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Food, Travel, Design and the occassional wordiness

Once an ‘International Student’ February 7, 2017


I met my husband for the first time during International Student orientation at grad school. Then we went for ice cream. We dated, we traveled, we loved, we fought, we married, we have 4 beautiful children- 3 of them are fur-kids, adopted, pets- if you insist, whose American families had disowned them.
You see, like dozens of our closest friends, we were once international students. Scratch that. Between him and me, we’ve been international students 3X, over 10 cumulative years and hold 4 advanced graduate degrees from a pretty fancypants institute we hold (super) close to our hearts. And today, established in pretty awesome jobs in pretty awesome cities, we’ll tell you #imalreadyhome
Utterly grateful, that we both had the money and brains to go to school anywhere. But fate brought us here and #gladweshowedup. We are so grateful that this school and this country we now call home, has enriched our lives beyond measure and blessed us with communities that are now ours to love and build on. This community today is an international global milieu that is so much like the cosmopolitan hometown I once grew up in. So vaguely familiar, yet so utterly different. Hygge* & hujug**, lonely and chilling, rewarding and freeing is the concept of home- a word, only travelers know how to articulate. The feeling that #imalreadyhome is like the feeling of your own couch but sometimes, it is also a feeling of occasionally having to defend yourselves to well-meaning strangers.

I have many immigrant friends, many of whom moved for work, for marriages, for families (or away from families) among a variety of reasons…But I tell you, some of us are different; we are not better or special by any means, but we have all gone through a common set of things that tied us all with one common thread.
This handful of us packed our bags as kids, fresh out of high school or college, some quitting our first jobs going back to school to sit in semicircular large halls. We left everything that was familiar and comfortable, left the comforts and smells of home, left our mothers and our friends, our learnings and earnings, our lives as we knew them, to come here and recreate something we had no clue about, some of us even more than others.
No matter which university we came to, or dissertation we defended, or specialization we graduated with, or department we aced, or airlines we flew in or which country we came from we all pushed our boundaries, competed with our own selves, we created our own lives, we were international students and over decades and generations, we shared a quiet exhilarating experience. We managed to reach out and today… #imalreadyhome

I’m among friends, I’m in my community of peers, doing what I love, creating beautiful things, making change, making ripples in my mid-morning cups of coffee (that you proudly import from all over the world, some of it from my native land) with logic and dissent. I am fighting in my own little ways to pay those cocoa and coffee farmers fair wage and I’m also striving so your dairy co-op in rural Vermont gets their fair share of profits too. And I can do that because I care, because #imalreadyhome

(If you let it) My science makes food tasty, my design makes you happy, my stories make you think. We all have our roles carved out. Some days we will nod and some days we will wave, because that’s what neighbors do. Some days, we will cherish and some days, we will cope. And I will be here if you need me and also if you don’t, because #imalreadyhome Will you also pick up a sign and walk a mile, to defend logic and science and the rights of others less fortunate than you? Will you stand up for my rights and those of our planet? Will you repurpose more and recycle right?

I will always try to want less and waste less, so our Earth stays greener longer for your children and mine; I will always walk more and drive less so our kids can breathe better. I will always try to gift handmade. I will always want less and waste less and ask everyone to do the same, no matter which country we live in, because this Earth is our home and #wearealreadyhome

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This is written in acknowledgement of the tremendous amount of privilege I have and also in gratitude to my school and international student community at schools everywhere who make the transition from home to new homes easier. From there on, what we do with our lives, is often up to us. In the recent episodes, it is very easy to get angry and point fingers at everyone and forget the kindness we have received; which in my case has been profound and many times more than any negativity or prejudice, which I have also received. Let it never be said that prejudice doesn’t exist and didn’t exist. It always has and so does all the other ‘good stuff’.
#imalreadyhome is used purposely as a solidarity statement with other immigrants in line with http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/immigrants-respond-to-trump-by-declaring-imalreadyhome-on-twitter_us_588b6f7fe4b0303c07533a65 as a response to recent immigration ban and growing normalization of xenophobic attitudes. Xenophobia towards international students bother me the most, because when I see them I see a vulnerable 21 year old me (and so many more like me) with nothing but packed schedules, too overwhelmed to even feel homesick. So much apprehension, so many mistakes, so much good and so many accomplishments lay ahead of you, dear young international student…If you’re one of those 17, 18, 21, 25 year olds traveling alone to study in a new country, just know, you’re not alone.

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*Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish word that is a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special.

** Hujug (hu-Joog) is a Bangla word meaning craze, or impulse usually fueled by passion for something fun

 

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Imaginary friend December 10, 2016

Filed under: Mouth full of potatoes — Kolika C @ 10:25 pm

You are not a memory, you are an everyday ongoing thought. You’re the imaginary friend, my grownup mind conjured from ashes of disappointing reality. You’re the voice that laughs at my jokes. I can physically feel your smile too, telling me ‘lonely in a crowd’ might not be such a terrible thing after all. I can’t wait to tell you all or some of the things I want to tell you about today, about now, while I am in the company of others.
On days where I’m perpetually rolling my eyes, which really is most days, yours meet mine at the back of my head for a wink and a nod.
You see, you’re my imaginary friend. You might live in the bodies of real humans and in IM profiles of my contacts occasionally but you flit around often and much. You’re unpredictable when you’re in someone’s body but when free you let loose and are so much nicer.
You’re not ideal by any means, nor do you always know the right thing to say or do at all times. But there’s comfort in imagining a conversation gone awry too. Because God knows I fuck up even in my wildest dreams.
You’re part nostalgia, part hope. You’re part wonder, part disgusting, exact sameness.
Sometimes you’re just silence. Sometimes you’re quiet. Sometimes you’re rehashed real words from people around me, regurgitated.
Sometimes you’re exactly what I hyped you up to be, sometimes you’re way beyond what I ever thought you could be (what 33 year old has imaginary friends after all?) And sometimes you’re just dead disappointing. You’re my imaginary friend and I’m thankful for your company.

 

Losing mind August 9, 2016

Filed under: Mouth full of potatoes — Kolika C @ 11:44 am

When things start to slip from your mind at 32, it is so far from pleasant that self deprecating humor just peed in its pants and left the building whimpering. Add that to the life of someone who used to pride on her wordsmithing and ability to thread words through logic and humor through profound tongue in cheek ‘gotcha’-s. And you got a big blank gaping losing game of Hangman.
Here it is. I can’t talk. I can no longer write.
Just like one day, I couldn’t sing. I can no long talk now.

So one day, what if the counting is gone too? And then the colors? The sharp angles dipped in gritty muddy waters?
Words are forming but not quite right. The memories are forming but to someone else. You know the feeling and you are saying a million things beating around the bush but you can’t really get to that really juicy red bright right berry sitting right there, but not quite, slightly out of your reach, slightly out of focus, within your intention but not quite.
What would you do? Where would you go? What do you want? Who do you love? What would you have done?
The push and pull and the deep deep prod.

 

Paper balls: Self-love + the Buy Nothing community December 15, 2015

Filed under: art,home and garden,Mouth full of potatoes,Upcycle & Repurpose — Kolika C @ 9:59 pm

No one had offered and I sure as hell was not going to ask, expect or depend on someone’s mood and flicker of sympathy. I could wallow (and I did) or I could act. I always act. Yes, I was a little lonely but no one was going to stop me from having the time of my life nor deter me from celebrating Josh.
So I made a list, designed the invitation and bammed out a huge baby shower to myself. I also cooked for over 30 people, laid out the table, handmade the decorations, planned and arranged the favors, entertained guests (including my husband’s work friends and boss) and baked, glazed and decorated my first ever pregnant belly cake, complete with a fondant foot mark.

In between, I gave in a little bit to my hormones and spazzed out. Sorry if any of you had to witness that. (If any body feels the need to shame me for that, just please measure up to the level of productivity and stress first)

I did that all at 36 weeks of my first pregnancy. Josh might have been born to a then-staying-at-home mom. But he was also born to an itching-to-get-things-done mom, go-getter (and if I can’t get it, I will make it) Mom.
But this story is not about the accomplishment or pride that swells my chest to match my once-pregnant belly, this post is about those handmade decorations and the blessings it carried through the community.
After the shower in November 2013, the decorations continued to grace our spare room, although the hall ones had come down. By the time we brought Josh home from the hospital, I had made more and hung them all over the nursery and the spare room which was now going to be his play zone.
He grew up watching those fragile balls of color. We played peekaboo with these “sunflowers”, ruffled the petals for the colicky 5 week old, swayed and danced right in that corner to get him to sleep… Apologies if most of our pics seem to be of the same ones.

Meanwhile, Buy Nothing happened.
In a few more months, was Josh’s Annoprashon. By June 2014 , I made more decorations- this time beyond the red, orange and yellow….in white and gold and silver to match the traditional Bengali and Indian attire and menu.

The earth spun faster than we could handle and soon it was Josh’s first birthday and we were having his little party in the same pompom room with the repurposed decorations. By now, Josh was calling them “papams”.

 

 

 

The next summer, after weeks of stress, we were selling our home and the decorations were lucky to be picked up by our neighbor, for her wedding in August of 2015. Here’s what she had to say:
“Our wedding was a second marriage for both of us and while we wanted to celebrate with friends and family, we wanted to keep it simple and inexpensive. We had a tiny budget for decorations so when I saw that one of my neighbors was offering out her hanging flower decorations I knew they’d be perfect. And unlike party decorations that people buy, use, and then toss, these decorations got to party! After they festively decorated the VFW hall we rented for our party, I passed them along to another neighbor who was hosting a birthday party for her one year old child. Where they went from there I do not know but I can imagine that they are now waiting to add some festivity to another party somewhere nearby!”
Quite the social butterlies, the paper balls were next picked up by another neighbor for her son’s first birthday.
After that wonderful party (complete with a candy bar!), they traveled out of state to Maine with a girl who did (what seemed to me like) a Buy-nothing themed wedding! Of that I have no picture, nor story.

These simple paper decorations signify a very personal time of grit for me, they symbolize self-love, the need to do things well no matter how small, to pull projects to completion even when no one is checking- the same things that motivate me to success in work, family and volunteering. Add to that optimizing resource utilization, staying rooted/ connected and building/ growing/ living with the community.
Don’t you see now how symbolic these traveling paper balls have been and how instrumental they have been in sharing cheer through the community?

Reduce, Reuse, Buy Nothing and most importantly Love yourself. It works.

 

Touched August 8, 2014

Filed under: India,Mouth full of potatoes — Kolika C @ 12:15 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

pinch_your_own_dang_cheeks_t_shirts-r60117af2ca024990ae91e194c5e08523_f0c6y_512I come from a culture where it’s okay to touch other people’s children’s faces and tell them how you cute and chubby they are. Growing up my face got touched a lot. My heightened sense of needing space, my irritability and introvertedness probably have something to do with that. I hated my own face and for the longest time I hated my cheeks. Somehow there was this belief among them that my chubby cheeks entitled them to pinch me, often so hard that I would burst into painful tears or swear to cross the road when I see them next. I would’ve crossed the road if I knew how to walk and eventually when I learned to be on my own, I did cross the road… In fact I crossed several oceans just to get away from people who invade my sacred space.
I wish someone would stand up for me, you know parents, family and the like. But this is not a post about how I blame my family for never saying no to those morons.
This is a post about me as a parent. The grown-up, yet-to-be-parent in me would swear that nobody would ever come close to my kids, unlike my “cheeky” childhood.

This picture from http://mainelysane.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/an-introverts-guide-to-parenting/ and the post too had be laughing  out loud (on the inside in quiet chuckles, because the little monster is napping and we can't wake him up)

This picture from http://mainelysane.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/an-introverts-guide-to-parenting/ and the post too had be laughing out loud (on the inside in quiet chuckles, because the little monster is napping and we can’t wake him up)

The pregnant me was always scared of people touching my bump, petrified of the “touching” stories I would hear from others. Thankfully there wasn’t a hideous situation like that. Of course there was a barrage of questions- unnecessary questions, stupid questions, invasion-of-privacy questions, most of which I dealt with humor but that’s another post.

Then came baby. And with that came a fretful mom who somehow was not being able to maintain the standards she once set for herself.
We were at the local greenhouse when a warty old guy came and said what a sweet baby and touched my 4 month old’s fingers with his muddy gnarly ones. I smiled, I liked that guy and I love his flowers and J seemed to enjoy his time at the garden. Who was I to say no?

That was all of five minutes and J just put his whole fist in his mouth then I ran for the sanitizer in the car.
Then came the “aw-cute-baby” nudges, and hand holds and threats of pinches from Facebook. They came one by one as older ladies who would cross the street to see his face, the Indian gentleman at Sunday’s brunch, the law school student in Harvard Square. And part of me swelled with a little mommy pride and part of me cringed at the thought of being touched by someone else. The rest of me laughed at myself.
Then of course was the virtual chatter about baby and baby rearing, the never ending stream of comments that are supposed to have stemmed from concern. But they only reek of “I know better” and “you’re doing this wrong”. thanks aunts and grandmas and randomly prudish know-it-all jerks. In a way, in every way that was touching me inappropriately. Until I started vocalizing the unsaid and saying “you are no one to say that”, “it is none of your business” etc.
How quickly your care can get tiring and frustrating

How quickly your care can get tiring and frustrating

What’s worse? When other mommies in shoes just like me ganged up. Is he rolling yet? Crawling yet? Sleeping through the night? Are you feeding him this? Not that? Why not blah blah and more blah keep-calm-and-don-t-touch-113blah? Time came for a gentle reminder, “dear stranger (yes, you too. To me and regarding this topic, you are a stranger) stop meddling”. Politely it was “He will do what he has to do, in his own time, I am in no rush”. To those who didn’t get it quickly enough it was “Lets not get into this, it’s not fair to the babies. It’s a trip we shouldn’t fall into” Those who didn’t get that either got a dose of “really dude, you should stop”. Then came the “block” on social media (real life block is too easy). Dark curtain pulled on all the drama.
Really though, stop touching, stop invading and stop pinching. Blame in on my overdoing neighbors, I am really on edge about it and it won’t take much to snap. So stop.
 

Design: The Magnolia Project May 29, 2014


Magnolia Stained Glass Project _ Final step installation

Magnolia Stained Glass Project _ Final step installation

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 1 Design

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 0 Inspiration (Spring 2014 blooms)

When my son was about two months old I started the Magnolia project. The idea was to make two stationary stained-glass windows for the wall that separated our master bedroom and his new nursery. My goal was to create a space he could call his own, but have as much sound and light flow through as possible. Stained glass, or any glass, in my opinion, is born to play with light and we have to honor that. My design had to be unique enough to tell our story, calming and peaceful to match our bedroom and above all, fun for my baby to grow up with. I didn’t necessarily want intricate details, but they made their way in, anyway. About 9 months ago, the day I first found out I was pregnant with Josh, we planted a magnolia tree in our garden. Pardon the dramatics and the cliches, it really was coincidental because after moving into our very first, new home, we were focused on getting the landscaping done before it got crazy hot. It is a sweet coincidence you have to admit. First time we were planting a tree- a sign of permanence, of settling down and taking roots. C’est la vie. When it came time to choose a design for these windows, I researched quite a few water themes and art deco designs (if you know my style you know that is what I naturally gravitate to). It was the middle of February- smack in the middle of a cold, long, dreary New England winter. I needed spring, I longed for the branches of trees to turn pink and purple again. I was longing to cut glass, go out, even considered a manicure. And as I have previously mentioned the best manicure often happens when you’re cutting, grinding, shaping glass. Thus my table saw the light of day and the designs got sketched and erased and edited and sketched again, bringing on to paper and then on to glass, branches of a magnolia tree.

  I had once read somewhere, that ‘planting  a garden is believing in tomorrow’. I hope Josh grows up learning to play with light and  learning to believe in tomorrow. And I wish for many many peaceful nights of deep sleep under the pink boughs of magnolia…umm, I don’t think the latter is going to happen right away.
Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 2 Cutting

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 2 Cutting

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 3 Staging

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 3 Staging

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 4 Foiling
Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 4 Foiling
Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 5 Soldering

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 5 Soldering

 

Eat food. Stuff you like. As much as you want. | The Fat Nutritionist September 7, 2013


Eat food. Stuff you like. As much as you want. | The Fat Nutritionist

Finally a blog and a blogger who writes well, writes sense and talks about food the way it should it discussed. With common sense.

Michelle, I am a fan.

 

 
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