came from burning wood and coal, and sometimes charcoal. Ma used to say that in our great-grandmother’s time all food was cooked in earthenware pots which, I was told, made the dishes extra-flavourful. By the time we came along it was the iron karahi that reigned supreme. Ma supervised, taking up the spatula when some fine tuning to the vegetables or fish or mutton was required. Rice is a must in a Bengali meal which is why I have a weakness for it. We also ate rooti – whole wheat unleavened flat bread cooked on a flat tawa or pan, then puffed directly on the flames. The unun was later raised so meals could be cooked standing up. Sadly, I don’t have pictures of our kitchen.
Food has a way of weaving into our conversations, especially during these times. Eating out is not an option for us now which makes home cooked meals just that more attractive. In this part of the world, we need to be mindful of the weather. During the darkest, deepest part of winter when going out is well-nigh impossible, hunting through the freezer section of the refrigerator will result in excellent finds - frozen vegetables, fruits and prepared meals - an essential part of our grocery shopping.
How a family cooks has a lot to do with what’s come down from grandparents. Which is why the story behind a dish is so attractive. I would even venture to say this is what draws people to their family favourites. Sitting at a table with people to share a meal is not only satisfying to the stomach but also to the senses – you get to see, touch, smell and feel a setting that has been the mainstay of human growth.
Ma’s pudding and custard were famous. In the absence of an oven, I think what Ma did was place the bowl with the mixed ingredients inside a large cooking pot that was half filled with water. And this pot went on top of the unun. I am sure it had to be cooked on medium heat which meant cooking it during that part of the day when lunch had been eaten and the evening meal yet to be prepared. Perfect timing because the coal ash was hot but the coals were not exactly burning bright. I have to really rack my brains to remember because I never took an interest in cooking those days. It wasn’t until Ma visited us here many years ago and baked pudding on top of the electric stove, that I paid attention.
Here we improvise – rootis cooked on stove top, croquettes made of fish from a can – to name just a few. I still don’t cook much but I do roll out the rootis.
Take care. Stay safe.
Thank you for being there for me. It is for you I get up every morning wanting to write more. You give me #hope, something we simply cannot do without. I went for a drive today and as the car swept around a bend, the #trees standing tall and strong in their winter darkness suddenly took on new meaning. They were waiting for the next season, #new #beginning. We can learn a thing or two from these majestic beings of the #forest.
If you have a #goal for #2022 pepper it with #positive energy. Like the trees, that positive energy will take you towards a fulfilling #life.
So, my friends, I wish all of you and your families the best of health and safety. Happy New Year.
Delighted and honoured to be featured in this list of authors by Barbara Kyle.
Barbara Kyle is the author of the bestselling Thornleigh Saga series of historical novels and of acclaimed thrillers. Over half a million copies of her books have been sold worldwide.
Click on the link to read more https://mailchi.mp/barbarakyle.com/bravo-these-writers-did-it-so-can-you
When I sat down to pen a Christmas message my mind drew a blank. The computer screen waited for my fingers to fly over the keyboard; I tapped out a few words, deleted them, tapped some more. Nothing was working. I am so used to having multiple images jostling to get out of my mind that this new silence was frightening. This wasn’t writer’s block; a thing I have never believed in, anyway. So then what is it? I asked myself letting my eyes roam the length and breadth of the backyard through the glass pane of the patio door. A sudden gust of wind raced between the fences setting them shivering in the mid-morning sun while the dark furry tail of a lone squirrel vanished into the neighbour’s yard.
I gave myself a mental shake deciding to take the situation in hand. And this is what happened.
I began to count my blessings:
My family – their incredible capacity to turn even the dreariest situation into something valuable. Always ready to listen, laugh, joke, and cheer.
My friends – their wisdom, courage, love and care.
My writing – as essential as breathing and just as demanding. Each day starts in anticipation of spinning thoughts into words and watch them transform into fantastic shapes and sizes. Somewhat like the old man in the market of my hometown who spun sugar into fantastical shapes and colour. How gorgeous is that world! And I too get to do it. That’s freedom. I am grumpy if I don’t write.
Creation - godly, everlasting, generous to a fault.
Reading – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays – you name it and I read it.
My books – the characters in my novel Moonlight – the Journey Begins are well-settled and hopefully residing in homes far and near. The next book will be out in the spring of 2022. I have lived between their pages for a very long time; it’s due to them I get this hankering to write even more.
My writing desk – just a small corner in the living room facing the backyard. Squirrels, their fur grown dark in winter, are fun to watch providing moments of hilarity with their daily antics even on the grimmest day. An overcast sky, fat clouds filled with water, or dark and threatening, presaging a storm, transport me to impossible highs. High treble of childish voices float across the sun-drenched air on a hot summer day.
Walking - in the hush of dawn when the sun waits behind giant trees before making a dramatic appearance and I pretend I am the only audience in nature’s auditorium.
Each day is a blessing. You are with me. I am blessed because of you.
The year is winding down, concerns over newer viruses keep growing, but we are gearing up to live our lives to the fullest, aided by technology. That’s something to be thankful for, I imagine.
We are on this road together and my prayers are with you and your family, now and always. Blessings and joy from our family to yours. Stay safe. Be well. Peace be upon you.
#peace #joy #christmas2021 #amwriting #amreading #life
6 degrees Centigrade, almost balmy compared to what we have had when this week started.
Bus 112 passes me its headlights piercing through the veil of darkness at this early hour.
A face, vaguely familiar, is staring out the window. Our eyes meet. She lifts a hand in recognition; I acknowledge it, the bus revs its engine and disappears round the bend.
It has been raining continuously but my black and red striped umbrella is my refuge. I continue walking accompanied by the music of rushing water into the gutter. Simple thing – the gutter – and not poetic at all. Yet it turns into a concert hall of the highest order during rain. Magic in the air.
I pick up my pace for there are things waiting to be done when I return home. The face at the bus window is revelation from the past for I used to take bus 112, when our street was only just waking up, to reach the train station and begin the long commute to my office in Toronto. The sight of a lone walker or jogger at that time would fill me with extraordinary hunger. Not physical hunger, though, for it had more to do with the spirit. Only I couldn’t recognize it at the moment.
Memory of those days of longing will remain fresh in my mind. As reminder of the 3 things they taught me from which I eventually gathered courage to take action.
1) Dream (Big)
2) Plan (with Patience)
3) Take Action (Cheers!!)
I am Purabi Sinha Das, writer of stories and poems, dreamer, traveller, unabashed believer in the magic called life, promises to return to drawing, huge fan of all things bookish.
Believe in yourself and you will reach your goal.
Stay safe and well.
Our world. Yes, this place that never stands still but changes with the times – who would have known it will change forever on March 13, 2020 when WHO declared a global pandemic?
I discovered not one but many things about myself during this forced isolation. I like to walk – that is the contemplative me – drawing strength, as it were, from overgrown bushes, fallow fields, gravel and rocks, wild birds, small creatures. A big part of me resides in these things. But I also love to spend time in chatter and unbound laughter. Not to be with friends and family during this time was slowly killing that mirthful me. So, I took refuge in writing pieces as outpourings of that part most difficult to articulate; created poetry that served as an outlet to my feelings of utter desperation, an insane urge to fight the nebulous. Unseen to the naked eye, the plague is dangerous like untended fire and can rage through entire populations with complete disregard to life.
However, light will force its way through the tiniest of cracks. In response to our church’s encouragement to think of creative ways in which to stay positive, I made a placard which said – HOPE IS HERE TO STAY - and stood clutching it with icy hands in front of the lych gate on a dreadfully cold and windy spring morning in March 2020.
“Tomorrow will be beautiful for tomorrow comes out of the lake” said the poet Emanuel Carnevali
And, here is tomorrow. Our world is opening up. I met with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. What made her connect with me all of a sudden? Isolation digs up memories, makes the heart long for golden days that we are afraid are past, never to return. Resorting to months of on-line service, our church is now open for in person service. The first time I returned to church to attend in-person service all the restlessness and helplessness I had been experiencing seemed to melt away; it was like returning home after a long interval. My eyes flitted like a busy bird taking in the stained-glass windows and to my amazement they seemed to actually smile. Wow, I breathed, how can glass smile? And that wasn’t all. Soon, the walls, in their warm shade of terra cotta, seemed to fold me within its arms. I laid a gentle hand on the wooden pew I was sitting on – it seemed silkier to the touch.
Some of the ice that had formed around my heart during the pandemic began to melt. I felt a tingle, like when you are too close to an open fire, which soon turned into a mad rush, of something I couldn’t put a finger to at that moment; it began to spread through me. Moments later the truth hit me. Yes, hope is here to stay, I said to myself.
If we did not have to deal with loss, grief and confusion during the past eighteen plus months, I wonder if we would have found a newness in nature? A loss of any kind usually reveals an eagerness for consolation.
We visited Niagara Falls over the weekend, our first visit this year. The beauty of nature never fails to amaze and humble me. Trees, rivers, oceans, seas, hills and mountains – creation gives without asking for anything in return. Why, then, do we take, destroy, and want more?
Here’s an excerpt from my poem “Gentle Giver” that is one among many in a collection soon to be published.
Now is time to end rhetoric, posturing, histrionics,
Journey through healing, repair, redemption
Strive to save our universal mother.
After two weeks, COP26 is at last over. Will it be a success? We don’t know. Only time will tell. In the meantime, we need to do our bit.
Stay safe. Keep well. Remember to smile.
#ourworld #hope #nature
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