On My Being

I am not one but three. My body, my soul and my heart. Like land, water and sky I am connected, through all. My body is visible. It may be judged on its appearance but it is the covering of the soul and the heart. Please not judge me without second thoughts to what goes on in the inner self.

The heart reasons with worldly things with its experiences and wisdom. It is picky with it’s choices most of the time. At times it makes quick decisions on its likes and dislikes and then communicates with the soul and body. On others, it tries to be strong and relate to what is good or bad in the long term. Though it may not always be a wise seafarer. It can be passionate about things that are trivial for others, for deep from its seat it serves the soul and body. Like the scorching heat needing water, the heart can hold on to emotions until the soul and body are in peace with it. While we desire the heart to be ruled by reason, not always can be submissive to what the society, family and norms may demand from us. 

The body, keeper of the soul and the heart, is on vigil to cravings of the other two. Often the heart or the soul may take in what is harmful for the body. Unwanted  happenings are physical pains that it feels. It hates the wounds and bruises, and it has to make it unbearable to the soul and heart so that they do not indulge in painful ventures again. It wishes that the tortures on the body could be pre-felt so that everyone would be more careful about about what they do to themselves and others. It wishes the conscious self can be roused equally for ones own self and the others before one was hurt.

The soul flows on, it’s destiny is written in the invisible world. The weirdness lies in being the source of life and yet not being visible to the one to whom it is a gift from the Creator. It just hopes that the body and heart will guard life’s reasons and passions and let it live for allotment of the worldly life. There is constant hope for balance in all: senses, flesh and other body organs and between other individuals in life. Discords lead to decay and the soul might get call from heaven to return where it belongs.

It is a heavenly self that resides within all of us, we love and respect it and the rewards are our own doings. We cannot always blame others’ doings for our sufferings, confusing at times, but we get back in life from what we give.

Must we not think twice of how we treat our beings, all three and the multiples selves that reach out to others? If I am three in one, or many when I interact with others, we blend into life. We are all but one life, dotted on the wheel of eternity, held differently. 







Letting go

I would say I have found solace, if you say its heaven, then its right here within me. Its in my acceptance of each moment as it was, is or will be. Sighs or smiles will not change nothing from past. So roll over the thoughts.  The present to great extent is fate adding to my own actions, like a bubbling broth I have put on fire. The future hangs on a delicate balance of uncertainty and speculation. Whatever, there is strength in mind and heart and prayers to the Almighty to accept for what comes. That makes me much stronger.

I feet a deeper root to life the moment I have given away all thoughts of trying to make anything permanent in life, nothing really can be so. And I do not want to own either. Again that cannot be. A house I bought with solid guarantied papers can vanish on a whim. A natural or man made catastrophe can take away even a whole land, not to speak of houses and cars. I stare at people who are arrogant for success in wealth or deeds. Whatever you have accomplished was blessed to you, be humble and grateful,  I want to say. Your merit was blessed by He who created you and you have worked hard. But none calls for vanity. The Creator runs the oceans and the universe and he creates the tiniest life. That is humbleness in the great. The sun hides and allows darkness to come without a boast of its light. If we are truly appreciate of life, there can be no arrogance in us.

I breathe freely, so much peace resides within. Thank you God for all your blessings.


achar, moshla, mishti

My column this week with Dhaka Courier.


Achar, moshla, mishti

Tulip Chowdhury
Thursday, October 8th, 2015dc

Imagine the Bangladeshi parents coming to their children in the USA. The house waits, when are the suitcases going to be opened?

Out comes the “had-to-have” things from back home by the daughters or the sons. Packets of turmeric, coriander, chili, and other spices. Then come jars of homAchar, moshla, mishtiemade pickles with mangoes olives and plums from the village home. Mother reminds them that these are from this year’s yields, so freshness is to the core. It’s hard to think that Bengalis could cross the Atlantic without some deshi sweets. Out come Bikrampur’s kacha golla and shonpapri, Tangail Sweet’s chomchom and Bogra’s curd too. It does not matter then of how many flavors of yoghurt we have in Big’Y or Walmart, the deshi -doi cannot be beaten by any. If wine reunites sprits, for Bengalis, it’s the sweets.

My trips to USA began in 2003 when we got the US permanent resident card. Thus began packing suitcases with deshi food and clothes. Not only my children, but relatives and friends had to benefit from our annual trips. There would be lists of things the people on the other end wanted and things I wanted to take. 6 – 10 rolls of scotch tape and plastic bags would come to roll up foods so that they don’t spill. And I would have another list of foodstuff to declare to the immigration officer when we entered USA airport. Once an Indian officer took hold of my jar of mango pickle and in Hindi said, “Sister, I wish you had some fresh mangoes, I miss them.”
I wondered whether it was genuine or he wanted to know if I carried the banned fresh fruits. But and then, another friend’s mother brought mangoes, fojli aam, direct from Rajshahi. When the security personnel said she couldn’t carry them inside, she sat down and ate as many as she can murmuring, “Hmm brought them all way here and now they can’t go?”
Tales of how shutki comes smuggled go round the gatherings of the Bengalis. There would follow a perfect korhai, or a pan to make bhapa pitha that can’t be found here. You could read the notes of surprises on the officer’s faces as they checked the suitcases. They wondered how food kitchen utensils were short in the land of immigrants. My son liked different kinds of bhortas,(mashed delicacies) and so I got a stone hand-grinder ( pata-puta) and leaving my clothes behind dragged it here. Alas, now it sits like museum piece in his garage, son’s taste buds have changed.

A cousin going to Moscow got a pot of dried milk to take for the son. The father explained, “My son left when the Sindhi cow was pregnant and couldn’t drink its milk, I can’t drink without sending him some.”

So touching this parental love. The milk from a remote village in Rangpur made it to Moscow.

But it’s not only the Bengalis who remain homesick. A Chinese person would most likely bring a little bit of his own shrimp paste or other spices to cook home-style. The Latino population, also known for their own cuisine will have his ow habanero sauce. There are roots from every nation that we want to bring to the new land and that make us all what we can call ‘a meeting of common grounds’. Not only food but our culture and beliefs come with us in more than hundred ways.

In previous days we did not have the vast source of packing materials that we have now. Sylhettis are known have started migration around the 50’s and that was especially to England, in London. When they took food, the containers or packet were wrapped with old, often tattered clothes. Old cotton cloths were the choice for their softness. When one villager opened her suitcase in Heathrow airport and took out the tattered cloth wrapped pickle bottle, the officer in charge held out each lair as he opened to check the contents and remarked,

“Couldn’t you find anything better to wrap your stuff with?”

Luggage belts in Dhaka airport is colored with travelers returning from the Middle East. Bedsheet- wrapped suitcases, television boxes and blankets roll in with name tags on at least 4-6 places. They are usually double protected by plastic ropes. And there will be packets in the hands of our fellow migrant workers that hold cigarettes, chocolates from the duty free shops. And in their hand you will see a sported new mobile set. And lo, to take home their Saudi-ferot man you will see a whole bus full of relatives from the village. The joy of airport visits comes complete when one sees the old mother hugging her son, to her it’s like a trip to the moon and back. Rich or needy, women would most like be bringing in some cosmetics and clothes. Despite calls for gender gaps, in many ways, the two sexes remain habit-bound.

While travelling to and from our land, bringing in or taking out the things of usage, we define ourselves to our roots. So, no surprises when you see the Sylheti with his bodna ( a pot used to hold water for washing purpose) land in JFK airport. The garden watering pots are similar here, but it’s that familiar ground we seek, a bodna is what is missed. Like a flower, we carry our own essence in life and spread our beings.

May our life be peaceful and joyous with or without the touch of home with time and tide.

Tulip Chowdhury writes from Massachusetts, USA.


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In a Strange World

Suddenly there I was, a totally new place.I wondered if this was the Mars, moon or Neptune. Never heard people going to Neptune, but its so strange, imagined it could be. Past,present and future: all came together. That was confusing for thoughts ran wild. My mind could not focus on anything that was considered to be normal in the society. I was going insane maybe. It was so queer, I didn’t know myself, what was happening?

It was water all around. Once it was a river, a pond and the water placid and welcoming. Next it was like a raging sea, I was being tossed and turned like a seaweed that gets carried to the shore. Sea water? Ugh, so salty. Hunger raged inside me but nothing went down the throat. I was in the water. Yes, but there was heat, too much of fire. And then it was chilly, was I int the Arctic? Too much of snow and white, where did all the summer’s colors disappear to?

Was there a volcano coming alive right beside me. Or perhaps withing me? I could feel the rumbling core, the hot lave spitting up all the hated elements that  destroyed the solitude that I had. Where was I ?

And then like a blown November leaf, I am flying. Up and up, the force of the wind tearing me limb to limb till I am total shreds and fall. I fall, fall and join earth to rot back from my old place. Wait, wasn’t new things keep on happening? Why was I then in the ending of life?

Ha, there it is, this strange land. Something good is happening. The sun is rising, giving me light. I can see, I can hear the bird’s cheerful songs. I wonder is this what is called heaven? Then what was that queer land, where I was burned to ashes?

Plop! I open my eyes. I am sitting right were I was a moment ago. Under the sycamore tree while the season changes from summer to fall. I didn’t physically go anywhere, it was just another visit to a strange land of eternity, a land where mind. heart and soul take sudden trips to. That land is chaos, utter confusion of life: its  a trip on a bus that’s blaring along, trying to find a destination, trying to find a meaning to life.

It was a moment of getting lost in thoughts.


Lobster and Shefali

Lobster and Shefali

Going around Amherst these days is catching snippets of lobster stories. It’s that time of the year when white people look so proud in their golden tans. Ladies flaunt their shapely legs without the socks or stocking that cover them through most of the year. Men at times are shirt-less or wearing those sleeveless T-s, and they are haughty in their browned muscles. Then, when I walk by: the brown girl, I feel rather proud. God given tan I have. The other day at the mall I was behind a lady with hundreds of items to check, and the cashier was rattling off,
“Yeah, I had three lobsters in three days whole of them. But that’s an annual treat for myself.” She looked so full of her summer and sea and was tanned like a Native. If I had not known her before, then would of have thought she was one.
Everywhere its talk of vacation. You see people rushing out on Fridays with kayaks or boats on the top of their cars. And others take their trailers and are out to other states. Hiking and biking have picked up the wind too. It’s like ‘first come-first to serve’ service from the sun for this is the time when your body can get a bit of sunshine.
Summer is rushing on and soon the cold winds of fall will take over and drive people home. Squirrels are busy collecting the last of their food for winter. Birds are quieter for some have already started flying to warmer places.
Back home in Bangladesh the monsoon coming to close means dry days are coming. So people must be planning their vacations for winter. And with the first hints of winter winds guest brids will be screeching in the sky to settle in for the short stay. Such topsy-turvy world! Tagore comes to the mind and one can sing, “tomar holo shaara/ aamar holo shuru…”
In the nature’s world, here flowers are leaving for this year while back in desh, winter blossoms are getting ready for the show. I can imagine the shefali flowers lying under the trees, their creamy white and orange making intricate designs on the green grass. Marigolds here bidding farewell here are sending mails to their siblings up there. But that is nature, they give through seasons, no matter where they are. And when they stop giving, usually mankind has something to do with it, something they are runing of mother nature while seeking their own comfort.
As an onlooker, I stare at summer-happy people and watch the mourning doves coo away on the trees. It’s nice to be witnessing it all, and being a part of life. No sighs, no tears, but feeling thankful to be alive. Lobster or not, shefali in memories, make rich in life experiences. The thoughts cling to the wind, and travel to other lands. Perhaps I will be catching up with a lobster story late this summer or take a sudden trip home in time for the shefali?


Hoping and technology

If only hopes in life could come in choices like many other things where technology offers variations. if we could choose the speed we want a ray of hope. If there were choices between quantity and quality, if we could keep them frozen for the next generation: would life become easier? If instead of the individual self that harps on hopes and decides on how far to go, it became shared with masses, would we be happier? But and then the moment you place your thoughts or words on the table, you have to be ready to face criticism. The hope I am talking about is the invisible one that soars to the infinity or waddles in the gutter, the one that resides within your reasons and passions.

At that point,I would not at all want to merge my hopes to a world of technology. Hopes take forms in worldly things when we try to achieve the basic needs of life or seek more. In way our hopes do get measured as we face disappointments of fulfillment. But the challenge is there is no guaranteed way to decide on any of it. I suppose things are best left to fate. That sort of keeps us dangling but like the kick of wasabi, we feel better afterwards.  Let hopes be with its unpredictable measurement.

Nests of a different kind

When one has flown from one family to another, one land to next and touched many hearts, memories enjoy rewinding at times. Memory bird then spreads wings and fly to different nests of love it found overtime. If anything, they were the dents on time that made life beautiful. Like:

…an eleven-year old me, quite a big girl, but crying endlessly for leaving a mother I have known. Then a stranger holding me in the arms, the warmth of love, of kindness seeps in and a crestfallen heart picks up, getting ready to leave a past

…a railway station, the train screeches to halt. Grandmother had mentioned that Baba would come to receive us. I have not seen him for many years and yet among the throng of people catch the sight of his head. Yeah, my soul is tethered to my father, only the rope is unusually long

….summer in Belgrade and playing with my brother in the garden. Snails crawl on the wall as plums ripen on the tree overhead. We make lakes on the earth, fill it with water and float paper boats. We have chamomile growing in the garden beside the balls of lilies, Ma loves sits by her flowers. a lazy day of summer, somewhere far away

…a friend’s mother calling me by a sweet name, “piece of my liver” but I knew she meant heart. never understand why in Bangla liver often takes place of heart to speak of love

….memories fly….fly….more nests to rest in…

Day’s confusion

Life often makes no sense, none at all. Many of us say “aye” to it only to ponder on to the next day and again that confusion. I wonder where the spirit goes at such times, why I can’t locate it within. Memories, happenings and dreams delve in, trying to salvage that spirit. But what happens when they too wonder what’s the sense of life after all? They all pause. And a lot can happen when the spirit goes in hiding.Perhaps in the end accepting a senseless life is the sensible thing to do? But again, how are sensible things categorized anyway? Are they the established beliefs and rules or what one believes in? I am back to square one.

On the bus

Usually I take a front seat on the public bus I move with when its a short distance.But longer distances means I will take a back seat. Those are a bit higher and allows me a wider view of the places I pass by. And it also means I can see my fellow passengers more clearly. Riding a public bus in America is always my favorite, this land of the immigrants holds images of different races and cultures on the bus.

Here in Amherst, Massachusetts, usually the crowd is made up of students and people who do may not be able to afford private cars. But some who own cars also take the bus to avoid parking hassles. People with white skin, brown skin and dark skin and blue eyes, brown, hazel, dark and some in between. All the people on the bus seem to be a garden of humans flowers. And like like seasonal changes of nature,their appearances change. In winter I observe the varieties of coats, boots, gloves and hats. On those days you see the faces. White people have cherry like cheeks, grown red with cold, brown and dark skinned have lesser show of colors on faces. Then when spring or summer comes, you get to see beautiful legs and colorful sandals. And of course the floral dresses and the shorts of men. Sunglasses, umbrellas and raincoats appear with rainy or sunny days. When I sit at the back, from my place I see lines of bare legs in warm weather. Most of the pairs of legs come with pairs of colorful shows of slippers. Some continue to wear sneakers and socks. A common sight in the bus is of everyone glued to their cellphone screens. They are busy with texts or browsing. And a number of people are tuned into the cells through the headphones. Its only the very old or the young ones that are really present in the bus with body and mind.

The other day a three or four year little girl was screaming her head off as her mother, a very young person tried to settle her down. I could only get the “Mommy’ part of her voice and the rest was not comprehensible.But her mother was replying to her alright, mother and child bondage so clear.  And then suddenly the little girl looked at me and waved. I supposed they were getting down on the next stop. So I waved back. She gave me one of the sweetest smile I have ever had. But it was I who got down first. As I exited, she took to wailing again. I wondered what it was, was she hungry? Was she tired, what?

But and then, I get on or off the bus many days with questions in my mind. Happy people, unhappy people, I just with I knew more about human lives. The more I know, the more I feel blended into time and tide. And life finds its roots for me.

and there she was…

I woke up this morning being called by loud, sharp notes from a bird. It sounded like a parrot. I was certain it was calling me. Got up and tried to find the fellow on the tree by my window from which it appeared to be calling. I was looking for a big bird and expected to spot it easily. Throughout the day I could hear it calling here and there. Alas, couldn’t find her on any trees from the backyard either.

Late afternoon, I was walking along the pavements in front of our house when I heard my serenader calling nearby. There she was, a tiny little black bird, calling loud enough to echo across the valleys that surrounded us. She perched on the hedges on our neighbor. No way, I thought, how you have fooled me. I was mystified, a sign to inner strength, perhaps?